Check out our slideshow of Battle Red Day at Reliant Stadium.
"It's just one game."
"Nobody would have beaten Aaron Rodgers tonight."
"Hey, if someone had told you before the season they'd be 5-1 going into the Ravens game, you'd have taken it, right?"
Those are just a few of the dozens of different ways Texans fans and media rationalized last weekend's 42-24 beatdown at the hands of the Green Bay Packers. Overall, the mood this week could best be described as cautiously optimistic (but with ample whiskey nearby). I think they're still a really good football team, but that sure did look a lot like 2010 on Sunday.
The Ravens came into Reliant banged up, undermanned and still with Joe Flacco as their quarterback. If you're Baltimore, none of those things are good. All things considered, if you're going to chase an 18-point loss with a game against a 5-1 team, the Ravens were the 5-1 team you wanted to face.
But until the Texans took the field Sunday, we just wouldn't know. We wouldn't know if this was really a team that should still be the favorite on the board in Vegas to win the Super Bowl, and about ten minutes into the game, we still didn't know.
But starting at the 10:11 mark of the first quarter, we started to find out. That's when Connor Barwin sacked Joe Flacco in the end zone. And that's where we begin this week's edition of "4 Winners, 4 Losers"...
WINNERS 4. The return of Connor Barwin It's too soon to say unequivocally that the six-game disappearance of Barwin was just some blip on the radar, or if what Gary Kubiak has been saying the last few weeks, that Barwin has been doing fine and has been doing what's asked of him, is true. All I know is that the Barwin of 2011 showed up Sunday, making a game-changing play when the team really needed a shot of adrenaline by sacking Joe Flacco in the end zone. The Texans were still behind 3-2 after that play, but the momentum shift was palpable and the seeds of the eventual rout were planted. Welcome back, Connor Barwin. Hell, welcome back to....
3. The rest of the defense not named J.J. Watt One pervasive talk radio topic this week (I feel like all of the shows and stations just use the same topics and pass them around sometimes) after the Packers game was "Which players on the Texans defense had met or exceeded expectations so far this year?" We were able to come up with a few -- Kareem Jackson, Glover Quin, Danieal Manning -- but the topic mostly served as another way for all of us to worship at the altar of J.J. Watt and wonder when the rest of last season's bulls would decide to jump in on the parade. Fast forward to Sunday -- Quin's typical solid game, Barwin's aforementioned impact, Johnathan Joseph's pick six, Antonio Smith's two sacks. We even got Whitney Mercilus's first career sack! ("First of many," his words, not mine. Well, actually mine, too.) Let's just say it was good to have all of the bulls back today.
2. Arian Foster's workload pace The last two games (17 carries last week, 19 carries on Sunday) have allowed Texan fans to dial back the alert level on their fear that Gary Kubiak is actually a football terrorist working on behalf of the rest of the league to prematurely end Arian Foster's career. He's now at 168 carries through seven games, on pace for 384, which is still dangerously close to the red "SEVERE" bar on the Foster Terror Scale, but probably more like an orange "HIGH" level trending toward yellow "ELEVATED."
1. WWE The Texans are now 1-0 this season with a WWE superstar leading them onto the field as something called the Homefield Advantage Captain, as five-time World Champion and Houston native Booker T did the honors. I'm putting my request in with the Texans PR team now -- bring us the Iron Sheik for the Buffalo game! The Sheik loves football and he hates Buffalo...
if you watch the nfl football and you respect the Sheikie by my t shirt indiemerch.com/theironsheik/ or go fuck yourself worse than dog shit buffalo
— The Iron Sheik (@the_ironsheik) October 21, 2012
LOSERS 4. Dan Dierdorf's undying love for Terrell Suggs In case you missed it, Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs was able to suit up and play yesterday after tearing his Achilles a mere six months ago. It really is an amazing comeback, even if he was having to borrow Terrence Cody's XXXXL jersey because he evidently hasn't done a minute of cardio during his rehab. Well, you know who was really impressed by this? And I mean really impressed? Like "Terrell Suggs might need to change his phone number because he has a new stalker" impressed? CBS analyst Dan Dierdorf, who couldn't get Suggs's name out of his mouth all afternoon. Seriously, every little thing that happened in the game somehow tied back to Suggs's being on the field. If you had just tuned into the game at any given time and didn't know the score, you'd think the Ravens were winning the way Dierdorf was slobbering all over Suggs's return. The more I think about this, the angrier I get, and the more I think the only therapy might be giving the Twitter reaction to Dierdorf its own post. Hmmmm.....
3. Jacoby Jones's "Welcome Back!" party I will say this about Texans fans -- they know how to hold a grudge. In case you were wondering what the statute of limitations is for loathing a man who singlehandedly crushed your playoff hopes and dreams back in January, well, if Sunday's crowd at Reliant was any litmus test, we still don't know that answer. All we can say is that it is "longer than nine months," because when Jacoby Jones trotted out to field the Texans' first punt of the afternoon, the Texans gave him a heaping battle-red serving of "go fuck yourself."
Boos rained down upon Jacoby, and the only thing that muted the Jacoby boos was the boos for Gary Kubiak for calling a draw play on third and 20. What made it a tad painful (hard for anything to really be painful in a 43-13 win) was that Jacoby was one of the few bright spots for the Ravens thanks to the Texans' horrific kickoff coverage team. Seriously, how can a team that is so good at everything else and supposedly so deep talentwise be so glaringly awful at such a simple part of the game?
2. Your livers In case you needed a final tally on Battle-Drink, the BINGO drinking game sweeping Harris County, we've got it for you here courtesy of Tori O'Brian (@LiteratureJunky on Twitter):
42 sips, 53 gulps, 12 chugs, 2 shotguns, 2 shots: 1 trip to the hospital. The feeling of winning the football game: priceless.
— Tori O'Brian (@LiteratureJunky) October 21, 2012
Two great signs for the game we love (and I'm talking about Battle-Drink, not football, although we do love football, too) -- first, we have people actually tracking the intake. Not only is that responsible drinking, but it means people care! Second, the balance in the game, the proportional representation by each column (Sip, Gulp, Chug, Shotgun and Shot, in case you're wondering), is a thing of drinking beauty. Enough in there to make you sufficiently "fall down" wasted, but not enough to kill you from alcohol poisoning (I think). It's perfect, really.
1. Chris Berman
Picture courtesy of @marc_berger on Twitter
The segment of Sunday Countdown where the ESPN talking heads all pick winners of games without using the spread is one of the most useless pieces of television all week, for two reasons:
1. While all of them (except Berman) may have played football, they know as much about prognosticating games as the average fan does. No more, no less.
2. More importantly, unless you're picking games against the spread, why bother? Oh, really, all of you are picking the Patriots over the Jets to win straight-up at home today? No fucking way! I'm FLOORED. It's so stupid.
So that said, credit Berman for picking an actual underdog in a segment where he doesn't get the benefit (in this case, a seven-point benefit) of the spread. That said, zero credit to you, Boomer, for picking the Ravens for what I'm sure was some reason that had to do with lyrics of a Foghat song.
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Listen to Sean Pendergast on 1560 The Game from 6 a.m. to 11 a.m. weekdays, and watch the simulcast on Comcast 129 from 6 a.m. to 8 a.m. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.