The easy fallback after Sunday's 40-33 loss to the New Orleans Saints is to say "Same ol' Texans," and, in a way, I understand. Red zone issues, fourth quarter brain farts (23 points allowed), the untimely turnover, same ol' Texans.
But I choose to look at the glass half full, and if that makes me a cockeyed optimist, then so be it. The fact of the matter is, last year's Texans team probably gets run out of the Superdome by three touchdowns. The defense statistically wasn't drastically different than last year's, but they were not put in great field position situations by the offense, especially after the Texans got the ball back up 26-17.
So I'm taking my cue from Gary Kubiak (whose "belief baseline" is "Frank Bush's 2010 defense"), I still choose to believe.
"4 Winners, 4 losers" starts now.
4. James Casey While many were wringing their hands over the loss of Vonta Leach this offseason, largely because of his blocking ability and leadership (he rarely actually touched the ball), the versatile element that James Casey has added to the offense has been noticeable and was on full display yesterday. Five catches for 126 yards, a tremendous diving touchdown catch, and even an 11-yard fly sweep to boot. Oh yeah, and he knows how to block.
Maybe it's my lack of being a "hardcore football guy" from an X-and-O minutiae standpoint, but it would seem to me blocking would be the easiest skill for Casey to pick up. I mean, as long as you're strong (check), passionate (check) and have the mental bandwidth to learn the position (double check), it seems to be the most "learn-able" skill on the field. Put simply, it would seem a handful of guys on the team could play the fullback position if that's what they put their mind to, based on the skill set required. Casey's smooth transition shouldn't be a surprise.
3. DeMeco Ryans Concern over whether or not DeMeco would be ready to go during the preseason was legit. According to those who attended, he was not working out at the player-organized activities this offseason during the lockout, but instead acting as a quasi-coach. Then when training camp started, one of the top five topics among media members in attendance at practice was the fact that DeMeco had one leg that looked like his and another that he appeared to have borrowed from Trindon Holliday. Then he got hit with another small ding (an elbow injury) that lingered throughout the preseason. However, yesterday was a huge statement from the Texans' defensive captain that he's back. Solid in underneath coverage all day and sound fundamentally, Ryans (and Cushing, for that matter) were both very active. Good sign.
2. People with Packers minus 4 against the Bears It's things like the last few minutes of yesterday's Packers-Bears game at Soldier Field that give conspiracy theorists ample fodder for their "the games are all fixed" missives. Setting the scene: About a minute left in the game, Packers lead the Bears 27-17 and are punting the ball to the Bears. Watch this video for maybe the greatest fake in NFL history:
We're getting to a point with football where it feels like it would be hard to see something and say, "Damn, I've NEVER seen that before!" but that was amazing. Too bad it got wasted on a play with a phantom holding call. (The call was on #21 of the Bears, who doesn't appear to be within ten feet of anyone the whole play.)
Oh, as for conspiracy theories? The Packers were -4 and the over/under total was 44.5. So there's that.
1. "80 being the new 20"
First, we had Michigan grandmas shotgunning beers:
Not to be outdone, the SEC checks in this week with LSU grandma doing a kegstand:
While this is all very funny and gives everyone with YouTube access something to share with their friends on a Monday, I implore all female senior citizens to keep the college antics limited to the drinking realm. We do NOT need Grandmas Gone Wild!
4. The Kubiak "running back plug 'n' play" theorists The theory has long been that in the Denver Broncos zone running scheme (and basically the Texans are the Houston franchise location of DBZRS, LLC), the most interchangeable piece has been the guy actually toting the rock. That history is why many people have been nonchalant about the injury to Arian Foster. Add in Ben Tate's two 100-yard games and, unless you owned Foster in a fantasy league (or hosted a radio show with him), his injury started blending in with the rest of the news. Well, Sunday should be a reminder that in games against teams with weapons (like the Saints), missing Foster matters -- in the red zone, in the passing game, blocking, everything. For what it's worth, Foster said this morning he could have gone on Sunday, but was held out one more week out of caution. They'll need him this Sunday against the Steelers.
3. Any Colts fan born after they won Super Bowl XLI I grew up a Red Sox fan, and until 2004, the worry among Red Sox fans had always been "Are we going to be alive to see the Sox win a World Series?" It was so bad that after the Aaron Boone home run in 2003, I was literally counting (based on the average human life expectancy for someone with blatant disregard for their health) how many more looks at the MLB playoffs I would have in my lifetime. Well, Colts fans are a proud bunch, and that pride has been largely built on the sweat of one Peyton Manning. Right now, if you're a kid under the age of 13 and a Colts fan, this awful feeling that you're experiencing -- the losing, the lack of sleep, the possible bed wetting -- this is what your parents felt pretty much since 1984 until Manning got there.
Many Colts fans seem to forget that before Peyton Manning, the list of starting quarterbacks for the Colts looked like this:
Mike Pagel Art Schlichter Mark Hermann Jack Trudeau Gary Hogeboom Chris Chandler Jeff George Craig Erickson Jim Harbaugh Paul Justin
NFL players who are active would never tank games, so to ask players this question is a no-win endeavor, but if you're a fan is it so wrong to root for the Colts to get the first pick in this year's draft? You're going nowhere this season, why not do a "Spurs get Duncan in '97" deal, draft Andrew Luck, have him learn under Peyton Manning for a couple years (assuming Manning comes back), and then take over in, say, 2014? You guarantee another decade of relevance this way.
Otherwise, you're left grooming Curtis Painter, which is German for "Mike Pagel."
By the way, debate on Twitter last night over whom Curtis Painter most closely resembles. I say old school WWF wrestler Barry O:
2. The AP voter who is voting Boise number one Generally, the AP college football poll tends to be, in my mind, a better reflection of actuality than the Coaches' poll. By and large, this is due to the fact that writers take part in the age old tradition of actually watching football games to arrive at their conclusions. So when the AP writers moved LSU up to number one in their poll this week and the coaches kept an Oklahoma Sooner team whose "body of work" and "eyeball test" scores are both a couple notches below the Tigers (and Alabama, for that matter) at number one, I wasn't surprised. However, I do have one beef with the AP poll. Of the 60 AP voters, there is one lone soul that thinks Boise State is the best team in the country. Regardless of your personal criteria as a voter (and make no mistake, the nebulous nature of what constitutes "good, better, best" in the AP poll is a notable part of the problem), there is no measurement -- talent level, difficulty of schedule, impressiveness of wins -- by which Boise State is better than LSU. I need to know who this person is.
1. Mike Locksley For those of you who don't know who Locksley is, he became the head football coach at the University of New Mexico on the heels of a four-year stint at the University of Illinois as the recruiting coordinator for some of the best recruiting classes in the history of the University of Illinois from 2005 through 2008 for Illini coach Ron Zook. To understand the disaster that the Locksley Era has been in Albuquerque, all you have to do is go to Locksley's Wikipedia page. The section summarizing his two-plus years coaching the Lobos does not contain one item that is related to football. Instead, we have a couple paragraphs on a sexual harassment lawsuit and a suspension last season after he allegedly punched an assistant. The final paragraph on Locksley's Lobo career (and perhaps his coaching career) outlines the events of this weekend:
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On September 25, 2011, Locksley was relieved of his duties following an 0-4 start that culminated in a loss at home to FCS Sam Houston State as well as the arrest of a recruit for a DWI while driving Locksley's own car.
The "recruit" in question was actually not a recruit at all, but instead a 19-year-old named Joshua Butts from Chicago, who as best we can piece together is some sort of family friend of the Locksleys. And to be clear, he is the worst kind of family friend there is -- borrowing vehicles, picking up DWI's and getting the father fired from his high-paying football coaching job. This would be the equivalent of Arthur Fonzarelli borrowing Howard Cunningham's car, plowing into the side of Arnold's, and the damages from the crash bankrupting Cunningham Hardware. It's EXACTLY the same thing.
So to recap, Mike Locksley actually coached an FBS team that lost to Sam Houston State this past weekend, and that was only the second most egregious error he made. Way to go, Locks!
Listen to Sean Pendergast on Yahoo! Sports Radio and 1560 The Game from noon to 3 p.m. weekdays, and follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.