Texans, Tebow and BCS Titles! This Weekend's 4 Winners and 4 Losers
All right, this is starting to get ridiculous, football gods.
First, you knock out Arian Foster for the first three games of the season with a hamstring injury. Then you rob us of Andre Johnson not once but twice with injuries to each hamstring, forcing him to miss most of the season. Then you rip Mario Williams from us with a torn pectoral muscle. And finally, you drop Albert Haynesworth on top of Matt Schaub's foot, ending his season, and then, for good measure, knock out Schaub's backup (Matt Leinart) in less than one half of action as the new starter.
And those are just SOME of the Texans you've wreaked your havoc upon. I haven't even mentioned James Casey, Danieal Manning, Mike Briesel, Bret Hartmann or Wade Phillips. But alas, none of those obstacles could keep the Texans down.
So you had to go crying to Mother Nature and just flood the entire city. Lazy, unoriginal, destructive retaliation, football gods. But like our Texans, we will forge on.
In a game that was very reminiscent of the games that comprised their seven-game winning streak, the Texans beat the Bengals on Saturday afternoon in the first postseason game in the history of the franchise, 31-10. The early jitters subsided, the mistakes were few and now all of a sudden, the Texans find themselves one of eight remaining teams standing in the postseason.
To be sure, the Texans are the new kid on this playoff block. The other seven teams have all won Super Bowls since 1994, and have combined for 19 of the 45 Super Bowl championships in league history, and nine of the previous 13 titles. It makes it logical to wonder if or when the magnitude of the stage on which they're playing will set in on this team. The Bengals were not the opponent to give us that gauge.
The Ravens might be this Sunday.
For now, the Texans are enjoying being mentioned among the elite teams in the league, seeing their logo on television as one of the remaining contenders. Tight end Joel Dreessen said as much on my radio show with me and John Granato on 1560 The Game earlier today:
I'm glad you brought that up because that is a very rewarding feeling right now, to know that we're one of only eight teams left. Usually, this time of year we're moving on to our offseason and I'm mad that I'm watching these teams play, and now we're one of them. It's just really rewarding to see our logo up there.
In my mind, we've reached the point where anything that gets accomplished this season beyond Saturday is gravy. Fortunately, the Texans players don't feel the same way.
Now, winners and losers from this weekend.
1. Texans offense There had been copious amounts of hand-wringing over the Texans' inability to put up points the last few weeks with T.J. Yates at quarterback. Well, the Texans offense put up 24 points on Saturday and accentuated one of the thoughts I'd been espousing the week leading up to the game -- that the offense had actually looked fairly smooth in the brief periods (first half Atlanta, first drive Tennessee) when Yates had Andre Johnson on the field. After the familiar formula on Saturday of 153 yards from Arian Foster, timely throws from Yates and no turnovers, it's worth pointing out that the offense on Saturday looked virtually the same as it did with Schaub for most of the season. In fact, Yates's passer rating Saturday was 97.7; Schaub's on the season was 96.8. The bottom line is, if the Texans have their full complement of weapons to aid Yates, they will be okay.
2. J.J. Watt They say that this late in a player's rookie year, he's no longer a rookie. Not only is that true of J.J. Watt, but you could make a case that he's been the Texans' best defensive player late in the year. Saturday, he had the play that changed the entire complexion of the game right before halftime, with an improbable pick-six...
3. Arian Foster The game got off to a shaky start for Foster as he almost lost the ball on his first carry (which would have been this third "first series" fumble of the second half of the season) and then had a false start on the second snap. The game ended much better, with Foster gaining 153 yards on 24 carries and two touchdowns. The first touchdown was huge in that it was an immediate response to the Bengals' first score, and the second touchdown was the final nail in the coffin, and should have had Bengals Safety Chris Crocker pondering another line of work after the game....
Props to Jacoby Jones for nice blocking downfield. I've been hard on him this season as a receiver, and rightfully so, but he's been a solid downfield blocker. Good job, Jacoby.
4. Wade Phillips After taking the Texans' defense from 30th in the league into the top five in virtually every category, it was just a matter of time before teams with head coaching vacancies took an interest in Texans defensive coordinator Wade Phillips. He now has an interview with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this Friday in Houston.
While the interview could not be less intrusive on the Texans' gameplanning (short of being done after the season), make no mistake -- if the Texans lose 29-14 to the Ravens again, people on Monday will be crucifying Phillips for being "distracted" and Kubiak/Smith/McNair for allowing him to take the interview during the week of the franchise's most important game ever. Myself, I'd like to point out to Wade that Esquire magazine named Houston the seventh-best market for restaurants and eating. Tampa didn't even make the list. Just saying, Wade.
1. Chris Crocker Until Saturday, the only Chris Crocker I was really familiar with was the Chris Crocker who took a bizarre level of interest in Britney Spears's well-being about four years ago. Remember?
Well, I'm pretty sure that Crocker would have done a better job of tackling Foster on his 42-yard touchdown run than the Bengals' Crocker, and I'm guessing that that Crocker would have caught the potential pick-six that the other Crocker dropped three plays before Andre Johnson's long touchdown grab.
2. Matt Ryan The running joke is that if you are an average to above average quarterback in the NFL, your first name is probably Matt. Schaub, Stafford, Hasselbeck, Cassel and a few others. They are the Fraternal Order of Matts. Well, after his performance against the Giants on Sunday, the third playoff clunker of his 0-3 playoff career, Matt Ryan should be excommunicated from the F.O.M. In fact, heretofore, I will refer to him as Blaine Ryan. You should, too.
3. Dick LeBeau If there was one game this past weekend where all of the so-called experts (and people who aren't even called experts, like me) were positive of the outcome, it was the final game of the weekend between the Steelers and the Broncos. During the last three weeks of the regular season, the Tebow magic appeared to have run out as the Broncos backed into the playoffs with three straight losses. The knockout blow for Tebowmania was supposed to be 60 minutes against Dick LeBeau. Instead, Tebow had his most prolific passing game as a pro, and LeBeau decided to turn into a 12-year-old playing Madden (GOAL LINE DEFENSE! EVERY PLAY!) at the worst possible time...
4. Alabama tonight Quick thoughts on the BCS title game tonight. First, the fact that this thing is being played nine days into the new year (and the day after another Tebow Miracle) will be detrimental to the interest level. I'm anxious to see how the ratings on this game wind up. As for how it will play out, looking back at the first game, there were only two plays of over 30 yards the whole game for both teams combined (34-yard catch by LSU's Russell Shepard and a 39-yard catch and run by Alabama's Trent Richardson). I think the team that has more explosive plays in them will be the one who wins the game, and to that end, I'll take the team with Rueben Randle and Shepard on offense, and Tyrann "Honey Badger" Mathieu on special teams and in the secondary. LSU 21, Alabama 13.
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 7:30 a.m. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.
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