That's how long it's been since the Houston Texans last won a regular season NFL game. The last time the hometown team walked off the field victorious, Matt Schaub was the quarterback, Gary Kubiak was the head coach, and Vanilla Ice was rocking the house at halftime.
Sunday, it was Ryan Fitzpatrick under center, Bill O'Brien coaching his first NFL game, and Smashmouth belting out their medley of "songs that will make you want to leave at halftime."
It remains to be seen if any of those three are an upgrade (actually, it's already known -- the halftime music was a decided downgrade .. I got your back, Ice), but the Texans, as they have now for five straight seasons, sit at 1-0 on the season after a 17-6 win over the Washington Redskins that was truly a game only a Texans fan could love.
Seriously, imagine being a Texan fan and bringing a friend who had no NFL team affiliation to that game. Sure, the game featured two teams who were under 400 total yards of offense, and sure, the punters each punted six times, but to you, the Texan fan, it was beautiful, right?
And then after the game, in your celebratory mood, you fire off confetti guns and giddily ask your team-agnostic friend "So what'd ya think!?! GREAT game, huh?!?"
And your friend, still aghast at how aesthetically unpleasing the game was but realizing how euphoric it made you, sheepishly mutters "Um, yeah....sure....beautiful." The same way that a friend who is just being nice says how beautiful someone's ugly kid is when the parent proudly shows them a picture.
That was this game. This game was the Texans fans' "17-6, Ugly Kid" game!
And, to me, it was beautiful.
As always, there were winners and losers, so let's do this....
4. Tackling in the secondary If you look at the box score, the Texans top four tacklers were the four guys who started in the secondary -- Johnathan Joseph 11, Kareem Jackson 8, D.J. Swearinger 8, Kendrick Lewis 5 -- which in most games would mean that they were being forced into making tackles downfield, and their opponent had racked up about 400 yards passing and/or a couple hundred yards on the ground. Instead, the Texans tackling in the secondary was more about a game plan that kept all the pass plays in front of them, and involved (go figure) some really sound tackling. In particular, it was great to see Joseph in top form after he was placed in bubble wrap and set off to the side the entire preseason.
3. Arian Foster Foster was also a charter member of 2014 Team Bubble Wrap, and we weren't sure if it was because there was legitimate concern about his physical condition coming off of back surgery, or if O'Brien saw no reason to start what will be a touch-heavy odometer in 2014. Well, with 29 touches (27 carries, 2 catches), we got our answer. Foster ran hard, ran frequently, and closed out the game with 13 carries for 47 yards in the Texans final two long drives that each ate up around six minutes of clock. The only blemish was a red zone fumble (and yes, it was a big blemish), but overall, this day has to be considered a success for anyone who sees a healthy Foster as crucial to the Texans returning to the playoffs. (And if you don't see him as crucial, you probably like knitting or scrapbooking, and you're not reading this. No disrespect to knitting or scrapbooking.)
2. Brooks Reed In 2011, when Mario Williams went down with a season ending injury in a Week 5 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers, it was rookie Brooks Reed stepping in for the remainder of the season and doing a bang up job, well enough for the Texans to allow Williams to walk in free agency
and set the market for J.J. Watt's contract he signed last week. For most of the last two seasons, Reed has been invisible from making any "flash plays" (as my cohost, former Patriot Ted Johnson likes to call impact plays). Well, Sunday, the old Brooks Reed was back, getting a sack, a tackle for loss, and being a general nuisance to Washington QB Robert Griffin III. It was like in Days of our Lives, when the dynamic Matthew Ashford played Jack Devereaux in the early 90's. Well, the Jack character left the show, then came back in the late 90's, but Ashford was replaced horrifically by some other shittier-than-Ashford dude who sucked. Well, Devereaux was written out again, but came back in the mid-2000's and thankfully it was Ashford back in the Devereaux Driver's Seat. So, if you're following at home, 2011 and 2014 Brooks Reed is Matthew Ashford. 2012 and 2013 Brooks Reed is shittier-than-Ashford guy. Same exact thing.
1. J.J. Watt I don't know which part of J.J. Watt's game was the most remarkable -- the block of a PAT, the five hits on RG3, the recovered fumble, the way he shoved the Redskins' tackle backwards like he was on skates before batting down a pass on the Skins' final drive. They were all great. Just know that there is no defensive player on the planet that impacts drives play to play like Watt. I said it on the post game show and I will repeat it here -- Watt is the LeBron James of NFL defensive players. He can beat you with power or quickness, he's relentless, and he makes those around him better (as much as a defensive end in pro football can do that).
He also makes a shit ton of money now.....
4. Redskin fans The Redskins are supposedly trying to call plays and encourage a playing style that will supposedly better protect Robert Griffin III from injury. Well, they may want to start by having their offensive line protect him better in the pocket. The Texans hit Griffin an ungodly 14 times on pass attempts, not including their three sacks. I say Redskin fans are the losers here only because it seems like every time Griffin gets up from a hit, he moves with the creaky, slow gait of a hungover college student who just rolled out of bed at noon on a Saturday. That's got to be nerve racking. The Redskins may wind up with the hardest long-term decision of any of the teams employing 2012 rookie quarterbacks, because Griffin has franchise-level skills and Easter egg-level durability. Of course, this is a logical lead into....
3. Texans super souped up defense ....all of these Jadeveon Clowney injuries scaring the crap out of us. It looks like the Texans rookie beast has a torn meniscus and could miss 4-6 weeks after surgery. The good news? The schedule is friendly enough to withstand the injury with Oakland, the Giants, Buffalo, and Dallas coming up the next four weeks. The bad news? Clowney has been battling nagging injuries since the beginning of his final season at South Carolina. Is it always gonna be like this?
2. Fans of sports entertainment I'm down with Bill O'Brien's "team" mantra, and he seems to have this group in a good place mentally. That said, he predictably did away with the individual player introductions before the game, which (as a WWE fan) is one of my favorite parts, and I think gets the crowd jacked up. The pregame pyro, music, and intros were super vanilla. Vince McMahon is not a fan of your marketing acumen, O'Brien. (Yeah, yeah, yeah, I realize that this should be the bullet point reserved for fretting over Jerrell Powe and Jared Crick getting picked at like a scab at times by Jay Gruden -- why did he stop, by the way? -- but I want my player intros back, dammit!)
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1. New England Patriots Non-Texans related, for the first time since Tom Brady became the starting quarterback of the Patriots in 2001, they have sole possession of last place in the AFC East, after losing 33-20 to the Miami Dolphins (to go along with the Jets win over Oakland and Buffalo's upset of Chicago). Bill Belichick was as chipper as you'd expect...
Begin stocking up on bottled water and canned goods. NOW.