"You come at the king, you best not miss." -- Omar Little, The Wire
That line works.
Whether you're trying to riddle the most feared gangster in the drug neighborhood with bullets or whether you're attempting to sweep the season series from the best quarterback of this generation for the first time in your franchise's history, that line works.
Last night, the Houston Texans took their third swing at getting to the still uncharted territory of "three games above .500" for the first time in their existence. That was the subplot. More importantly, they had a chance to seize control of the AFC South and in the process sweep the one team that's had a stranglehold on both the division and the Texans themselves.
Adding what is now insult to injury, the king (in this case, Colts conscience/brain/quarterback/franchise Peyton Manning) was surrounded with third-team knights helping him defend the castle. No Austin Collie, no Dallas Clark, no Joseph Addai. If ever the Texans were going to be able to take down the king, last night was the night.
The Texans came at the king. They missed. Badly.
Honestly, to say they missed is an insult to those who have actually attempted to annihilate kings unsuccessfully. Hell, at least when Wee-Bay came after Omar, he pointed the gun at his enemy and discharged the weapon in Omar's direction. Gary Kubiak ran out of the tunnel, unveiled his weapon, and then took dead aim at his own foot.
When the Texans knocked off the Colts 34-24 in Week One of this NFL season (in a game that feels like it was about seven years ago, not seven weeks ago), they did it riding the legs of Arian Foster (opening-week record 231 yards on 33 bruising carries) and seemingly forging an identity that Kubiak has said he has strived for from the time he arrived to rescue the Texans offense in 2006.
Run the football. That's what championship teams do.
I don't know how true that is anymore. It's a quarterback's league, and these very Colts made the Super Bowl last season with the worst rushing attack, statistically at least, in the NFL. But the fact of the matter is that the Texans seemed to finally find the formula, and more importantly the ability to execute said formula, to beat the Colts in Week One this season.
Pound Foster. A lot. Keep Peyton Manning on the sidelines. Don't put the game on Matt Schaub's shoulders, especially with Dwight Freeney going against a presumably rusty and last night overmatched Duane Brown.
And here's the thing -- it was working last night. Arian Foster carried the ball eight times in the first half for 65 yards, and therein lies the problem. EIGHT TIMES. There was not one run Arian Foster made in the first half last night against the Colts where you said to yourself "Well, that's not working." It was working, and working well. Yet Gary Kubiak decided to take out his gat and start turning his own feet into Swiss cheese, opting instead for the scattershot arm of Matt Schaub whose 5-for-15 first half doesn't begin to describe just how scared and confused he looked. Dwight Freeney got him early in the game, Clint Sessions nearly snapped him in half shortly thereafter, and it was all downhill from there.
Schaub was a mess and by the time Kubiak realized that he shouldn't be putting the weight of this game on Schaub's shoulders, the score dictated he would have to do just that, due in no small part to a Schaub pick-six to Colts cornerback Kelvin Hayden.
And yet, in the end, you look up and Foster had 167 yards on 24 touches, much of it after Kubiak had already handed the keys to the castle back over to King Peyton.
Back in the day, college basketball pundits used to say that the only person that could hold Michael Jordan under 20 points a game was his coach, the legendary Dean Smith -- a tongue-in-cheek quip about how Smith's team-first system spread the wealth in spite of his having the greatest player on earth at his disposal. Well, the only person capable of holding Arian Foster under 200 total yards last night was his head coach. Well done, Kubiak.
As for the Texans, if they hold true to form, they'll win a heart-pounding game against the Chargers this weekend, likely a game that is played in the high 20's or low 30's score-wise and a game that will require the Texans to reveal they had a rabbit's foot or a horseshoe planted in their collective lower intestine. That'll put them at 5-3 with yet another chance at the coveted "three games over .500" thing on November 14 against Jacksonville.
In the meantime, the king successfully defended his castle, and he did it with perhaps his most nondescript surrounding cast yet -- and if you think I'm exaggerating, go see how many fantasy leagues have teams that include Mike Hart, Jacob Tamme, and Anthony Gonzalez on their rosters. Yeah, not many. At least not before last night.
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SHOW ME HOW
It makes you wonder why the Colts spend any money on skill position guys. As long as the king is pulling the trigger, if you have smart route runners with good hands, he'll deliver the ball on time. More importantly, he'll put his team in position to win. Every time.
That's what Gary Kubiak is supposed to do for the Texans. Last night, he missed.
The king won again. It's good to be king.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on 1560 The Game from 3-7 p.m. weekdays on the "Sean & John Show" and follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.