Well, that stunk. The entire day from beginning to end...and even hours into Sunday evening. Here are some of my observations from Sunday afternoon in NRG Stadium.
- Often we attempt to look for a reason why. Why this? Why that? Sometimes we all need to realize the other team pays for talent too. I say that because I saw Bengals WR AJ Green, yards away from me just snatch the ball out of the air over Darryl Morris. A mere mortal doesn't make that play. Green is, was and will be better for a while and you know what, he's just better than 98% of the players in this league. He's special. He did it to New Orleans. He did it to Houston. Not through any fault of the Texans but because he's ridiculously talented and better than anyone that was on that field today, yes, even more so, arguably than No. 99.
- Oh and 18 wasn't scared to tell everyone all about it too. Or, well, maybe it was just his former Georgia teammate Akeem Dent. After that great catch, he sought out Dent and let him know that the REAL AJ Green was in the building. Or something like that.
- That all said, the Texans held him without a catch over pretty much the entirety of the fourth quarter. His last catch was near the 14 minute mark and he didn't add to his career high of 12 from that point forward.
- I'll never make excuses and this isn't one, but it's rather impressive to see a couple of undrafted free agent cornerbacks that weren't with this squad until the season began battling like Jumal Rolle and Morris. When Johnathan Joseph went to the locker room for hydration, there wasn't one cornerback on the field that had been drafted (Rolle, Morris and A.J. Bouye). Both Rolle and Morris have given up some plays but both have made a handful of athletic cover plays too.
- From the sidelines, it appeared that ILB Brian Cushing played his best game. He was again flying around the field, filled run gaps and tackled extremely well. Then, I watched the game when I got home Sunday night and it was as impressive as I remember. I don't know what the numbers will say
but they won't tell the whole story. He had 17 tackles at New York and I would've guessed under ten. He may have fewer than it seemed but he played a much more explosive and complete game, minus one pass in the flat to Gio Bernard.
- It might just be the old coach in me, but I spend a lot of time gauging the size, speed and athleticism of the other team. I can't remember seeing a team this season as freakishly long, tall and grotesquely athletic as this Bengals team. But as it was proven again today, this team will go as far as QB Andy Dalton takes it. Pure and simple. With time to throw and Green and Mohamed Sanu on the payroll, there's a chance that team can beat anyone, anywhere. Today, the good Andy showed up, for the most part, and that was great for the Bengals.
- Okay, I have a theory about the end of the game for the Texans…I haven't seen many coaches do this and always wonder why. Here's my thought…as the Texans drove down the field, two scores were needed - one field goal and one touchdown.
So why not take the field goal once in chip shot range with 20 seconds or so? You need two scores with only time for about three plays. Kick the field goal, onside kick and hail mary - those are the three plays. You don't have the time to score a TD, onside kick, run another play to get in position for
the FG and then kick the field goal with no time outs left. I may have even kicked the field goal earlier than chip shot range in order to save time for a couple of cracks at the end zone after a potentially successful onside kick. I see the thought that getting the touchdown now, allows you to only have to get a FG later. But what if you run out of time going for the TD now and don't have a later? Food for thought and discussion.
- Speaking of end of half clock management, I can't remember seeing a team fumble, proverbially speaking, as the Bengals did at the end of the first half. The five yard procedure penalty and subsequent ten yard run off didn't help matters but just prior to that play, the Bengals took more time to run the next play than if they were going NASCAR speed no-huddle in the middle of the quarter. It was odd for a team that had been excellent in nearly every phase of the first half.
- It's one thing to have one replay challenge go against you, but the Texans had two key ones go against them that could've changed the tide of the game, in particular DeAndre Hopkins' catch on the Bengals sideline. Then again, Marvin Lewis and his staff did an excellent job with that process so that throw didn't come back to haunt them.
- It was clear the Bengals weren't going to allow the Texans run game to get going at all. DT Domata Peko said as such after the game. He was outstanding against the Texans interior linemen. I don't remember saying DT Geno Atkins name one time to Marc Vandermeer, spotting down on the
field. But watching the game back, he and Peko were outstanding together in the middle. They allowed the linebackers to run to the football unabated most of the day.
- I talked about the Bengals linebackers on Texans Radio this week and even without Vontaze Burfict, I was worried with the speed, physical pop and explosiveness they possessed. OLB Vincent Rey will probably go back to the bench when Burfict returns, but that joker is a physical hammer. I just hope his, uh, lower region will be fine after he took an Alfred Blue knee to the, well, you know. Dan Fouts tried to pass it off as a shoulder injury but I was right there, I knew. It wasn't a shoulder. Regardless, Rey Maualuga, Emmanuel Lamur and Rey were all over the field.
- I've noticed the past couple of weeks a tradition that's emanated from the soccer pitch to the football field. I saw Jeoffrey Pagan walking with a Bengals grass soiled jersey through the locker room after the game. I saw a few players with Cleveland jerseys last week as well. It's a long standing soccer tradition, as a show of respect, to trade jerseys after a hard fought contest but it seems to have bled onto the football realm as well. I'm not a huge soccer fan, in fact, I'm not a fan at all, but I like that tradition, even if the Texans equipment staff isn't all that pleased about it.
- The Texans took the field down six in the fourth quarter twice and went three and out on each drive. Mallett's third and four throw to Hopkins down the right sideline was his best throw of the day and was inches away from it being the biggest offensive play of the day.
- I thought the run defense in the second half, overall wasn't half bad. DE J.J. Watt was excellent as always but DE Jared Crick played his guts out too. The aforementioned Cushing played like a wild man in the second half, in particular, outside of the one missed tackle on Bernard's spin-o-rama run early in the fourth quarter.
- Jadeveon Clowney didn't get to the QB but was disruptive at times. Not enough to his liking but it's moving in the right direction. He threw an inside spin move on LT Andrew Whitworth that was lethal and got him a clear path to Dalton. Unfortunately, the Bengals signal caller got the ball out of his hands quickly with Clowney bearing down. It's coming. I just hope sooner than later.
- The Texans tight ends struggled on the edge against DE Carlos Dunlap and Wallace Gilberry throughout the day in the run game. Dunlap, in particular, was a beast and got the only sack of the day when he ripped inside a Texans offensive lineman and sacked Mallett on third down late in the game.
- A true inside receiving threat must emerge for the Texans. There's too much inconsistency from the interior guys at a vital position in this offense in the passing game.
- On Friday night, I was reviewing the injury report on Texans Live when I saw Ryan Mallett's name. Chest, the report read. I did a double take on air wondering aloud when that happened. But I figured it couldn't have been a big deal because he practiced all week and didn't seem to be showing any signs of pain. Well, it now appears that injury was worse than we knew and apparently he re-aggravated the injury throwing during pre-game. Ugh. Nothing like losing twice in one day.