For the fifth season in a row, the Houston Texans have started the year 2-0. After a convincing 30-14 win on the road at Oakland last Sunday, we all find ourselves in a familiar situation.
When voice of the Texans Marc Vandermeer wrote after the game that this is a different 2-0...it got me thinking. How?
In Marc's article, which you can read here, he made his case for what separates this year's squad from previous versions. An excerpt from his piece below.
"The fact that the Texans are 2-0 for the fifth consecutive year and that two of those seasons (2010, 2013) ended in disaster should not alarm you right now. But it should help you to not mortgage any property on the way to Vegas following the 30-14 deconstruction of the Raiders.
By the way, this year is different in that we have two multi-score victories for your team. In '10 and '13 at three of the four wins of the two 2-0 starts were come-from-behind nail biters. Two, in overtime."
He's right on all counts. The Texans wins in 2014 have been decisive, with the squad winning by double digits each time out. In the Raiders victory, the Texans held a 27-0 lead and were in cruise control heading into the fourth quarter. That's a far cry from overtime a year ago against Tennessee, or a last minute Monday night win against San Diego. The Texans haven't completely dominated (they did in Oakland, not against Washington), but they've always been in control. Again, two games do not a season make, which Marc elaborated on as well, but the way in which the Texans are winning is different.
What do the numbers say?
Again, the two game caveats definitely apply. But, in the narrow scope, a few stats do stand out between last year's 2-0 team and the 2014 squad.
First off, the 2013 offense to this point was significantly better in terms of yardage. There are several factors that contribute to that. First off, the philosophies of the coaching staffs in control are different. Secondly, the Texans played from behind against San Diego in the 2013 opener, needing to score 17 points in the fourth quarter to pull out the win.
Yardage doesn't equal efficiency though, and that is where the 2014 Texans are excelling. Ryan Fitzpatrick and company are converting 55 percent of their third down attempts, which ranks fourth in the NFL.
|Third Down Conversions||16 for 29 (55%)||12 for 30 (40%)|
|Opponents' Third Down Conversions||5 for 21 (24%)||11 for 30 (37%)|
On the defensive side, the difference is rather obvious. The Texans own the turnover battle, posting a +5 turnover margin in the first two games of 2014. At this point last year, the team was sporting a -2 in that department. The defense is also getting off the field, holding opponents to 24% on third down, second in the entire league.
Bill O'Brien's formula appears simple. Run the ball, control the clock and win the turnover battle. So far, so good.
The difference is visible. The question now is will it remain sustainable?