It was a hot and muggy night…
But it was even more exciting being out at Reliant Stadium for the first time in more than seven months. Despite heat indices in the low 100s, Texans fans had the grills and BBQ pits smoking up a storm out in the parking lots.
Inside, it was a late arriving crowd, but the stadium filled nicely and had a regular season look about it during the second quarter.
One of the goals of preseason is to get out healthy, and unfortunately that wasn't the case. The Texans lost strong safety Glenn Earl with a foot injury and cornerback Jason Horton with an arm fracture. Horton was injured with only 46 seconds left in the game when he dove into a pile trying to recover a fumble by Bears RB Josh Allen.
The first teams played only briefly on both sides and in terms of results it was a mixed bag for the Texans.
On the Texans' first drive, Matt Schaub showed nice composure standing tall in the face of a blitzing DB on a 3rd and 7. He delivered a perfect ball to Kevin Walter for what would have been a first down extending the drive, but Walter didn't wrap up the ball tight enough and was stripped from behind by Charles Tillman.
The Texans' first 1st down of the night came on their second drive and it was a thing of beauty. The offense lined up in a power right I-formation, Vonta Leach shifts right and at the snap drives hard off-tackle right, left guard Steve McKinney pulls and Schaub fakes the handoff to Ahman Green who followed Leach off tackle right, Schaub pulls the ball back, turns, looks left and finds Andre Johnson wide open on a slant for 15 yards.
For a minute, I thought I was watching the Packers from a few years ago. But it's those little things, like misdirection, counters, and ball fakes that, if well executed, can change the fortunes of this offense this season and give opposing defenses a little more to think about than just pinning their ears back and meeting at the quarterback.
On the Texans' second drive, Schaub missed a wide open Walter for what would have been a gimmee touchdown.
The Texans' first-team offensive line protected well for the most part. Schaub was pressured a few times, but not sacked.
On defense, N.D Kalu and Jason Babin put heavy pressure on Rex Grossman on the Bears' first drive. Babin's pressure came on a third down and got the Texans' defense off the field.
Babin and Earl Cochran took turns harassing Bears QB Kyle Orton late in the first half. Cochran showed good speed and pop in pursuit of Bears FB Obafemi Ayanbadejo on a short screen from Orton. Cochran ran down Ayanbadejo and sent him flying into the Texans' sideline area.
Dunta Robinson continued to show the energy he's shown in camp, acting like a linebacker as he dropped the hammer on Cedric Benson on a first quarter carry. Earl may need to take notes as he was steamrolled by Benson on the Bears' next drive.
The Bears ran 16 of the first 20 plays of the game. The good news is that the Texans managed to keep the Bears off the scoreboard during that span. The bad news is that except for a few previously mentioned QB pressures, the Texans' defensive line didn't do much to disrupt Grossman who opened the game 8 for 8.
The Jacoby Jones show started at the five-minute mark of the first quarter as he took a Brad Maynard punt 22 yards to set the Texans up at midfield to start their second drive. Jones also had a couple of nice catches of Sage Rosenfels passes late in the first half.
Jones narrowly missed getting two feet down on what could have been a TD pass from Rosenfels after a nice double move. He was also given credit for a nice sideline catch in the 3rd quarter when it appeared that he may have pushed off and probably did step out of bounds.
Hey, it's preseason for the officials too.
Jones has impressive size, speed and athleticism and it's easy to see what the Texans brass saw in him during those All Star games in January. He probably learned last night that it's not nearly as easy in the NFL as it is at Lane College to outrun punt team coverage sideline-to-sideline, but he should only get better as he gets more reps and experience under his belt.
Jacoby finished the night with 4 catches for 47 yards and 2 punt returns for 18 yards.
One of the main problems for the Texans against the Bears was their ineptness in the red zone. Von Hutchins' late first quarter interception of Brian Griese was a great momentum changer, but the enthusiasm was quickly dampened by the Texans' inability to get into the end zone despite starting at the Bears' 16-yard line and having a 1st and goal at the 4-yard line.
Yes, the second team o-line was in at that point (LT Jordan Black, LG Drew Hodgdon, RG Mike Brisiel, and RT Kevin Barry) with McKinney at center, but the Bears were running second-team defense but I'm sure coach Gary Kubiak expected more out of that drive.
A few minutes later, Jerome Mathis' 78-yard kickoff return was followed by three incomplete passes as Sage Rosenfels first under-threw Andre' Davis and then succumbed to heavy pressure from the Bears' defensive front. Black was beaten badly on a 2nd and 10 edge rush by Bears defensive end Alex Brown, and had a false start penalty in the opening drive of the second half.
At the end of the half, the Texans stalled again after a 15-play, 70-yard drive, settling for Kris Brown's fourth field goal of the game. I wondered at that point if we were going to see some kind of FG record from Brown since he is the only kicker on the Texans roster.
WR Mark Bradley beat Texans rookie Fred Bennett twice in the Bears' opening drive of the second quarter, including a 31-yard hookup from Brian Griese that set up the Bears' first touchdown of the night.
The Texans best drive of the night by far was in the third quarter when they took the ball 90 yards on 12 plays and chewed up 7 minutes off the clock. The game was looking really good at the time, but unfortunately it all went downhill from there.
Backup QB Bradlee Van Pelt did nothing to help his chances of winning a spot on the roster and with no practice squad eligibility remaining, he needs to make the most of his chances. A fumbled exchange between Van Pelt and Wali Lundy led to the Bears' TD that turned the momentum for the last time. Van Pelt finished the night completing only one pass for eight yards. He was sacked twice.
In terms of wins and losses in the preseason, yes you always want to win. But while blowing a 12-point lead in the 4th quarter isn't a good thing, there's no need to get too high or too low on the result of this game. It was the first game of the preseason and last year the Texans' relatively good preseason didn't translate all that well into the first few games of the regular season.
A few other observations:
- With all due respect to Matt Schaub (it's not his fault), the 'leadership' and 'first to arrive - last to leave' thing is nice, but it's getting a bit played out in the media.
- Travis Johnson's version of River dance needs a bit of work.
- I agree with Spencer Tillman's observation that aside from Ahman Green, the Texans have no running backs with that special 'burst' at the line of scrimmage. That's what's so disappointing about the season-ending injury to Chris Taylor.
- As far as the punter battle, it's much more of the same as what we've seen in preseason. From my seat, I think Turk is winning the competition.
- The hit of the night goes to Ben Steele when he laid out Bears WR/PR Drisan James on punt coverage in the 4th quarter.
- The Bears have some great names on their roster. Where else can you find not one but two guys named Ayanbadejo (fullback Obafemi and linebacker Brendon)? Then there's Israel Idonije and Adewale Ogunleye. A play-by-play guy's nightmare, no doubt.
- Obafemi Ayanbadejo has been suspended by the NFL for the first four games of the regular season for violating the NFL Policy on Anabolic Steroids and Related Substances.
- There is one more Texans practice session open to the public: Wednesday, August 15, 7:15 – 9:15 pm (gates open at 6:15)We'll see you there.
You can email Alan Burge at: email@example.com