NFL History is filled with stories of teams that begin their seasons with a lopsided loss and go on to have stellar campaigns. Let's hope this is one of them. The expectation that this might be the finest season in Texans history has quickly morphed into worry after the 38-17 loss to Pittsburgh. Houston did very little right in a game that reminded us in the booth of the opening day loss at Buffalo in 2005.
You remember 2005, right? That was the 2-14 year that sent Dom Capers and Charlie Casserly packing. This wasn't as bad as that. It was worse. Pittsburgh is clearly better than the Bills that year but the 21 point loss could have been more of a blowout had Ben Roethlisberger not gotten an entire quarter to rest up and get ready for next week.
Houston was gashed by a better team that has Super Bowl aspirations. The Texans have aspirations of beating Baltimore Sunday, and that's about as far ahead as they should think.
The 2005 Texans were scratching their heads wondering why their pass protection broke down and how they gave up big plays on defense. Sounds familiar? They followed a 7-9 campaign that year with a team that didn't add enough to improve it's weaknesses. One game this season is no big indicator, but it's clear that last year's demons made the trip to the Steel City.
Matt Schaub was harrassed into five sacks, two picks and a fumble. The defense gave up way too much on the ground and, despite two sacks, allowed Roethlisberger to carve them up for two touchdowns and a near perfect quarterback rating.
It was bad enough being down 21-3 at the break, but two long third quarter drives by the Steelers, mostly on the ground, spelled possible doom for a defense that badly needed an upgrade in the run-stopping department this offseason.
Maybe Pittsburgh really is that good and will go on to win a Super Bowl. There was a loud cheer at Heinz Field when it was announced that Tom Brady got hurt. But the Texans must perform better at home Sunday and beyond that if they have any hope of improving in 2008.
Sure Mario Williams and Demeco Ryans looked great and Andre Johnson put up big numbers. Those are Pro Bowl-type players. But where's the rest of the supporting cast? There were flashes against Pittsburgh, but it was like trying to douse an inferno with a squirt gun.
The bright spot is that this game is out of the way and it's certainly one of the two or three toughest dates the Texans will have to deal with. The coaches will talk about game one to game two improvement and get their players ready for the Ravens, who were surprisingly effective in defeating Cincinnati.
Houston needs to get better fast or the story this season could be a sad one.