EDITOR'S NOTE:Texans fan Alan J. Burge will continue to write a "Voice of the Fan" column throughout the 2005 season. His latest installment is below. Alan's views do not necessarily reflect the views of the organization.
It's about 11 p.m. or so and I'm headed south on 288 after watching the Texans' exciting come from behind win over the Raiders at Reliant Stadium. I turn on SportsRadio 610 to catch a little fan feedback and what's the first thing I hear?
Caller: "Umm yeah, hello. First time caller – long time listener. The Texans play calling is horrible. When are they ever going to stop being so conservative? I'll hang up and listen."
Okay, maybe that's not an exact quote but it's very close. After regaining control of my vehicle I reflected on what I saw over the past three hours and as hard as I tried to come up with something to justify the caller's query, play calling was at the bottom of my list of grievances.
For the record, I usually have few grievances after a win. Any win. Even in preseason.
And for the record, the only play-calling sequence I found a bit bizarre was right before the half when with 52 seconds remaining on their own 13-yard line, it appeared the Texans were content to run out the clock, as they should have, and head to the locker room with a 14-7 deficit.
After a Tony Hollings run up the middle for no gain, the boo-birds made their presence known. Whatever. At that point, you're only down seven so smart money says run out the clock, go into the locker room and get your stuff together and come out swinging in the second half.
Then, much to almost everyone's surprise, on second down with the clock ticking down through 0:30, there's Tony Banks dropping back to pass. It was almost as if Chris Palmer let the boo birds influence his next play call. That ill-conceived series combined with a nice punt return by Chris Carr allowed the Raiders to extend their lead with a gimme field goal as time expired. That was the only time all night that I thought, "what in the heck are they doing?"
There were plenty of pluses and minuses in this one. The obvious minuses were the Texans' first-team defense which looked terrible in the first quarter, allowing 151 yards and two touchdowns on the Raiders first two drives. But they recovered, forcing the Raiders into two punts and an interception on their next three drives in the second quarter.
The pluses included solid play by Marcus Coleman, and rookies Vernand Morency and Jerome Mathis. Morency is showing toughness and a running style that may have already vaulted him to the No. 2 running back spot. Mathis is proving that he's more than just a track star.
Reggie Swinton is making a hard charge for a roster spot, Charlie Anderson is looking more like Antwan Peek every day, and sixth-round draft choice C.C. Brown, despite getting caught too shallow on the long touchdown pass to Doug Gabriel, is showing promise at strong safety and could be on track to unseat Ramon Walker as backup to starter Glenn Earl.
Dave Ragone showed leadership down the stretch and Kris Brown was nails in the fourth quarter. Brown's 53-yarder with eight minutes left was more true to form than the game winner with eight seconds left which resembled a nine iron shot – with a slight draw.
Last week we talked about not getting too upset over the loss to the Broncos since it was only preseason. Then it goes without saying we shouldn't get too excited by this win over Oakland. Nor should we be too concerned with the play of the defense in the first quarter. Wasn't it only last week when the big news was not being able to punch it in from the one-yard line?
No one is talking about Victor Riley which is good news. Seth Wand had indoctrination by fire at right guard against Warren Sapp, but overall the line held its own against the Raiders starting front seven.
Many say preseason games mean nothing but winning sure feels better than losing, even with the warts.
- To the very annoying Raiders fan that was sitting near the top of Section 101 and talking junk the entire game: Where were you late in the fourth quarter? We missed you.
- The next home game is the opener against the Steelers so let's all get ready to make some serious noise (when the Steelers have the ball) and give our guys the best home field advantage in the NFL!
- Good luck to all the fans traveling to Irving for the game next Saturday. It looks like the Texans will be well represented in the stands at hot and sweaty Texas Stadium.
- Memo to Platinum Lot patrons: Getting to the stadium a few hours early and tailgating is fun. Try it, you might like it.
- Many thanks to Lamar Burkhalter and the Texans Bull Pen Pep Band for visiting the parking lots before the game and entertaining the tailgate groups. Your efforts are appreciated and always add a lot to the Texans game day experience.
You can email Alan Burge at: firstname.lastname@example.org