EDITOR'S NOTE:Texans fan Alan J. Burge will be writing a "Voice of the Fan" column throughout the 2004 season. His latest installment is below. Alan's views do not necessarily reflect the views of the organization.
Poor putty tats
I couldn't believe what I was reading when I opened up an article by Mike Freeman of the Florida Times-Union Monday morning.
Freeman, based on comments from Jags players after the game accused the Texans of "pulling down the Jags" by the use of "dirty tricks." The irony of Jags players calling out anyone about dirty tactics is laughable.
Here's what Freeman wrote about the action on the field during the Texans fake field goal in the fourth quarter:
"*It was the hand of Houston long snapper Bryan Pittman, which was wrapped around Henderson's throat, according to the Jaguars. The officials did not see what basically amounted to, if true, Pittman attempting to choke Henderson, and when one of the Jaguars retaliated against Pittman after the play's conclusion by shoving him, Pittman fell back in an exaggerated manner, going to the ground as if he had been shot. The refs saw Pittman get pushed, and penalized the Jaguars for a personal foul." *
How funny. The Jags are whining about our long snapper. Maybe we have arrived.
By the way, I watched the game over again on tape and I watched the play in question about 50 times and what I saw was Pittman giving Henderson a shove on the shoulder pad after the play was over. Henderson retaliated with a shove of his own and Pittman answered with a flop that would make any Utah Jazz player proud. There was no chokehold as was reported. Whine whine whine.
The bottom line is that the officials made some bad calls on both sides but that had little to do with the outcome of the game. What did have an effect on the game was another outstanding effort by the Texans defense and a ball hogging offense that managed to put up just enough points to win.
It didn't have to be as close as it was. As I stood there and watched the action late in the fourth quarter, I couldn't help but think of Jabar Gaffney's decision earlier in the game to prematurely celebrate without the football as he crossed the goal line. That would have put the Texans up 14-0 and it would have given the Texans and us fans a lot more breathing room as the game progressed.
As it turned out, the Jags were down 13-3 with about 4 minutes left but threatening inside the Texans 20 yard line. I couldn't help but think if we were going to see more late game magic by Leftwich and his teammates. But the Texans defense held, like it did all day. Aaron Glenn made a fabulous play breaking up a pass to 6' 4" Reggie Williams in the endzone and the Jags had to settle for a field goal and a 13-6 deficit. But it wasn't over.
The Texans took over with 3:44 to play with the ball at their own 11 but then I began to get restless once again as the Texans brought in Moran Norris and ran Domanick Davis (DD) and Wells out of the I-formation up the middle six straight times. The intent was clear. Run clock and get the Jags to use their final timeout. But the Texans had no success running the ball all day so am ill-timed "3 and out" was all I could think of. Thankfully the Texans managed to get one first down because of a Jacksonville penalty but it seemed like a little mix of run-pass would have kept the ball out of Leftwich's hand at the end of the game, especially since Carr and his receivers were having their way with the Jags DB's all day. Instead, we gave it back to Lefty for one last chance with a minute to go, but thankfully he misfired and CB Petey Faggins got to take one to the house and celebrate with Chris Lockridge and other fans in Section 118.
As you know the Texans are now 4-3 and tied for second place in the AFC South. The Texans are also 2-0 in the division – matching their division win total for the past two seasons in consecutive weeks this season. Maybe we have arrived.
The Texans are now eighth in the league in overall offense (sixth in passing – 25th in rushing). It's that 25th in rushing that concerns me a bit. DD has yet to find his groove and seemed a little gimpy once again at the end of the Jacksonville game. The Texans need to improve the running game if they are going to have continued success.
Carr and his receivers are off the charts. AJ continues to dominate and Gaffney, despite his gaffe, continues to show good hands and willingness to make difficult catches over the middle. Bradford was hobbled by a leg injury on Sunday but responded with a nice TD catch, and Armstrong is a legitimate threat every week. Carr is now sixth in the league in passer rating and seventh in passing yards. One of his biggest issues coming into the season was TD/INT ratio and performance in the fourth quarter. He's doing much better in both departments.
By the way, major kudos to DD for his block on the Bradford touchdown. If he doesn't make that block, Carr is probably sacked or run out of bounds.
Major props also go out to the defense for stepping it up big time over the last two weeks. I heard a stat on SportsRadio 610 yesterday that the Texans have stopped the opponent for no points on 18 of their last 22 drives. Nice.
It hasn't shown up on the stat sheet in the form of sacks but the defensive line is finally starting to get pressure on the quarterback. They hurried McNair and Leftwich the past two weeks and that goes a long way in affecting timing on passing routes. QB pressure will be critical next week at Denver. Speaking of Denver, I will be making my first trip to Mile High on Sunday so I'll be able to relay some personal accounts of the game day experience next week.
Finally, Sunday's game against the Jags was just plain fun. The atmosphere was terrific with everyone (almost everyone) in Battle Red gear. There were a lot of Halloween costumes and all the regular getups that make people watching almost as fun as watching the action on the field (not really). Beating a division rival is always fun, especially when the game really means something as it did on Sunday. The excitement in the stands is overwhelming at times. High-fiving total strangers after big plays, yelling at the top of your lungs when the opponent is on defense, and simply appreciating the ability of the athletes on the field is what it's all about to be a fan in the stands. The fans at Reliant (at least those who stay the entire game) have been tremendous this year. I'm convinced we have one of the better game day experiences in the NFL. Keep it up.
· A lot of people may not have seen it but Marcus Coleman's TD saving breakup of the deep ball to Jimmy Smith in the game's final seconds was a thing of beauty. Yes, the ball was under thrown a bit but Marcus prevented a TD by showing good range and recovery speed.
· Kailee Wong is having his best year as a Texan. He is solid on that right side and for a second week in a row he came up with a key interception. For a big guy, he has tremendous agility.
· What's up with the muddy field at Reliant? It appeared that the grounds crew over-watered the south end (the end that sees no sun) and the result was a mini-quagmire around the 35-yard line. The grass looked very wet in the south end and players were slipping all over the place. Of course that wasn't a problem in the north end where everything gets baked. Maybe we should call the south end the swamp and the north end the desert?
· Carr's dive over the pile was a fumble in my humble opinion.
· Boo and hiss to all of you who left early without good reason. I wish we had more serious fans who stay until 0:00 and aren't worried about beating the traffic. Watching people stream for the exits in the middle of the fourth quarter in a 7-point game is bizarre to me.
You can email the "Voice of the Fan" at: email@example.com