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.
Three simple words uttered by the legendary Dick Enberg early in the fourth quarter summed this one up for me. "It's been painful," said Enberg when referring to the Texans' futile showing in the second half at the Meadowlands. He was being kind.
Enberg's partner Dan Dierdorf almost sounded apologetic a few minutes later when he invoked the "it's only their third year" comment about the Texans, going on to say "Dom Capers has this team on the right track." That's reassuring.
Whether the Texans are on the right track will be hotly debated from now until they once again post a winning record. One thing I know for sure is that they've been blown out in their last three road games to the tune of 109-34.
What's troublesome is that consistency with this team seems to be evolving into a home-road phenomenon. If this team doesn't have the home crowd behind them, they are developing some bad habits when things don't go their way on the road.
David Carr was not sharp on Sunday and had one of his worst games in recent memory. He looked uncomfortable, he was inaccurate, and he forced throws into double and triple coverage. Not surprisingly, he threw two picks, one being a huge momentum shifter that spoiled a nice interception by Dunta Robinson just before half.
Carr has thrown no touchdowns and five interceptions in his last three road games. Quick: When was Carr's last touchdown pass on the road? If you guessed two months ago - to Jabar Gaffney in the second quarter at Tennessee - you are correct.
But if you listen to the Houston Chronicle's Richard Justice, we are supposed to step back and remind ourselves that David Carr has started a mere 39 NFL games and that he's only 25 years old and that he's not nearly as good as he's going to be. For the record, Drew Brees is also 25 years old and has the same number of starts in the NFL as Carr. Granted, the Texans don't have a LaDainian Tomlinson in the backfield or an Antonio Gates at tight end, but the Chargers don't have Andre Johnson at wide receiver.
Carr is improving but he still hasn't taken the career leap that makes him an upper echelon QB. While he's ranked ninth in the league in passing yards, he is in the middle of the pack (15th) in passer rating, and in the bottom half of the league (20th) in passing touchdowns.
Despite all this negativity, things didn't look all that bad in the first half on Sunday. The offensive line looked much better in the first half compared to past road games, but again, the Texans offense went into hibernation with only 48 net yards in the second half. But this loss wasn't just the fault of David Carr and the offense. Or the officials.
I don't know about you, but for a while in the third quarter, I felt like I was watching a low budget beer commercial reality show.
The Jets scorched the Texans defense for 153 rushing yards in the second half. The 210 rushing yards allowed by the Texans was their worst performance against the run since the Redskins game in '02 and the Cincinnati game in '03. Add to that the fact that the Texans defense can't generate a semblance of a pass rush (again) and it's a recipe for a long afternoon.
"But this is all due to growing pains because we're young," you say.
"No we're not," I say. At least on defense we're not.
Walker - 10th season
Payne - 8th season
Smith - 5th season
Babin - 1st season
Foreman - 6th season (Polk – 5th season)
Sharper - 8th season
Wong - 7th season
Glenn – 11th season
Robinson – 1st season
Coleman – 9th season
Earl – 1st season
This is a veteran defensive unit. Yes the Texans start three rookies on defense but the one at the highest-risk position is making a strong bid for defensive Rookie of the Year. The other two, Babin and Earl, are in a great environment to learn considering all the veteran talent around them. It would be different if we had a bunch of second and third year players out there. We don't.
For whatever reason, the guys are just not consistently getting the job done. Why did Coach Capers' 3-4 defenses thrive in Pittsburgh and New Orleans but struggle so mightily here? Do we have the right personnel? Do we need more time? These are the questions being asked most frequently by Texans fans and only the coaching staff knows the answers. Anyone can see that pressure on the quarterback and run defense has to improve significantly for this team to defeat good teams.
Again, aside from all the negatives, I am very excited about the play of Robinson and newcomer Glenn Earl. Robinson is a playmaker who should be a star in the league for a long time. He's an outstanding tackler and is quickly learning the nuances of NFL coverages. Earl is a big, strong, and fast player who's cementing his bid to be starting strong safety in 2005 and beyond.
As a fan it gets really tough at times. We all want to win. But having been a fan of the NFL for over 30 years I've learned to be patient. I savor every win as if it's our last. I suffer through every loss – sometimes so much that I have to wait a day or two to write these accounts.
What should our expectations be for this team? My benchmark is the new Browns. They went from nothing to the playoffs in four seasons, posting a 9-7 record in 2002 before bowing to the Steelers in a closely contested wild card game. Yes, they went back to nothing this year but the point is that they proved they could do it in four seasons so why can't we?
I'll leave you with this. There's plenty to be frustrated about and it doesn't look like it's going to get any better with Indy on the horizon. But, like Coach Capers said in his radio show Monday evening, the Texans season will be defined by how they play in their last four games. I'm going to let them play out the season and give them my full support to the end before passing any more judgment on whether we're on the right track or not. We'll have an entire off-season to play GM.
You can email the "Voice of the Fan" at: firstname.lastname@example.org