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.
Where to start…
The last three games have certainly given us clearer perspective on where the 2004 Texans are headed. This team will now need to rally just to go 7-9. That wouldn't be a failure necessarily, since before the season started most sane prognosticators had the Texans finishing around 7-9 or 8-8. But remember, the team needs to go 3-3 down the stretch to finish 7-9. I don't know about you, but I can't look at a schedule anymore and say, "win," "loss," "win" with any confidence.
Also remember that sometimes it's just as important how you arrive at your final record as the record itself. If the Texans continue to avoid injuries and play the year out in relatively good health (knock on wood), their current .400 winning percentage puts them behind the curve for a seven-win season. Anything less than seven wins for this team, barring significant injuries, will be a disappointment. Who knows what will happen over the next six weeks? All we can do is hope for the best.
One thing I know for sure is that the loser of the Texans' next game will be in last place in the division with a 4-7 record. Motivation anyone? I hope so.
Sunday night's game against the Packers really was a tale of two halves. After a very good first half when the Texans put up nearly 200 yards and held the Packers to three points, the Texans failed to show up in the second half as all six of their drives ended in punts. The Texans ran only 25 plays in the second half – good for only 58 yards. Factor in the 10 penalty yards and the Texans' net yardage in the second half was a meager 48 yards. They didn't set foot into Packers territory the entire second half. They had only three first downs. Their three fourth quarter possessions were all 3-and-outs. In a word, it was frustrating.
The defense played well despite giving up a whopping 473 total yards. When you hold the Packers to 16 points on your home turf you are supposed to win. It was there for the taking but the Texans couldn't finish.
The crowd at Reliant Stadium was excellent. There was plenty of noise at appropriate times but you could feel the energy diminish as the lead began to slip away early in the fourth quarter. The team and the home crowd was on its heels after Favre's touchdown pass to Donald Driver and like many of you, as much as I wanted to keep the faith, I could sense the eventual outcome especially because the Texans' offense went into hibernation when they went into the locker room at the half.
Speaking of the crowd, I was somewhat surprised at the number of Packers fans in the house. I expected a lot of cheeseheads at the game but this was the most attended game by opposing fans in Texans history. I couldn't believe how many lower level prime seats were taken by Packers fans. Shame on the corporate season ticket holder sellouts who would rather make a buck than have Texans fans sit in those seats.
Since I like to talk to opposing fans out in the parking lot at pre-game tailgates, I asked several of the green jersey folks I met if they liked our warm weather. About 90 percent of the time I got a blank stare in response. So I clarified by asking how the weather is in Wisconsin this time of year. Then I got the "I'm not from Green Bay, I'm from Houston" response. Now I know where all the local Cowboys bandwagon fans have gone.
I don't buy the poor play calling criticism I keep hearing on the radio talk shows and reading on the message boards. There are a few plays every game where I'll go Huh? (like a reverse and an option pass on the first drive of the game – and two reverses in the same drive late in the third quarter that netted zero yards) but I think the offensive problems are much more complex than run-run-pass.
I think this team's offensive problems are rooted in the offensive line. They are not defeating anyone on blocking assignments. There is no explosion, no finesse, no holes, and not surprisingly no running game. Take away Domanick's 11-yard run late in the third quarter and he averaged only 2.7 yards on his other 20 carries. To his credit, Domanick did have a 10-yard run erased by a holding penalty earlier in the game.
I don't think Coach Pendry's blocking schemes are working for whatever reason. As a result, the word is out around NFL film rooms that you can defeat the Texans by rushing only 4 linemen and keeping 7 defenders back in coverage. That puts adequate pressure on Carr, takes away the run, and mucks up the downfield passing game. Until our o-linemen can move some guys around, both the running game and passing game will suffer. To the o-line's credit, the pass protection was much improved Sunday night as opposed to the last two games but overall their performance continues to disappoint.
Just remember it could be worse. As I'm writing this, I'm listening to a Chris Mortensen report on ESPN about trouble in Cleveland. Not only is Butch Davis' job in jeopardy but Mort is also saying that owner Randy Lerner is considering a complete overhaul of the organization from the GM on down because of internal strife and public backlash over poor performance on and of the field. That reminds me of another era in Houston that I would just as soon forget.
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