Titans vs. Texans: 5 Things We Learned from Houston's 23-22 Loss
In a regular-season finale that meant everything to the Titans and absolutely nothing to the Texans, we got just what we expected: a lot of rested starters, busted plays and a pretty remarkable finish.
The Titans were playing for a slim chance at making the playoffs, so they were bringing everything they had against Houston, which had its fourth quarterback of the season under center and an emptied bench out onto the field.
With the loss, Houston falls to 10-6, its best finish in franchise history, and can begin to focus on the NFL postseason for the first time. But there are plenty of things we learned about this team today regardless of who was on the field and we'll address a handful of those now.
The First-Team Offense Was Clicking
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In their first possession of the game, after the sack to T.J. Yates that allegedly hurt his shoulder, the Texans first-team offense manhandled the Titans for a 13-play, 90-yard touchdown drive.
The offensive line dominated the line of scrimmage and Yates made some fantastic heads-up plays when needed. For the first time since Schaub went out, it looked like a Schaub-led touchdown drive. This was with Arian Foster and Owen Daniels on the sidelines, too.
As far as the injury to Yates, I was in the camp that I wasn't buying it.
After that first sack that saw him driven to the turf by two players, he then led an impressive drive that showed no effects of any injury. Then he left the game to go to the locker room and the sky was falling in Texans Nation.
But in my opinion, they only had him out there to see if him and Andre Johnson could get their timing down. When they saw Yates almost get hurt badly, they decided to pull him from the game earlier than they expected. Just my theory.
With the offense at full force and Andre Johnson back, I expect to see the Texans be able to move the ball next week regardless of which team is placed in front of them.
Jake Delhomme Can Still Be Effective If Needed
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The biggest fear among Texans fans the second half of this season has been what if yet another starting quarterback goes down and we have to rely on Jake Delhomme?
The same Jake Delhomme that was running a horse ranch a couple months ago. Well, today showed that he can still play the game if he needs to.
Given that would be a worse-case scenario for the Texans next week, but if Delhomme has to step in and play, the drop off from Yates to him isn't as vast as many thought.
Playing with third- and fourth-stringers in the second half, Delhomme played a pretty good game against a decent defense. Other than the one fumble that he had, Delhomme had good timing, stepped up in the pocket to make plays and threw the ball down field plenty.
Still, let's hope we don't have to see No. 17 on the field in the playoffs.
James Casey Finally Looks Healthy
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If you go back to Week 3 of this NFL season and watch the Texans game against the Saints in New Orleans, what you'll see is a weapon that Houston had that we haven't seen much of since. I'm talking of course about fullback James Casey.
Casey was having a terrific season before hurting his pectoral muscle the following week and after missing some time, he has just never looked the same. With the emerging play of backup fullback Lawrence Vickers, Casey quickly found himself the odd man out in the Houston backfield.
But in today's game, it finally appeared that James Casey has finally recovered from the injury that slowed down his potential breakout season.
With seven catches for 91 yards, he probably earned some playing time next week in the home playoff game. This is great because with Casey, this offense brings a whole new element. Vickers is solid with his run blocking, but the guy couldn't catch a cold.
The Depth on This Team Is Pretty Fantastic
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While many were groaning today about not seeing a lot of the usual stars for the team, I was pretty excited to see some of the younger guys get a shot. And, boy, did they ever look hungry out there.
Earl Mitchell has six tackles and even defended a pass, Mister Alexander (great name, by the way) made some big tackles, and Tim Dobbins showed why Wade Phillips loved the guy back in his time with San Diego.
The highlight of the day from this group had to be when linebacker Bryan Braman lost his helmet during a kick return, yet didn't let it stop him from annihilating Titans kick returner Marc Mariani with a head-to-helmet tackle that even jarred the ball loose out of bounds.
It was stupid on Braman's behalf as far as his safety goes, but it's hard for fans not to love that kind of heart and determination.
This depth just goes to show that Rick Smith is deserving of getting executive of the year consideration. The injuries this team has faced all season and even practice squad players have been solid contributors.
Name one other team in the league that could be on their fourth quarterback and 90 percent backups against a team fighting for their playoff lives and almost pull off the upset. I challenge you to give me just one other team.
Texans Still Have Plenty of Positives Headed into Wild Card Weekend
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The guys who never look at the big picture are only focusing on the fact that the Texans have lost three in a row heading into the playoffs. They're the same fans griping that the Texans didn't play their starters the entire game today.
All you can do is shake your head, really.
If Gary Kubiak had played all of his guys and one of them tore an ACL or something similar in a meaningless game, then the same people would be calling for his head.
No, there are plenty of positives heading toward Wild Card Weekend at Reliant. First of all, the Texans do have a home playoff game to kick things off. If that place is as loud as I'm sure it will be, that's a hell of a home-field advantage.
Next, the team almost beat a playoff/borderline playoff-caliber team without Arian Foster, Owen Daniels, Johnathan Joseph and T.J. Yates and Andre Johnson for most of it, well, you got to feel good about that.
With the offense about as healthy as it has been for most of the season next week, whether it's a rematch with Tennessee or the upstart Cincinnati Bengals, you have to like the Texans chances against either of them next weekend.
The good far outweighs the bad with this team heading forward.