The Houston Texans have defeated the New York Jets 23-17 in a game where one team played down the the level of the other. In what was supposed to be an easy win, Houston fans had to feel quite uneasy up until the final gun.
The running game of the Texans finally returned with Arian Foster gaining 152 yards on 29 carries. With these demands on Foster, the questions about his workload will continue.
The defense took over in the final minutes as a combination of sacks and a key interception by Kareem Jackson ensured the victory for the only undefeated team in the AFC.
Matt Schaub — B
There are times when the best quarterbacks have a game that brings then down to earth. This one almost came down with a thud for Matt Schaub.
Each half seemed like a 50-50 proposition. He completed 10 of 20 in the first half and 4 of 8 in the second. If he thought all that had to be done was have a better percentage than Mark Sanchez, he succeeded as the Jets QB threw for 45 percent.
The defense can take credit for that achievement, but sooner or later Schaub is going to have to be the difference in close game this season.
Arian Foster — A
Fans have been waiting for a sighting of the Arian Foster we have come to know and love. When gained 42 yards on one scoring drive and then 46 yards on a single run, Texans fans must have been pleased.
Now if they fell comfortable ignoring he had 64 yards on his other 25 runs, feel free. Or that he had more carries than any other game this season.
But the hardest working man in the NFL is not headed for the equivalent of a pitch count anytime soon. Not as long as the Texans keep winning.
Justin Forsett — C
It is not the fault of Ben Tate’s replacement that he only had four carries. But the six yards gained made certain the burden of the running game would remain on Foster.
James Casey — B+
Not a classic blocking back, not a full time tight end, Casey makes some big blocks and catches a some passes every game. He runs better patterns than any fullback, and blocks better than most tight ends. Four catches for 53 yards is getting to be just another day at the office for him.
Andre Johnson — C
How is it that the top receiver of the last decade has turned into a situational player? Andre ranks 36th in snaps for NFL wide receivers going into tonight’s game. He may be older now, and preserving his body for a 16-game season and possibly the playoffs seems prudent.
Antonio Cromartie had his number most of the night, and he caught only one pass in six targets. His quest for 10,000 yards will have to wait another week.
Kevin Walter — B
Walter is sort of the “James Casey” of wide receivers. He catches just about everything thrown his way. His blocking explains why the majority of the running game goes to the left, his side of the field.
Keshawn Martin — C
Martin had an end-around for 14 yards in the first scoring drive, then he promptly disappeared from the game. Could it be the coaches do not trust his hands?
DeVier Posey — D
Posey’s end-around lost three yards, he could not figure out how to get Joe McKnight out of bounds off that kickoff return for a touchdown, and was called for a penalty on a punt return.
When does Lestar Jean come back?
Owen Daniels — A
Daniels shows just how defenses are willing to give up the under routes to tight ends to prevent the deep pass. This has made him the No.1 receiver on the team and could be headed for his second Pro Bowl season.
Four receptions for 79 yards and a touchdown are nice additions to his resume.
Duane Brown — A
No sacks allowed again tonight, and most of Foster's yards were gained over his side of the line. On the first-half scoring drives he owned Muhammad Wikerson and Quinton Couples.
Derek Newton — C+
The second-year right tackle is still in the development stages, but at least has avoided any killer penalties recently. His run blocking is not as mature as his pass blocking, but that is the more difficult aspect of the zone blocking scheme.
Chris Myers — B+
Given that Myers is the center, is his work considered more essential to the experienced left side of the line or the learning lab on the right? In any case, he keeps the middle clear whether the call is a pass or a run. And controlled the Jets’ Kenrick Ellis most of the evening.
Wade Smith — B+
Smith played with a balky knee but still gave a yeoman-like performance. He limped back to the huddle in the third quarter, but managed to shake it off and finish the game.
Ben Jones and Antoine Caldwell — C+
The sprained ankle of Caldwell did not prevent him from pairing up with Jones in the right guard slot. The coaches must have decided to run fewer running plays over their side due to their inexperience and the nagging injury.
J.J. Watt — A+
D'Brickashaw Ferguson was selected to the last three Pro Bowls, making him the most highly reputed LT Watt has faced this season.
He failed to slow down Mega-Watt or the superlatives being showered upon him. It never gets boring to display his stat line: six tackles, four assists, one sack, on tackle for loss, three passes defended, 2 QB hits. And he shut the door on the Jets with his pass defense on the final play.
I attempted in a recent article to identify a comparable player. I could not do it then, and still cannot come up with anyone quite like him.
Antonio Smith — B+
It not surprising Antonio Smith is consistent week after week, but he has not been a penalty magnet this season. Maybe he is just too busy marveling at Watt to get into any trouble.
Shaun Cody and Earl Mitchell — B+
The Jets certainly looked at the Titans game and thought the Texans were soft up the middle against the run. Even after Cushing went out, the Jets still could not run the ball effectively no matter which direction they chose. That includes over either of Houston’s nose tackles.
Connor Barwin — B
Barwin seems to be just a bit player in what has become the J.J. Watt show. Still looking for his first sack of the year, he may lack the numbers but also lacks any noticeable mistakes.
Brooks Reed — B+
Reed is in the same boat as Barwin, but he did have a strip-sack of Sanchez that helped keep the Jets from scoring before the half. And like Barwin, he is not lighting things up but just getting the job done.
Brian Cushing — A
The Texans did not get to be the No.1 defense without bringing a lot of people down. Cushing is expected to do that every game, but tonight he went down himself.
Word is he may be out for the season with a torn ACL. No one on the roster can replace the emotional leader of the Texans defense, but they will carry on in his spirit.
Bradie James — A
James filled the gap created by Cushing’s absence by leading the team in tackles for the first time this year. As a ten-year veteran, he understands what is expected and he delivered.
Tim Dobbins — B+
Dobbins also knows what “Next Man Up” means and did everything he could to be sure Cushing will be missed in body but not in performance.
Johnathan Joseph — C
If Joseph hoped to disprove he is overpaid, going up against Santonio Holmes would have been his preferred option. But his sore groin made him vulnerable to whomever the Jets put up against him.
Every player has a bad game occasionally, but Joseph was almost torched by CB Antonio Cromartie on a 30-yard pass that went out of bounds. He was also burned by Clyde Gates for 27 yards.
The Packers have four receivers who are superior to anyone on the Jets roster. Is five days enough time to heal up for that?
Kareem Jackson — B
Kareem’s confidence should be on the rise after a TD off an interception last week and the overall progress in his play. The interception he grabbed off a tipped ball could help offset the catches he gave up to Chas Schilens and Jeremy Kerley.
Brice McCain — B+
McCain was due for a good game after some stinkers and he finally got it. An interception and a key sack late in the game can cure what ails you.
He still seems to be playing catch up with some passes over the middle. But at least his string of embarrassing outings has been halted.
Danieal Manning — C
Both safeties must have forgotten how well they played versus the Titans. There were short passes and long passes given up by Manning, which is unusual for someone who tries to keep the play in front of him at all times.
Glover Quin — C
No QB trophy to mount on the wall for Quin this week. This time Glover was the victim.
If he did not come into the game taking the Jets tight ends seriously, he will remember Jeff Cumberland for some time to come. And the 27-yard touchdown he gave up to him.
Trindon Holliday — C
If there is a spectacular return left in this guy, he better show it soon. The team just lost their best linebacker, and one is about to come off the PUP list soon.
Justin Forsett and Keshawn Martin could earn their Benjamins by taking over for Holliday. And Darryl Sharpton may be sorely needed in the next few weeks.
Donnie Jones — B+
Jones’ six punts only averaged 40.2 yards, but four were downed inside the twenty. In a close on like this, it really helped to give the Jets a long field time and again.
Shayne Graham — B
The Texans’ placekicker has not been asked to win a game yet. All he has done is make seven of eight field goals, but his kickoffs could stand a little more length.
Kick Coverage — D
They gave up another return for a touchdown. This time it was a 100-yard runback for Joe McKnight, which adds up to three scoring returns for the season. For those who think special teams are not so special, the Texans would tell you otherwise.
Gary Kubiak and Wade Phillips — B+
They get the plus for a win and staying undefeated.
But their decisions left something to be desired. Kubiak likes to get very cautious with his play calls when the Texans are ahead. Phillips seems to do the same thing and then lets the other team back in the game.
They act as if they are able to turn the offense and defense on and off at will. This team can score early, let the defense bend a little bit, and then stretch their lead just enough. Then turn the defense loose to finish things off. Or so it seems in the Broncos game and the one that was just completed.
It appears to work, but your nails are down to the nub by the time it’s all over. Good teams are supposed to able to do this, but it can be nerve wracking.
It is conceivable their next opponent, the Green Bay Packers, are still in stunned disbelief the Colts made up a 21-3 deficit to defeat them 30-27. Or they could be a two-win team even more dangerous than the Houston defeated tonight.