Buffalo Bills vs. Houston Texans: Final Report Card, Player Grades for Houston

Jeffery RoyContributor IIINovember 4, 2012

Buffalo Bills vs. Houston Texans: Final Report Card, Player Grades for Houston

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    For those observers who put a lot of faith in margin of victory, the 21-9 win by the Houston Texans over the Buffalo Bills will not do much to impress those folks. 

    Furthermore, betting lines should not have much influence on how a game and it players are graded. Favored by as much as 11.5, the Texans just pulled this one out for anyone who took Houston and the points. Another field goal by the Buffalo Bills would have cost a whole lot of people a whole lot of cash. 

    Anytime the popular prediction is a win by twenty or more, you can bet the probability of exceeding that mark is low. It is just as unpredictable as the 43-13 beatdown Houston put on Baltimore in Week 7. 

    Will this count against players as their individual efforts are evaluated? Take a look and see if you agree with their assessments.


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    Matt Schaub— A-

    It took a couple of series to shake the rust off, but the Texans QB ended making this game his own. 

    More than the numbers, it was how he sliced and diced the Buffalo defense.  His average completion was 14.1 yards, meaning he did not dink and dunk as much as usual. That helped jack up his passer rating to 126.8, one of the highest single-game marks of his career. 

    He spread the ball around, threw for 2 TDs, and reminded everyone Andre Johnson is still a player to be feared on every down. 

    Matt also put the identity of this team into question: do they run the ball to setup the pass, or is it the other way around? If we cannot be sure which one applies, imagine how confused the rest of the NFL must be?   

Running Backs

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    Arian Foster— B+ 

    It was a tale of two halves for Foster, gaining 62 yards on seven carries in the first. Then going 18 for 49 in the second. 

    By game’s end, he had 24 carries and 111 yards for a 4.6 average. It was another one of those outings where 67 yards of his total were on four attempts. This is not intended as a criticism, but there is a school of thought that prefers a steadier output. 

    Some comments expressing your viewpoint would be appreciated.


    Justin Forsett — D 

    Maybe Forsett did not get enough work to get into a rhythm with just half-a-dozen attempts. But seven yards is all he can get? With six of them on a single try? Against the worst rushing defense there is? 

    If you have to lock Ben Tate in hyperbaric chamber for a week to get him back in the fold, then let’s get it done. 


    James Casey— A 

    As he handles his schizoid duties, balancing smashmouth blocking with open field receiving skills, he is proving to be the second-most valuable backfield option.  Three receptions for 49 yards is more than any other NFL fullback will record this week. We get all this, but only a lone carry to his name this year.

    Is it time to bring back the power “I” so Thor can see if his running talents are just as formidable?

Wide Receivers

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    Andre Johnson — A 

    Where has Andre been? Who of you really believed he ever really went away? 

    If you did, this game has got to alter your attitude. He caught eight of ten targets for 118 yards, with a sure touchdown thrown just beyond his reach. In a sense, this was a throwback game to the days when No. 80 was the focus of the offense. 

    It was nice to see the past and the present come together for the only icon this club has ever had.


    Kevin Walter — B+ 

    The No.2 receiver everyone is trying to replace has shown he is could for more than a ten-yard possession route that just barely moves the chains. A reception for 18 yards among his total of three, another for 21 called back for holding, he deserves a respite from all the doubters who yearn for a speed demon to line up opposite Andre. 


    Keshawn Martin — Inc. 

    He did not have a pass thrown his way, as an end-around call was the only chance to get the ball in his hands on offense. Maybe he was expected to save his energy for kick returns, something the Texans need to improve in the worst way. 

Tight Ends

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    Owen Daniels — A 

    Tight ends have evolved from being just an extra lineman into a complementary receiver. For some teams, their role is absolutely essential to the success of the passing game. Four receptions for 62 yards and a TD illustrates his value.

    Without any experienced wide receivers beyond Johnson and Walter, someone has to fill that role. Daniels gets it done game after game. That is where OD is situated on the Texans and he has become a vital cog in the overall game plan. The fact that a TE is asked to fill this role shows just how far the game has come over the last twenty years.


    Garrett Graham — B+ 

    Graham may not be a one-to-one replacement for the departed Joel Dreesen. The first touchdown pass of his career shows he may be the next best thing. 

    On top of that, he is a better blocker than Daniels and willing to put his body on the line in that capacity. Just the kind of player every team needs to bring depth to a crucial offensive position.



Offensive Line

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    Duane Brown — B 

    He gave up his first sack in who knows how long and was called for a declined holding penalty. All on a day when the starting right DE Mark Anderson was out. 

    The Kyle Moore sack was all second-effort as Brown put the DE on the ground and thought he was out of the play. An All-Pro level talent does not make a rookie mistake like that. 


    Derek Newton — B+ 

    After not hearing his name called for awhile, he received a holding call that helped thwart on a promising red zone drive. He did an OK job against Mario, and gave up a sack to him that was of little consequence. 


    Chris Myers — B+ 

    Myers also managed to have a rare flag thrown on him. He shared responsibility for handling the Bills’ defensive tackles, and virtually made them disappear.


    Wade Smith — A 

    The only offensive linemen to not have a call against him, he also turned the interior of the DL into a non-factor. Most of the running plays went over his side of the line, a tendency that will continue until the right side gains more experience. 


    Ben Jones and Antoine Caldwell— B 

    They will have to be satisfied with a composite grade that reflects a penalty called on each and just nine of the thirty-two running plays called over their side. Personally, I think the rotation is inhibiting the development of both players. 

    The RT position has settled on Newton for the majority of snaps. So why keep yanking these guys in and out of the lineup?

Defensive Line

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    J.J. Watt— A 

    Last week he did not get a sack, and this week there are no tipped passes. Clearly Watt has peaked and it must be downhill for him from here. We must console ourselves with a lone sack, two tackles for loss, and four solo tackles. Oh, and five QB hits.  

    My little joke is over now. Any lineman in the NFL would wear this stat line like a badge of honor. That sack turned a possible go-ahead touchdown into a field goal. He is as remarkable as he is consistent. 


    Antonio Smith— B 

    Smith had his quietest game of the season, without much to show for an afternoon of being batted around like a pinball. Based on his body of work, he gets the benefit of the doubt. 


    Jared Crick— C+ 

    Crick is alright when it comes to holding his position. But a DE has got to be able to get upfield and cause some havoc. He did tip one pass in limited duty, but has a long way to go before he will make anyone forget Tim Jamison.


    Shaun Cody  and Earl Mitchell— B+ 

    The two-headed NT of the Texans has a simple job. Occupy blockers so the rest of the defense can pursue the play. Today, each of them joined the tipped pass parade and convinced Buffalo to only run the ball 16 times.


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    Connor Barwin— A 

    His second sack of the year and one of the six tipped passes were nice, but he was in the Bills’ backfield almost as much as Watt. His coaches and teammates kept repeating he was getting penetration, but just not sealing the deal. That seems to have changed for the better. 

    C.J. Spiller did beat him off tackle more than once, and did the same to Brooks Reed on the other side. But Spiller does that every week, and still the Bills keep losing. 


    Brooks Reed— B 

    Reed is now into his own little rotation of moving over from left OLB to left ILB on passing downs. The Bills ran so many oddball, college-style formations Brooks could have easily been befuddled by it all. He played a steady game regardless of where he lined up.


    Whitney Mercilus— A 

    Mercilus is beginning to show why a first-round pick was not wasted on him. He was in on some running plays and did over-pursue at times. But he also picked up a sack, caused a fumble, and made a proper nuisance of himself. 


    Bradie James— B+ 

    It is hard to know how to measure this fellow. When he is out of position on interior plays, he lacks the makeup speed to overcome the gap. When the action comes his way, experience and instincts allow him to make the play. 

    For this game at least, there were some plays “in space” where he knew exactly what to do. Up against Scott Chandler and Fred Jackson, he showed what he is capable of. Now if he could just do it every week. 


    Tim Dobbins— B+ 

    The Texans miss Brian Cushing’s ability to get after the passer. Which is why Dobbins comes out on passing downs and Reed covers his spot. 

    But on running downs, Dobbins is almost as solid as Cushing in plugging the gaps. This was another game where the other team failed to gain 100 yards, and Dobbins shares in that accomplishment.


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    Johnathan Joseph— A 

    Ryan Fitzpatrick completed 25 passes, but all of them came between the twenties.

    Much of the yardage was after the catch, and hardly any of it was by the wide receivers. Joseph held Stevie Johnson to three catches for only 29 yards, shutting down the Bill's biggest outside threat.

    The only time he came out of the game was for a wrist injury, so his groin was not an issue this week. Those injuries can reappear at any moment, but it was not a factor in this game. The Texans faithful pray it stays that way.


    Kareem Jackson— B+ 

    Donald Jones was Jackson’s man, and he led Buffalo with six catches. But as with the rest of the receptions, when the field tightened up so did the pass defense. 

    Jackson will never be spoken of in the same breath as J-Jo, but he is no longer the weak link in the secondary. Who would have thought he would ever come this far. 


    Brice McCain— A 

    Houston’s nickel back was flying around the field today, knocking away passes, turning completions into short gains, and covering the middle zones like a TMZ reporter following Lindsay Lohan. 

    He had a spate of games where it looked as if he had lost his touch. It’s good to have him back.


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    Danieal Manning— B 

    The Buffalo offense created mismatches in an unusual way and forced Manning out of his comfort zone. He prefers to play center field and keep the action in front where he can see it. 

    But the Bills force defenses to cover the entire field at times, which makes determining play assignments difficult. Manning was out of position a few times, such as the long completion to Chandler, but did not make any significant boo-boos.


    Glover Quin— B+ 

    Quin was also caught up in the same conundrum as Manning, but because he plays close to the line had less ground to make up when the play was in his area. 

    Glover has run responsibilities that he has to juggle along with pass defense.The difference in performance between Quin and Manning comes down to the long completion Danieal gave up.


    Quintin Demps— B 

    Demps was the busiest of the DBs on Sunday, just as a dime back should be against a team that never had a lead. He had more completions (5) against him than any of his backfield mates. 

    The Bills may have been testing him due to his recent recovery from the broken arm. The Bears will look at the playback of this game and could try the same approach.

Special Teams

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    Special Teams— B 

    The damage from special teams was all self-inflicted. Leodis McKelvin was well below average with only 9.3 yards per punt return and 13.0 yards on kickoffs. 

    It was the back-to-back penalties of the first punt and the blocked field goal in the second quarter that still makes you wonder if anything has changed. 

    On the plus side, Keyshawn Martin did have a 28-yard punt return that helped set up Houston’s second TD. So  hope is not lost just yet.


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    Coaching— A 

    The coaching staff of the Texans is confident enough that panic never seems to enter their minds.  If the offense is not getting things done, the defense will create a turnover or bring a long drive to a halt. If the defense is bending a bit too much, the offense sets things right with a clock-eating display of ball control. 

    The public may want to see a different response than they have come to expect this season. Something like Matt Schaub attempting 50 passes, or Wade Phillips dialing up an eight-man pass rush like the old 46 defense the Bears used to run.

    The fans will have to settle for simply winning games in a rather predictable fashion. There may be the occasional points explosion, like the club-record 43 they put up against the Ravens. But most of the time it will follow the pattern of the Bills game, and only offering a thrill here and there.

    For a franchise that has never made a deep playoff run in their brief history, who thought winning could sometimes feel just plain boring?