These Texans are trickier than they look.
Bengal players were warned by soothsayers everywhere that a letdown was coming this week. The idea being that they could not sustain the energy necessary to continue winning every week, and at some point, would relax.
So, to disprove the theory, the Bengals came out too fired up, and constantly overpursued on screen plays and play-action passes, thus giving up embarrassing yardage.
Instead of feeling bitter and angry, let's give credit to Houston for out-scheming Mike Zimmer and his staff. On their first play, the Texans' predicated on the high-energy Bengals and smoked them with a bubble-screen to Andre Johnson.
Later, they ran screens to Slaton on obvious passing downs, knowing the Bengals would bring additional pressure to flush Schaub out of the pocket.
The success the Bengals had in stopping the run during the first half, made them too eager and allowed for play-action fakes to torch them in key situations later in the game.
Safeties continued to creep up on run support and were either enveloped by blockers on screens or faked out by play-actions. Gary Kubiak and his offensive coaches seemed prepared for the overzealous Bengals and it showed.
The Texans also worked over the Bengal linebackers with their passing game. While Keith Rivers takes excellent angles to the ball-carrier, playing in coverage doesn't seem to be his strong suit.
Rey Maualuga still sometimes over pursues-which many of us don't mind due to the potential outcome of his reckless style of play-but he is recognizing play-action fakes better each week.
He may never be a great coverage linebacker; he's just not that kind of guy. Even Brandon Johnson, perhaps the team's best linebacker against the pass, was also spotted out of position in coverage, allowing a key third-down conversion for the Texans.
Most alarming, however, is Dhani Jones and his inability to get in to position to make plays. All too often I see Dhani enter the picture of my television a fraction too late; bad things ensue. While other linebackers may sometimes struggle in coverage, Jones is a consistent liability against tight ends and running backs.
He is serviceable as a run-stopper, especially in the middle, but he struggles getting to the flats in time to make a difference on the play. I would look for teams to prey on ol' Dhani until he proves he can cover someone on the outside. I don't see him getting any faster so Zimmer will have to account for his deficiencies in space and scheme around the problem.
On offense, the Bengals continue their self-flagellation with holding calls, drops and fumbles. Not even Bob Bratkowski, everyone's favorite person to blame for everything that goes wrong, is at fault this week.
By my count, he had one dumb sequence of play-calling on a second-half drive that started with a broken screen play and ended with a three-and-out. Otherwise, the players get the blame this week.
However, the Bengals offensive brain-trust isn't totally off the hook for a major problem in their game-plan. The stone-handed duo of tight ends, Dan Coates and J.P. Foschi, are constant setbacks to the passing game.
I realize that the team is in a bit of a bind due to Ben Utecht and Reggie Kelly ending their seasons early on, but the team has a tight end that sits on the sidelines who caught more passes at his position in college than any one else...ever! This seems like an easily fixed conundrum.
The knock on Chase Coffman is that he can't block and isn't very good in special teams. Coates blocks well, and Foschi seems average in every category. Coffman can be one more capable receiver on passing downs when the tight end isn't blocking anyway.
Some may consider having a tight end in the game that doesn't ever block too obvious to use, but I see him more as another slot receiver who might only block down-field on defensive backs and gives Carson Palmer another weapon to utilize.
There are different ways to use a player like Coffman, but first he needs to be activated to see what he brings to the team. I don't want to see this guy end up buried on the practice squad with Jerome Simpson and the other forgotten toys.
Still, all in all, this isn't the worst of losses. Sure it's a team the Bengals probably should have beat at home, but they were outsmarted on defense and lacked the necessary concentration on offense.
They weren't blown out or physically smashed to bits, and what did go wrong can be corrected-except for Dhani Jones and his old legs; perhaps the bye week will help with that.
I'm still encouraged by the direction of this team. What happened against the Texans is a setback, not a letdown. Only a fool doesn't expect a few setbacks along the way to a good season. Hold tight; I think it's all going to work out in the end.
Mojokong-practice against the screen!