Houston Texans Lose to Dallas Cowboys: Why Texan Fans Shouldn't Worry
The Dallas Cowboys threw a little cold water on the Houston Texans' hot start by handing the latter their first defeat of the year.
In the NFL, one week you are the dark horse, poised for a deep playoff run. After an ugly loss, everyone writes you off as a bust—you are exiled to football purgatory where only a string of key victories can pull you out of mediocrity.
Two weeks into the season, the Houston Texans were 2-0. They had just knocked off the perennial AFC powerhouse Indianapolis Colts in impressive fashion and had erased a 17-point deficit late in the third quarter at Washington to win that game in overtime.
They were all the talk on ESPN. "This is the year when the Texans finally get over the hump" was the chant in Houston and around the NFL. With the Colts in the rear view, the Texans would never look back.
One week later, the Texans lost at home to a struggling Cowboys team that seemed to finally find their mojo in a convincing 27-13 victory in which Houston couldn't muster a touchdown until the final two minutes.
Questions surround Gary Kubiak's boys as to if they can bounce back. They are a young team with a weak pass defense that could—and already did—hinder them.
My question to you is, since when was a loss to the Cowboys considered a "bad" loss?
Here are five reasons why the Texans will return to form and leave fans no reason to worry anymore.
1. An Improved Rushing Attack
Everyone knows about Matt Schaub, Andre Johnson, and the potent Texans' passing game. Last year Schaub led the league in passing yards and Johnson in receiving yards, but people seem to overlook how much more dangerous Houston has gotten running the ball.
New starter Arian Foster, a second-year guy slotted into the starters' role after impressing last year with minimal work, had a solid preseason and hasn't looked back since.
In Week 1, Foster dismantled the Colts, compiling 231 yards and three touchdowns. His combination of power, quickness, and vision make him a threat that defenses are going to have to plan around for years to come. So far this season, Foster has 409 yards on 69 carries for an average of 5.9 yards. That has really taken a load off of Schaub.
Depth is a very important thing in the NFL nowadays, with players getting bigger, faster, and stronger, and subsequently leading to more and more injuries. The Texans have two backups who have rushed for over 1,000 yards in a season—speedster Steve Slaton and veteran Derrick Ward.
Slaton struggled last year, especially in the fumble category, leading to him surrender the starting position to Foster. He has proved his worth before, rushing for over 1,200 yards in 2008. He has great hands and uncanny quickness, making him a threat to break a long one on any play.
Ward was released by the Buccaneers in the preseason, prompting Houston to pick him up. A bruising runner, Ward has the hands to catch out of the backfield and was even used as a slot receiver by the New York Giants (and with much success). He was part of the three-headed monster that helped lead the Giants to their Super Bowl victory over the Patriots in 2007 and amassed 1,025 yards rushing along with 41 catches for 384 yards for New York in 2008.
This renewed run game forces teams to have to respect the run, which should open more holes in the defense for Schaub to pick apart.
2. The Run Defense
As easy it has been this year to throw against Houston, it has been equally as hard to run on the Texans.
Ranked second in rush defense through the first three games, DeMeco Ryans, Mario Williams, and an emerging Zac Diles have been a nightmare for opposing running backs as the Texans have held opponents to 54.3 rushing yards per game.
With Brian Cushing coming back after his four-game suspension, the defense will only get better. Cushing, a dynamic linebacker who can play the pass and the run, made 134 total tackles with five sacks, two forced fumbles, and four interceptions on his way to winning the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year award. He is a leader on this defense and will give it the boost it needs to stay consistent.
The Texans' secondary is young and inexperienced, but it will improve as it plays more. If the run defense can keep it up, Houston will force teams to become one-dimensional. When a team's only option is to pass—if your quarterback isn't named Peyton Manning—it makes it very easy to play defense, even with a weaker secondary.
3. Owen Daniels is Healthy
Last season, a big part of Houston's passing game went through the tight end position.
Owen Daniels has been improving his game each year. A knee injury held Daniels out of eight games last year, but he has worked hard to get back on the field. Kubiak has been careful with Daniels, even limiting his snaps in the first two games.
Before he was hurt last year, Daniels was on pace for over 1,000 yards and 80 catches, which would put him in the elite category of tight ends along with Jason Witten, Antonio Gates, and Tony Gonzalez. He is a big body with great hands, some good speed and quickness, runs very precise routes, and uses his athleticism to get to balls most tight ends can't.
With Daniels at full strength, the Texans' passing attack is that much more dangerous as they can control the middle of the field as well as the sidelines. As the season moves forward, look for Daniels to get more targets and his production getting back to normal within a couple of weeks.
4. Andre Johnson Isn't the Only Threat at Receiver
I know, I know. Most of you will look at this slide and say, "hey, Kevin Walter and Jacoby Jones have been Texans for a while now. This is old news!" This is true, but when have they looked as sharp as they have this season?
Walter has been a solid receiver, but he's been hard to ignore with a great start. His 16 catches for 207 yards and three touchdowns puts him on pace for over 1,100 yards and 15 scores. I know those stats may be a little far fetched, but with Johnson getting all of the attention from defenses, that just gives Walter more opportunities to show what he can do.
Daniels' return to form will hurt Walter's production a tad, but he is a great receiver who has shown improvement from last year. He is a player with great hands and a nose for the end zone. Look for stats somewhere around 70 catches, 950 yards, and nine touchdowns.
Now for Jacoby Jones. This was a guy who was primarily viewed by teams as a big-time kick and punt returner with superb vision, quickness, and breakaway speed. This year, he has showcased all of his talents, especially his hands.
Jones has 13 catches for 133 yards and a touchdown, but has shown a lot of courage making plays in traffic and hauling in some tough throws. In the Redskins game, Jones caught a ball while falling down near the sideline, keeping his hand and arm under the ball. The reception was reviewed and upheld, giving the Texans a crucial first down that led to the winning field goal on that drive in overtime.
The Texans may not have the big names at receiver besides AJ, but they are professional and make big plays.
5. They Believe in Themselves
I'm not going to tell you that I was talking to Matt Schaub yesterday and he told me that this group of guys really has faith in each other. Or include a lengthy quote from Gary Kubiak about how this is the most disciplined and motivated team he's ever coached.
What I will tell you is that there is something different about this year's Texans team. They have a new-found twinkle in their eyes when the step out on that field. It is a look of players who have bought into the system, support Kubiak's game plan, and are confident in their abilities on the field.
This is a team that hasn't done a lot of winning in the past, and many question whether they know how to win over the course of a full season. But when you beat a team the caliber of the Colts and you overcome big deficits away from home, you gain a certain edge over other teams.
It makes you believe that no matter what the score is or who you are playing, you can win the game—something the Texans have lacked in the beginning years of this young franchise.
Confidence goes a long way, especially in professional sports. Without the will to win, great teams can sputter fast.
The 2010 Houston Texans have that swagger when they walk out on the field. With all of the aforementioned tools, they are poised to make a deep playoff run and surprise a lot of people this season.
Phil Lombardo is a Bleacher Report writing intern and a senior journalism/mass communications major at St. Bonaventure University.
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