Texans vs Jaguars: 5 Things We Learned from Houston's 20-13 Win
Only in Houston can you have an 8-3 football team and feel like you just got punched in the gut.
After decent play through almost the entire first half of the game, Matt Leinart was drove into the ground (with no flag, either) and landed on the shoulder of his throwing arm. Just like that, we're watching conservative football with the defense holding onto dear life under a rookie third-string quarterback.
But other than that, here are some things we learned about the Texans today.
Matt Leinart Looked Like He Was Going to Be Fine
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There was a lot of griping about how much Matt Leinart was checking down, but through almost the entire first half, Leinart looked good enough for this team to keep on rolling.
A 110.1 quarterback rating with a touchdown and 17 points on the board, it looked like Matty Light was only going to get more comfortable as the game went along right before the play that knocked him out.
The first play of the game, they ran a bootleg and it just felt right. But once he left the game only to return later on with his arm in a sling and a look on his face like his dog just died, you'd have to be heartless not to feel for the guy. This was maybe his last chance to prove that he belonged in this league as a starter. Now he may be fated to simply be a backup for the remainder of his NFL career.
It's a huge blow to the Texans postseason hopes and makes them look like first round fodder on paper. Unless T.J. Yates really did his homework while holding a clipboard. In fact, let's talk about him next.
T.J. Yates Is Still a Mystery
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Twitter was exploding with tweets about how T.J. Yates was the next Willie Beamen when he first entered the game and completed three of his first four passes for 39 yards, which resulted in a Texans field goal.
This had everyone in Texans nation already giving up on Leinart and proclaiming the Yates Era was about to begin. Myself, I was a bit cautiously optimistic. I liked what I saw with him coming into the game cold and running the two-minute drill pretty well. But I said, I wanted to see him with Jacksonville not running a prevent defense before I proclaimed him the second coming of Kurt Warner.
Unfortunately, we still didn't get to see too much out of him. The game plan in the second half was to run the ball, eat the clock and try to throw the ball on 3rd-and-long. That's about as much as you can set a rookie up to fail as possible.
The Jags simply stacked the box against the run, dared Yates to beat them and brought the kitchen sink on third downs.
Next week, with an actual game plan and a week of reps with the starters, we will be able to get a real sample of what the rookie can do. On paper, it makes sense that he could succeed due to the fact that Yates ran this offense while at UNC. This is what they reached for in the fifth round for him anyway.
The Defense Can Win Games on Their Own
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Gary Kubiak made his game plan in the second half very clear. Run the ball, don't turn it over and let the defense win the game for you. And you know what? It worked.
While it was rather boring to watch, the second half was just smash mouth football led by the Texans defensive front. Seven times they got to the combo of Jacksonville quarterbacks for a sack, and they hit them 12 times.
The secondary didn't make any big mistakes, and Johnathan Joseph made another sick interception.
However, let's be honest for a minute here. Houston isn't going to play the Jaguars atrocious offense every week. So, much like we saw today, the defense is going to get winded if the offense doesn't have less three and outs.
The defense is really, really good. But they're going to need some help on the other side of the field.
Connor Barwin Is as Good as We Thought He Could Be
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This is the segment of the article where I will eat a little crow. I was guilty of going on record on our podcast in saying that I saw nothing in Connor Barwin that led me to believe he needed to even be starting. Well bust out the A1 sauce, because I'm going to dig into that crow right now.
With a franchise record four sacks today, Barwin ran his season total up to 8.5 times he's brought the opposing quarterback down. He also got the credit for seven solo tackles and was just flat out a hell raiser in the backfield all day.
After a really gruesome foot injury to end his season in the first half in 2010, no one knew what to expect from Barwin this season. But it is clear that the best thing that could have happened to his career was being inserted into a Wade Phillips defensive scheme. The idea of a rotation of Barwin, Mario Williams and Brooks Reed over the next few years has to be exciting for the future of the Houston defense.
We'll Get 'em Next Year
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Here is the part where I'll be accused of being a negative Nancy.
With a rookie quarterback at the helm over the next five games, any delusions of this team making a deep postseason run went up in smoke the moment Matt Leinart's arm went into a sling.
I still believe that Houston will make the playoffs because I still think that 9-7 wins this division. The light schedule and decent players around Yates will get them at least one more victory.
But if you really think T.J. Yates is going to come into the starting quarterback position and light up the world, well, you just might be the most optimistic fan of any team in the history of sports.
However, other than Mario Williams, this entire team will all be back in 2012. Mario might, too, but that's a topic for another day. But what I'm getting at is that the future is still bright and the window is far from closed.
Look at what the team has overcome to get to this point. They've lost a key member of the team every week since Week 4 of the season. Yet they just keep on stepping up, and guys are making plays. If they actually get some luck on the injury front in 2012, this is a team well equipped to be a serious threat in the AFC for the next couple years.
I know it's a silver lining to say "wait 'til next year," but on a day like this, it is better to laugh to keep from crying.