I'm not one of the people ready to fire up a quarterback controversy, but I'm ready to say that the Texans could be OK with just about any quarterback right now.
Regardless of the new adversity of the week they're facing, Houston just seems to find a way to win. With a legitimate playoff team coming into a rainy Reliant Stadium today, the Falcons were greeted by the loudest home crowd in recent memory and weren't able to overcome the Texans led by a rookie quarterback.
With their franchise-record sixth straight victory, Houston came one game closer to the playoffs today and taught us even more about who they were today. Let's take a look at some of those lessons now.
I'm not going to sit here and tell you TJ Yates was phenomenal today.
I'm not even going to tell you he was great.
But what he was today is good enough.
"TJ Hooker" did what he needed to do today; he made some big throws to move the chains, didn't turn the ball over ( I refuse to acknowledge the stupidity of the officiating crew on that "fumble"), threw it away when he needed to and he kept the defense honest enough to open up the running game.
With this offense, that's all he needs to do to win.
The biggest thing that has impressed me about Yates is his maturity. It's tough to teach a young quarterback to make good decisions and know when to throw the ball away and live to fight another play. Numerous times today, Yates ran outside of pocket pressure and threw the ball out of bounds when it was needed. That just shows the maturity and intelligence this kid has—and that's huge.
A line of 188 yards passing with a touchdown and a quarterback rating of 86.8 isn't going to have anyone ringing your phone off the hook with trade offers in the offseason, but it is plenty for this team to find ways to win. Of the many quarterbacks from this draft who have been playing this season, Yates has looked better than a few of them who were drafted well ahead of him.
As seems to be par for the course, the Texans faced another crucial injury again this week.
As I predicted earlier in the week, it was Andre Johnson again. Just like when he went down in Week 4, he crumpled to the ground untouched and looked much more upset about it than the first time. Reports are now coming out that not only is it not as bad as it was before but it is the opposite leg.
However, it didn't seem to matter as the team had, just as they have all season, a "Next Man Up" attitude. Regardless of how catastrophic the injury is or to whom, this team is resilient as any team I've ever witnessed, and they find a way to overcome it.
Regardless of how long Andre is out, this team just feels special. They always seem to make the big play when it is needed, and it seems to be a different guy each week. That's the kind of things that championship teams do.
All week leading up to this game, we heard this stat about how stout the Atlanta Falcons' run-defense is. "They're the second best in the league at stopping the run!" was the most repeated one.
Still though, I wasn't worried—it appears that neither was Arian Foster nor Ben Tate.
Against the second-best run-defense in the league, the combo of Tate and Foster were able to total 162 yards at 3.7 yards per attempt. Sure, the yards per carry isn't as high as you'd like to see, but if you can do that against a run-defense this good with Andre Johnson out and a rookie quarterback starting, you're pretty damn good.
When Foster was having a hard time getting things going early in the game, Gary Kubiak decided to go with a change of pace by bringing in Ben Tate (unlike last week). The solution was a successful one, as Tate was able to start getting the rock moving and ended the day with 41 yards on 11 carries. This opened up the lanes for Foster to do what he does, en route to a 111-yard day on the ground with a score.
There isn't anyone in the league that this team couldn't find a way to run on, and props to the coaching staff for sticking through the early struggles until it found a way.
If you look at the stat sheet, you see that Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan wasn't sacked all day. If you didn't watch the game, you would have thought that meant Ryan had his way with the Texans' defense.
Not even close.
This just goes to show that it isn't just in total sack numbers. The Houston front seven got consistent pressure all day and kept Matt Ryan off-balance for most of it.
I said in my keys to the game write-up that the biggest factor to winning this game was keeping Atlanta running back Michael Turner in check. His 14 carries for 44 yards just proved that I was right. When Ryan throws 40-plus times in a game, Atlanta just doesn't win. It isn't their style to be a shoot-out type of team, and it showed today with how many drops and overthrows they had in the passing game.
Two more takeaways today just added to what has been an absolutely dominating defensive performance in the 2011 season. I can't say enough about the job that Wade Phillips has done, and it has me believing that Houston might be the one place a Super Bowl contender in the AFC might not want to go lay in the playoffs this year.
I know I've been one of the biggest Kubiak detractors in the past, and I'd never shy away from that. But when it was announced that Wade Phillips would be hired to run the defense while Gary would stay on one more year, I was fine with the decision.
With what has seemed like a head coach duo more than anything, the coaching situation couldn't be any better. This is basically an elite offensive coordinator paired with one of the greatest defensive coordinators in the history of the game. It doesn't get better than that.
We all know what Wade Phillips has done this year, and I can't say enough about that. But it's time to give Gary some love, too. No way does Bob McNair let Kubiak head into next season on an expiring deal. He should get an extension before the end of the season solely based on still finding ways to win with your two best players out for the season and the third one missing most of the year.
With Phillips, you know he's going to get offers to be a head coach again, and it's terrifying. But I honestly think Wade has made his money, and he is happy to be back home doing what he is the best at.
This is the coaching duo I want to see leading this franchise for the next five or six years at least.
And I believe that is Bob McNair's plan, too.