Friday, November 23, 2012

The Glutton Bowl

  Texans 34 Detroit 31 OT

          “I can’t wait for another chance,” Graham said. “That’s the first thing I said. I want another chance.” With Kubiak's back turned to the field, Graham lined up to kick a field goal that would demolish Detroit's playoff hopes on Thanksgiving Day 2012. His kick sent the ball screaming to the left just barely sneaking in to the right of the left upright. Kubiak hears the collective gasp in the crowd that marks the Texans win. He then gives a double finger gun point as the Texans celebrate. Just like Jacksonville the week before Graham missed his first chance to win the game only to get succeed on his second chance. His field goal gave Houston their only lead with 2:21 left in OT. Detroit could just not put away the resilient, stalwart Texans. The team made the adjustments necessary and answered back in the second half by (I include OT in the second half) outscoring Detroit 20-10.  After last week's wild ride the Texans hopped back on the same roller coaster to win in overtime for the second week in a row.

The Lions Offensive Struggles

         One would not think that a team that puts up 31 points and 525 total yards would be having problems offensively. The offense as a whole is not the concern, but the the play selection is. Detroit is a one-sided offense that has zero dimensions or tricks. The only thing that they do well or at all for that matter is throw the ball from the shotgun. Detroit ran 87 plays yesterday of which 70 were from the Shotgun formation. 70! That is 80.4% of their plays were run from the shotgun. Out of all Detroit's passing plays, I only counted 5 passes that were not from the shotgun. Detroit ran 6 running plays from the shotgun and 64 passing plays (numbers are off because of sacks and one or two runs from Stafford). Even though Detroit has all the talent in the world on offense it is impossible to run an efficient offense if a team is this one sided. They have the #1 ranked passing game in total yards (3437), #1 in total attempts (501) but are ranked 19th in yards per pass (7.2). They also have run 266 running attempts and average 4.2 yards a carry. The run to pass ratio is 1.88. The Lions do have a big bruising offensive line that they can run behind, but they do not utilize it. Their running numbers are inflated by big runs they gained from draws in the shotgun formation. They gained 66 of their 85 rushing yards from running backs using draws in the shotgun. In the first half they only ran the ball for 18 yards on 9 carries and ran only one draw. Instead, of throwing 61 times they should throw more earlier in the game to open up the run and use the draw that they are effective at. Stafford does have the ability to be a top quarterback, but needs to have less pressure put on him. He made some great throws in pressure, has an incredible arm and his side arm throws are ridiculous. The Lions are running an Xbox college offense that still yet to work in the NFL. All of the top teams in the league have some type of offensive balance. Detroit has yet to learn this and will continue to lose if they throw the ball 40+ times a game.

Wade's Second Half Adjustments

          After the first half of the game I thought it was only going to get worse. At the half the defense was on the path to do the impossible, play worse than they did against Jacksonville. After two quarters Detroit was 5-8 on 3rd down, 14-26 passing for 246, 9 runs for 18 yards, 12 passing first downs and Calvin Johnson had 5 catches for 103 yards. The biggest change Phillips made was put Kareem Jackson and Danieal Manning on Calvin Johnson instead of Alan Ball. With Jonathon Joseph being out with a hamstring, I understand the reasoning by putting the 6'2" on Johnson instead of the 5'10" Jackson. The problem is Alan Ball just is not that good. In the first half I counted Ball getting beat 4 times and dropped an interception in the end zone. He did not play awful, his coverage was good, but he has problems finding the ball. Jackson had an incredible second half playing coverage against Johnson and made up for his woes last week against the Jags. In the second half Calvin had only 3 catches for 37 yards on 8 targets. This change in coverage disrupted the Lions passing game and led to Stafford throwing for 173 yards and a completion percentage of 48.5%.
         The other aspect Wade did a great job of fixing was third down defense. The Lions were converting third downs 70% of the time until their second drive of the first half. After the Lions' opening drive field goal they went 2 for 8, a rate of 25%. The biggest reason for this was the coverage change and the pass rush. Houston was finally able to pressure Stafford (7 total QB hits) and Watt had two huge third down sacks on a 3rd and 5 and on a 3rd and ten. Houston's defense on first and second down was stellar since they forced the Lions to an average of 7.77 yards on third down. Detroit converted 9 for 18 of them and averaged 6.05 yards on third down as well. Of the Lions third down conversions 6 of the 18 kept drives going that led to a total of 17 points. Phillips' defense was able to turn an infuriating aspect of their defense into a positive in the second half. 
Danieal Manning #38 of the Houston Texans strips Brandon Pettigrew #87 of the Detroit Lions of the ball after a Pettigrew overtime catch at Ford Field on November 22, 2012 in Detroit, Michigan. Houston won the game 34-31.        The two players that stood out on defense were J.J Watt and Danieal Manning. Watt had 5 tackles (all solo), 4 of them for a loss, 3 sacks (breaks the franchise record for most individual sacks in a season), 2 swats, and 5 quarterback hits. Phillips was creative with Watt and used a lot of stunts to create pressure. 2 of Watt's sacks came from great blitz packages that forced Stafford up into the pocket right into Watt. He led a defensive line that was able to dominate the Detroit's offensive line by coming off the ball and move the line of scrimmage back two to three yards consistently. Watt's performance should reignite those talks of him being the Defensive Player of the Year. Manning did it again and forced a huge fumble at a critical part of the game. Against Chicago, Manning stuck the tight end Davis to set the tone for the rest of the game. This week against Detroit Manning got the ball back for Houston when he stripped Brandon Pettigrew as the Lions entered field goal range. Even though Houston did not win the game on the subsequent possession it definitely saved the game for Houston. Manning played great coverage on Johnson when needed to and led the team with 8 tackles and had 2 passes deflected. The defense had a great all around effort, but these two stood out the most.

The Review

         Despite Houston's great win this game will always be remembered by Forsett's franchise record setting, 81 yard touchdown run. Even though he was down the refs let the play go on (which is what they should do) since they were going to go ahead and challenge the play anyways.
Penalty: For initiating a challenge when a team is prohibited from doing so: Loss of 15 yards.
Replay Official’s Request for Review. After all scoring plays, interceptions, fumbles and backward passes that are recovered by an opponent or go out of bounds through an opponent’s end zone, muffed scrimmage kicks recovered by the kicking team, after the two-minute warning of each half, and throughout any overtime period, any Replay Review will be initiated by a Replay Official from a Replay Booth comparable to the location of the coaches’ booth or Press Box. There is no limit to the number of Referee Reviews that may be initiated by the Replay Official. He must initiate a review before the next legal snap or kick and cannot initiate a review of any ruling against a team that commits a foul that delays the next snap. His ability to initiate a review will be unrelated to the number of timeouts that either team has remaining, and no timeout will be charged for any review initiated by the Replay Official.
"Cannot initiate a review of any ruling against a team that commits a foul that delays the next snap" is the part that the league is interpreting as "the review can not benefit the team that illegally threw the flag"
          Jim Nantz was on to this from the get go," There is already a challenge flag out which you don't need to challenge a touchdown. All touchdowns plays need to be verified, but Scwartz has emptied out the pocket. You can't challenge a touchdown they get reviewed anyway." This all goes back to the head coach's hot headiness. We have seen this before with handshake gate and was seen again on Turkey Day. This culture is seen as well with Suh's stomp last year and the kick to Schaub's groin this year (It looked intentional since is foot was in the air and he could sense Schuab near him. Then he kicks his leg out.) The jury is still out on Schwartz being a good head coach because of plays like this that he screws up and the way he let's his emotions get to him. He took the blame for his mistake, the rule is dumb, but it is still his fault. This GIF pretty much sums it up. He gave the Texans a free touchdown that let them back into this game. Regardless, of this play if the Lions played better defense at the end of the game and did not throw the ball 61 times and stopped the clock, they probably would have won.

Field Goal Woes

          Both coaches really dropped the ball in overtime when it came to their chance to win the game with a field goal. After Manning's strip on the Lions' first OT possesion, Houston was able to move the ball into field goal range. They had the ball at the 28 and had a sequence of plays that went false start (32), 3 yard run (29), -2 yard run (31) and then another -2 yard run. In this sequence Houston went from the 27 yard line to the 34. That adds up to having to kick a 51 yard field goal instead of a 45 yarder. This year Graham is 1 for 4 from 50+ yards and 6 for 8 from 40-49 yards. That is a 50% change in kicking accuracy. When looking at his first kick it looked like it would have been good from 45 and he just barely missed his 51 yard one.
        After watching Graham miss his kick you would think Schwartz would have learned from Kubiak's mistake, but instead he did the exact same thing! After his miss Detroit got the ball back and was able to move the ball back into range again. On 3rd and 11 at the Houston 24 Stafford his Scheffler on a short pass in the right flat. Scheffler makes the catch and then heads up field, he hurdles a defender and gets knocked out of bounds at the Houston 28. From this exact spot it would be a 45 yard field goal. Detroit tries to run for the first time this over time only to have runs of 2 and then negative 3. Instead of trying to get some more yards Mr. Schwartz calls a time out on third down to bring in Hanson to try for a 47 yard field goal. His kick would bounce off the right post and fall weekly to the ground. His kick would have been good from 44, 45 or 46, but instead he played safe and kicked a 47 yard field goal.
        When Houston gets the ball back they learn their lesson. With 1st and ten at the Lions 24 Kubiak calls for the pass instead of running it three times. Schuab hits James Casey in the flat who runs for a gain of 11 yards and takes the ball to the Detroit 14. With that play Houston goes from a 41 yard field goal to a 32 yard attempt and the rest is history.

          It seems that nothing can beat this Texans team except for Aaron Rodgers. Just after winning their first OT win as a franchise they win their second just 90 hours later (the only thing that soured the win was how bad the half time show was. We need more performances like this). After they beat the Bears everyone was wondering if they could play from behind. They answered with two wins after being down by double digits. They were forced to play out of their comfort zone and were able to out duel the best passing offense. In his last 2 games Schuab has thrown for 842 yards, 6 touchdowns, three interceptions and a completion percentage of 69.3%. He is the epitome of the Texans cool style by the way he excels in pressure and does not let anything get to him. The greatest player in franchise history, Andre Johnson has caught 23 passes for 461 yards as Schaub's safety net and the scary thing is that he is finally healthy.
         The last three weeks have not only brought wins, but injuries as well. Cody, Reed, James, Dobbins, Demps, Joseph and Newton all have gotten hurt these past three weeks. There depth will be tested the remainder of the year, but if there is any team that can fight through injuries it is this team. Hopefully, they can rest up during this semi bye and be ready for the Titans on December 2nd.
          This is a year of first times for the Texans that is showcased by record breaking performances. This year has seen Watt break the single season franchise record for sacks, Schuab throw for the second most yards in a game ever, the team's first 4-0 start, and the only team to ever win two OT games in 5 days. Hopefully the firsts continue and they clinch their first one seed, win their first AFC championship, and most importantly, go to their first Superbowl.

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