Sunday’s game against the Miami Dolphins was a very nice measuring stick for the Houston Texans and provided us with a few answers to some questions everyone has in regards to the team. One of five things we did learn is that the run defense needs help.
Rookie Daniel Thomas ran for over 100 yards on the Texans and as a team the Dolphins put up 153 total rushing yards. However, the Houston Texans defense overall has improved tremendously from last year.
While there are several reasons for the vast improvement in the overall defense one reason for sure has been the return of DeMeco Ryans and Connor Barwin. Those two players returning has allowed Brian Cushing to relax more as he plays under a less stressed condition since Ryans has been back at calling the plays.
Mario Williams has been very instrumental at his new outside linebacker position at which Williams’ is rushing standing up as opposed to having his hand on the ground pre-snap which is the only difference from last year. Now while Williams looks the part as seems to show that the position change will be a smooth transition for the once overall number one pick, we’d like to talk more about Connor Barwin and the impact the outside linebacker opposite Mario Williams had during Sunday’s game.
Along with Barwin we will delve into four other players and/or units of the team who we felt had the most impact during Sundays victory over the Dolphins.
Connor Barwin – OLB
While there is no question that Mario Williams has made tremendous strides at his position change and definitely has impacted the game it’s Connor Barwin that has come along significantly since returning from a season ending injury last year.
During yesterdays game Barwin accounted for two solo tackles, a sack on quarterback Chad Henne in which he beat left tackle Jake Long around the edge. Barwin also caused Jake Long to false start on a key third down play later in the game.
Along with Barwin’s 2 solo tackles the young outside linebacker two QB pressures, one tackle for a loss and deflected a pass that went incomplete. While the Texans run game left larger gapping holes for the Dolphins running backs to run through Barwin consistently stayed at home and filled his gap nicely. More times than not the Dolphins running plays went away from Barwin. At times Barwin did however display an inability to get off the offensive lineman once the lineman was able to lock him up by getting hands on Barwin.
One of the surprising stats to me in regards to Barwin was his ability to drop back into coverage and blanket the opposing route runner. Barwin dropped into coverage 8 times and not allowing one completion to his opponent.
Barwin’s solid play at the outside linebacker spot is largely responsible for rookie outside linebacker Brooks Reed not seeing the field much since having a nice preseason in which many expected the rookie to end up playing opposite Mario Williams quite a substantial amount this season.
Matt Schaub – QB
Matt Schaub is largely responsible for the Houston Texans snapping a six game road losing streak on Sunday. The eighth year veteran quarterback completed 21 of 29 passes for 230 and two touchdowns. One touchdown midway through the 4th quarter to Andre Johnson, which was more or less the nail in the coffin for the Miami Dolphins.
The veteran quarterback didn’t put up steallar numbers but Schaub didn’t need to. Schaub took care of the ball nicely by not turnign over the ball during Sunday’s contest. Schaub ended the game with a QB rating of 118.5% and couldn’t have done it without the help of his number one wide receiver Andre Johnson.
Andre Johnson – WR
Houston had a total of thirteen plays that went for ten yards or more. Andre Johnson had two of those plays. Both were big plays and the first one came near the two-minute warning of the first half when Matt Schaub connected with Johnson for a 43 yard completion that eventually lead to a field goal for the Texans that gave them a comfortable 16-3 lead at halftime.
Johnson’s second big play was on a 21 yard touchdown from Matt Schaub about mid-way through the fourth quarter which prevented the Houston Texans from putting up the usual hum-drum 2nd half offensive numbers that has began to become all to familiar with the team and fans.
Andre Johnson finished the day with 7 catches for 93 yards and one touchdown while being targetted a total of 9 times. Johnson has with out a doubt been a measure of consistency this year. In each game this season Johnson has had 7 catches each game and 95 during week one and now again 93 yards in week two along with scoring touchdowns in both games.
The Offensive Line
While the offensive line did yield three sacks to the Miami Dolphins pass rush it’s not so much the pass protection the big guys in the trenches deserve credit for. What the maulers in the middle deserve to be recognized for are the huge holes the o-line opened up for the running game.
The team rushed again 36 times for 138 yards increasing the Texans win total to 25-3 all time under head coach Gary Kubiak when rushing 30+ times. After the Texans received the back with eight minutes left in th efinal period, the team rushed the ball 12 consecutive times allowing Houston to chew up virtually all of the remaining quarter and keeping the ball out of the Dolphins hands.
Ben Tate – RB
With starting running back Arian Foster re-aggravating his hamstring injury at some point during the game once again second year running back Ben Tate answered the call. Of the thirteen plays of 10+ yards the Houston texans offense had, Ben Tate and the offensive line were responsible for five of the thirteen.
After missing all of his rookie year and at one time seemingly head for head coach Gary Kubiak’s dog house, the second year back has been a man on a mission. Beginning with a stellar preseason tate has continued to pound the rock and provide the Texans with a impressive back-up to Arian Foster.
Tate tallied 103 yards rushing and added 4 catches for 32 yards. While teh endzone seemed to escape Tate Sunday it was the second year budding star’s ability to run the ball into the heart of the Miami Dolphins defense time after time even when the Dolphins knew a hand off to Tate was coming. Keeping both the ground game and clock going in the fourth quarter was key to this Texans victory and definitely a reason why Ben Tate was a significant impact player for Houston on Sunday.
The Houston Texans are only one of two teams in the NFL to have three 1,000 yard rushers on the team. Arian Foster, Derrick Ward, and Steve Slaton have all surpassed that mark and the way things are going in Houston the Texans could be the only team in the NFL with four 1,000 yard rushers. Ben Tate to this point has rushed for 223 yards in two games.
No player has rushed for 100 yards in each of their first two games since Cadillac Williams did it in 2005 and before that was Edgerrin James back in 1999. Rushing for 100 in each of Tate’s first two games has him mentioned with the likes of players by the names of the aforementioned Williams and James, along with other greats such as Marshall Faulk, Charlie Garner, Billy Sims and former Houston Oiler Earl Campbell.