The one constant for the Texans in their dominant start to the 2012 season was the stellar and dominant play of their Wade Phillips led defense. Hovering in the top three in the league all season, if you allowed their offense to score more than 20 points, it was a good bet you weren’t going to beat them.
But something has changed over the past two weeks. In contests against the Lions and Jaguars, they’ve allowed 983 total yards of offense and 68 points. Prior to those two games, they’d only allowed more than 20 points just twice all season en route to an impressive 8-1 start. So what happened? Well, a couple of things could be counted into effect and I’ll try to give an argument and counter argument for each reason now.
First off all, giving up that yardage and points to the Lions shouldn’t really be much of a surprise. The loss of Brian Cushing was already being felt over the past few weeks and with Houston suffering even more nagging injuries to the position, they were down to just two inside linebackers by the end of the game on Thanksgiving day.
The biggest reason I saw this one being a shoot out was the injury to all pro corner Jonathan Joseph. Houston had Kareem Jackson, who is finally having the kind of season that was expected of him when drafted, but still nowhere near the talents of Joseph, and street free agent signed in the preseason in Alan Ball covering maybe the best wide receiver in football in Calvin Johnson.
The loss of Cushing was big the moment it happened, but that hole can be plugged a bit more efficiently than losing your lock down corner, especially when facing an offense like Detroit who excels at slinging the ball around. They went into the game with the second ranked offense in the league and they showed that they belonged there by taking advantage of an ailing defense that was tired from playing almost five quarters of football just four days prior.
Against Jacksonville, things are a bit different. Knocking out Blaine Gabbert early in the game threw their game plan off when Chad Henne came into the game and actually looked like a competent NFL quarterback. Still, a defense being hailed as elite should never allow a team with the 32nd ranked offense in the league to go off for 458 yards and 37 points on their own home field. But, division rivalry games can go like that. They’re never a walk in the park and when Houston is sporting the best record in football, you’re going to get everyone’s best game week in and week out. Especially from a rival who knows you much better than teams that play you once every four seasons.
So, should Houston be concerned about the ailing defense? In most cases, I’d say yes, but I’m not as concerned as I would be for them in comparison to a season like 2010. That year, they had one of the best offenses and the worst defense. This year, their offense has proven in these two games that they can run up the points pretty easily, too. And unlike 2010, they have the talent on the roster who can occasionally get that stop on third down. I said before the season started that they could win, and win big, if the defense was even in the 10-15 range in the NFL.
In the end, I think they’ll be okay. Two long overtime games in five days can do some damage to a defense. Joesph will get healthy with ten days off and there was even rumors that he could have gone in the Thanksgiving day game had it been detrimental to their playoff hopes. As long as they don’t suffer anymore devastating injuries that keep a guy out for the season, they have an offense good enough to carry a middle of the road defense far.
By the way, the biggest story that’s going unreported with the past two games is that Houston found a way to win two games that it looked like they had no chance at winning. At the end of the day, that’s what really matters, right?
Filed under: Houston Texans