Packers vs. Texans Take 2: Houston Has to Regroup Fast

Nate Dunlevy@NateDunlevyGuest ColumnistOctober 16, 2012

J.J. Watt is looking for some help and some answers.
J.J. Watt is looking for some help and some answers.Brett Davis-US PRESSWIRE

It was bound to happen eventually.

The Houston Texans were going to lose to someone, and there's no shame in dropping a game to the Green Bay Packers.

Despite the inevitability of an eventual defeat, there's no denying the manner and timing of the Texans' first setback of 2012 has to sting.

Just what went wrong and how did it spiral out of control so quickly? A second look at the tape will tell.

The Real Story

This is one of those times when the active narrative matches the game film perfectly.

Aaron Rodgers torched Houston.

There's not much to say or analyze here. The Texans had a slightly down game offensively, but nothing too far out of the ordinary. They had trouble running on the Reliant Stadium turf, as both Arian Foster and Ben Tate had some slips, but on the whole, offense was not the issue.

The fault was almost entirely on the defense. After parading through a string of lightweights, the Texans looked completely unprepared for the Packers' assault.

There were blown coverages, missed assignments and corners getting beat on nearly every drive.

Rodgers was pinpoint with his throws, and the Green Bay receivers made a series of circus catches.

It all added up to a thrashing that exposed real coverage limitations in the Houston pass defense.

The J.J. Watt Memorial List of Heroes

(Until further notice, I'm not going list Watt in this space because let's face it, he's driving the bus in Houston right now, and pointing it out each week only wastes your time and mine.)

No one besides Watt distinguished himself for the Texans in Week 6.

Shayne Graham hit a 51-yard field goal.

Keshawn Martin had a couple of nice returns on special teams and nearly scored a touchdown.


Johnathan Joseph had a brutal game, but he's clearly not healthy either. He's nursing a groin injury, so he can get a pass.

Outside of Watt, the Texans' pass rush has underperformed most of the year. Houston has six other players with at least a half sack, but no one else has more than 2.5. After a dominant 2011, Connor Barwin has been invisible all season.

Andre Johnson had eight catches and isn't a goat, but those catches went for just 75 yards. He's now on pace for under 70 receptions and under 1,000 yards on the season.

The problem is that in a game the Texans trailed throughout, the other wideouts combined for just four catches for 52 yards.

That's terrible production in what should have been an up-tempo, high-volume pass attack given the score.

Secret Play

On 3rd-and-3 from the Houston 46, James Jones sprung wide open down the left sideline.

Aaron Rodgers missed him.

The Texans had held.

Rodgers' missed touchdown throw is easily forgotten because of what happened next, but it was significant. Against Indianapolis, Rodgers also sailed an early touchdown over the head of Jordy Nelson, and the Packers ultimately lost.

This time, rookie DeVier Posey lined up offsides on the punt, letting Mike Mularkey off the hook for what was a ridiculous decision in the first place.

The next play resulted in a 41-yard strike from Rodgers to Nelson.

The Texans trailed 7-0, and the rout was on.

As special as Rodgers is, giving him a second chance right after he blew a throw was the kind of mistake that teams don't often recover from.

Coaching Notes

Down 21-7, Gary Kubiak elected to take a 51-yard field goal on 4th-and-2 from the 33. Graham hit the kick, but the decision was poor.

Kubiak's defense was in the middle of getting blown off the field, and he failed to recognize what kind of game he was coaching. Three points was not going to cut it against the Packers that night.

Keep an Eye On...

The Baltimore Ravens aren't nearly the team they used to be, so if the Texans can get a win heading into their bye week, they'll be 6-1 and on top of the conference.

Wade Phillips' vaunted bulls aren't getting much pressure aside from the super-human Watt. He's going to have find ways to get more heat on opposing quarterbacks, especially with Joseph hobbled.

Offensively, when Arian Foster isn't rolling, the Texans' offense grinds to a halt. Teams are figuring out that taking away Johnson slows the pace of the Texans keeps games close.

It's a crossroads for Houston. A win in Week 7 and there's no question the team is headed for a bye in January. A second-consecutive loss, however, and whispers that the Texans' 5-0 start was only due to a tissue-soft schedule will grow louder.


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