Notes from Game Charting: Texans-Jaguars, Week 13, First Half (with a fun PA breakdown)
The player most responsible for the poor first half, from the Texans point of view, is LT Duane Brown. He had BY FAR his worst half of the season, blowing two separate chop blocks that led to hurries and Matt Schaub’s shoulder injury. He got turned around on a Ryan Moats run that changed a 5+ yard gain into a 3 yard gain. Finally, a blitzing Darryl Smith nearly stripped Rex Grossman of the ball on what would have been an easy fumble plus return if not for the tuck rule. Not coincidentally, Brown was questionable to even play in the game with a sprained knee. I went over this last week with the Colts’ Charles Johnson: you can play through the pain and still be hurting the team. It’s hard to fault Brown because of the NFL’s macho culture, and the Texans playoff hopes were hanging on by a thread coming into this game, but if Rashad Butler even plays a little worse than Brown, the Texans are probably better off because Schaub would’ve known he had less time to throw.
One thing I discovered while going through all my old Football Prospectus’ for my earlier post on coaching candidates at BRB was this handy little Bill Barnwell/Aaron Schatz essay about the play-action pass. Since this is such an important part of the Texans offense, I thought it’d be revealing to go over optimal play action strategy and see if the Texans were somewhat close to it. This is all just on 2006’s data, so it’s not the gospel truth forever and ever, but it should provide some insight. Here were the conclusions of the study: PA passes on first down were the most effective, PA’s on second and 7+ were the second-most effective. The effectiveness of the play-fake dropped after the 13th time it was used (but so few teams got to 13 plus attempts in one game that those results are sort of meaningless), and not surprisingly, there was a very strong correlation between DVOA on play-action passes and rushing DVOA (.47) and more importantly rushing DVOA in the first half (.51). The conclusion being that teams that rely on the PA should *gasp* be establishing the run in the first half–IF the run is effective!
Gary Kubiak was roundly criticized for his playcalling in the second half of the Colts game, but he actually threw the majority of his PA passes in the half off first down. They didn’t turn out right, but strategically that appears to have solid backing. As someone who has charted his share of Texans games, I think you can pretty much see how effective the team is by how many PA’s they get off. So lets see if there is a correlation with the Texans games the past 8 weeks or so and running the ball early:
Week 13: Texans rush 4 times (17 yards) in the first quarter, score 0 points. The Texans looked sloppy early on, but Grossman’s best drive got them from their own 10 to the Jacksonville 40 based on running, and the running set up a few PA passes. They didn’t score because they were being quarterbacked by Rex Grossman.
Week 12: Texans rush 10 times (51 yards) in the first quarter, score 14 points. The Texans spent the rest of the game having their way with the Colts defense, but got sloppy with the ball in the second half and couldn’t put up enough points to come back from that.
Week 11: Texans rush 5 times (23 yards) in the first quarter, score 7 points. On the first drive, the Texans passed the ball three times in a row and went 3 and out, and they scored their 7 points because Tennessee gave them the ball at the Tennessee 36. The effectiveness was there, but the Texans had a 5-2 Pass-Run ratio on their third drive and didn’t get anything from that either.
Week 9: Texans rush 2 times (10 yards) in the first quarter, score 0 points. They went three and out on passes on the first drive, Schaub got picked off to start the second drive, and Chris “Pee Pants” White false started to ruin a promising third and five on the third drive. The fourth drive was 2-1 P-R as well, and went nowhere. The Texans finally got down to the Colts 2 on the fifth drive, which started with four consecutive Ryan Moats handoffs, before they turned it over.
Week 8: Texans rush 7 times (54 yards) in the first quarter, score 0 points. Two of these runs are Schaub scrambles. The Texans had only one three and out drive in this quarter though, the only reason they didn’t score in it was that they turned the ball over 3 times.
Week 7: Texans rush 8 times (15 yards) in the first quarter, score 7 points. Two of these runs are also Schaub scrambles, both on the first drive, which was a three and out. The run was pretty ineffective, even discounting a -4 yard Slaton run, yet the Texans scored almost as soon as they started using it.
Week 6: Texans rush 7 times (26 yards) in the first quarter, score 7 points. One of these runs is a Schaub scramble. The Texans again didn’t rush almost at all on the first drive, but rode a 59 yard Andre Johnson quick screen to field goal range before a Kris Brown kick was blocked. They were moderately effective when they did rush on the second series, and that culminated in a long touchdown drive.
What to make of this, other than that the Texans turn the ball over way too damn much? A few weeks ago I brought up that the “scripted” portion of the playbook (Kubiak said that they script the first 15 plays or so) was failing the Texans and holding them back in the first quarter. Perhaps the scripting isn’t holding them back so much as an overreliance to the pass on the first drive. Is this an overreaction to teams knowing that Slaton had fumble problems? A way to come out and surprise the opponents? Whatever it is, it’s not working. The Texans should work more on establishing the run game quicker. This was a real shock to my FO training as a “teams run when they win, not win when they rush” disciple. The Texans actually SHOULD be establishing the run more. When they do, great things can happen offensively (Second Colts game).
-Jacques Reeves, or as Steve Tasker would call him, “Jacquez” or “Jacks”, wins the Most Snakebitten Player of the half award. He was the main defender on six plays. First a 20-yard throwaway pass, second, the gorgeous Garrard bomb to Nate Hughes that I don’t think he could have done any better on. On first and goal, he comes up with two huge stops, defensing a lob to Mike Sims-Walker and holding Zach Miller to one yard on a checkdown. Then he gives it all away by playing too deep on third down and letting Ernest Wilford get an easy TD catch right on the line. Finally, in the Texans patented Red Carpet End Of Half Zone, he plays another pass at Mike Sims-Walker absolutely perfectly, but drops the interception. That’s a total of 5 well defensed balls out of 6 plays, and he gave up 14 points and dropped an interception out of it. The Football Gods really do have it out for the Texans this year.
-Since I’ve been on the anti-Frank Bush bandwagon all week, I want to give credit where credit is due. The blitz he dialed up for Garrard’s first sack was magnificent. He stacked seven on the line of scrimmage, one of them dropped back in coverage after about a two second initial rush. The young Jacksonville line just completely crumbled. Normally on sacks you give a Blown Block for the person responsible. On this play, there were about three and I had to pick the one MOST responsible. If they had five plays even 75% as successful as this a game, I’d think Bush was a worthy defensive coordinator.
The second sack of this half, sadly, was David Garrard’s fault rather than the Texans. A standard five man blitz, with DeMeco Ryans trailing late after he determined that Maurice Jones-Drew was in to block. Leftwich stumbled back on his own heel off the snap, then seemed to wait forever for his targets to come open. Even after Zach Diles almost broke Jones-Drew’s block, he held onto the ball. Ryans playfully tapped Jones-Drew’s head on the way by, and Jones-Drew was looking vacantly at Garrard as if to say “Still? Really?”
– Filed under reasons you can tell you’re having a bad year: A kicker who was 3-10 from 40+ yards coming into the game nails a 51 yarder and a 46 yarder against you.
– In a total surprise to regular subscribers to my newsletter, John Busing was tremendously bad in the first half. He actually tackled Jones-Drew at one point, which was astonishing because I was positive Jones-Drew had a magnetic field that Busing wasn’t allowed to break. It would’ve been a great half if that was the only thing that Busing did, but just to mix things up, he decided to be responsible for the two biggest Jaguars gains in the half. Just for kicks, he threw in being the second defender on the zone coverage that led to Wilford’s TD catch.
The first big Jaguars gainer, 47 yard pass to Marcedes Lewis, was (hold your breath) zone coverage. In this zone coverage, Busing was responsible as the closer for the hole Lewis got in. He didn’t get there. Then he slipped and fell on his heinie and let Lewis get about 20 more yards.
The second, the 62 yard pass to Zach Miller, was angled away from Cushing in a manner that cried out for safety help, but where was John Busing? On his heinie. After tripping and falling, again. The only reason it wasn’t a touchdown was that Brice McCain was able to beat a block from his own man and catch Miller. We have two NFL tight ends named Zach Miller? I’m rooting for one of them to fail. Nothing personal, I just went through this with shortstops named Alex Gonzalez and have had enough of it.
Finally, I guess it makes more sense that Reeves played back on the goal line when he realized Busing was backing him up. I don’t think I’d have any faith in him either.
Tomorrow…the second half, where we see if I can watch the Chris Brown HB pass without trying to gouge my own eyes out.