The Houston Texans defense has been one of the top units in the NFL over the last two seasons. Wade Phillips‘ vaunted defense, and the pass defense in particular, had a rough go of it the last two weeks. Houston’s defense is coming off of back-to-back games where they gave up 37 and 31 points to the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Detroit Lions respectively. The main culprit was a pass defense that allowed a total of 791 yards and six touchdowns through the air in those contests.
The 419 yards that Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson and the Lions put up was not a surprise, and should have been expected for a trifecta of reasons. One, the Lions have the number one passing offense in the league at 312 yards per game. They are the only team in the NFL who currently averages over 300 yards through the air. The next closest team is the Dallas Cowboys at 297 passing yards per game.
Secondly, The Texans were playing on the road on a short week, having to travel to Detroit and play only four days after an overtime, nearly five full quarters 43-37 victory over the Jags. They did not conduct any practices that week, only going through a light walk-through that Wednesday before flying out to Detroit. To make matters worse, they had the early Thanksgiving Day kickoff at 11:30 AM, making a short week that much shorter.
The third and perhaps biggest reason that the Lions game should not have been a surprise was that Houston was missing Johnathan Joseph, who sat out the game with an injured groin sustained late in the Jacksonville game. The Texans were not only missing their best corner in the Pro-Bowler Joseph, they also were missing one of the top cornerbacks in the league against Johnson, the number one receiver in the NFL. Johnson had a huge first half, but when Phillips moved Kareem Jackson on him after halftime, Megatron was quiet with only 3 catches in the second half and overtime.
All of those ingredients equal up to what you saw out of the Texans pass defense in Detroit. Now the game against Jacksonville was a complete shocker. No one would have predicted that Jaguars backup QB Chad Henne would come off of the bench and throw for 354 yards and 4 touchdowns at Reliant Stadium. When the Texans played at Jacksonville in week 2, they set a franchise record by holding the Jags to 117 total yards. Maybe the Texans would had been better served if Danieal Manning had not knocked Blaine Gabbert out of that game.
Despite the rough two games in five days, Houston is still ranked sixth in the league in total defense at 319.7 yards per game. After giving up 30-plus points in consecutive games, they are still sixth in scoring defense at 19.2 points per game. The passing defense predictably took a fall, now sitting in the middle of the pack at 17th, having allowing 232 yards per game. However, there is no need to panic. The Texans secondary will be fine. They have had three bad games out of eleven, not bad in today’s pass-happy NFL and not bad considering they have faced Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Joe Flacco, Jay Cutler, and Stafford already this season.
Overall, they have been dominant much more than they have struggled, and look for them to return to that during the last quarter of the season, even with a game against Tom Brady and the New England Patriots looming in week 14. The return of Joseph will certainly help the cause, as he will sit out again this week against the Tennessee Titans and will look to be ready for New England on December 10th. The secondary may be thinner this week with Alan Ball, who replaced Joseph in the lineup (questionable for tomorrow with a foot injury) – this week will present the chance for Brice McCain, Brandon Harris, and Roc Carmichael to make plays in the secondary.