When the Tennessee Titans, led by Jake Locker, were able to force a 99 yard drive down the Houston Texans‘ throat this past Sunday, it appeared that the defense had finally broken. It was the second long drive the team had given up and it appeared they couldn’t stop a quarterback who has struggled up to this point of his career.
This came following a game in which Philip Rivers had thrown for four touchdowns on them in the season opener. Naturally, this has led to many Texans fans already hitting the panic button with Baltimore, Seattle and San Francisco on deck.
How much of that is a hangover from the disappointing end to 2012 is still unknown. During that stretch, the Houston defense made a habit of making mediocre quarterbacks look great and great quarterbacks look like all-time greats. Could it really be that nothing has changed for this defensive unit?
I’m not usually the statistics argument guy, as I’m with Bill Belichick when he says “stats are for losers.” But since the Texans are 2-0, and clearly not losers, I’m going to let it slide this time.
After the first two weeks of the NFL season, the 2013 Texans are currently sitting at fourth overall in total team defense at just 255 yards allowed per game. With the bad drives stuck in their memory, that’s all fans seem to want to acknowledge. But a unit doesn’t accrue numbers like those if they’re terrible.
In the last six games of 2012 and the playoffs, Houston was giving up 255 yards in a half, much less an entire game; so the two really aren’t comparable.
Most of the credit for this is going to J.J. Watt and Brian Cushing who are, undeniably, two of the best in the game at their respective positions. Yes, but the secondary is still awful, right?
The secondary has given up a big play or two, but through two games, they’re third in the league and allowing only 156 yards per contest. Keep in mind that this is a small sample size, but when the argument is that they’ve been awful the first two weeks, these numbers are hard to deny.
The D is still surrendering close to 100 yards per game on the ground, but that’s still good enough for 11th best in the NFL. It would seem that all of these numbers are exceeding expectations. So why does it feel like there is a dark cloud hanging over this group?
The narrative has been that they’ve had to squeak out two wins against teams that are on the road to nowhere in 2013. But can we really make that call this early? The Titans defense looks night and day compared to 2012 and the Chargers won on the road the following week in Philadelphia. Turnarounds happen quick in the NFL and we can’t discount that those two teams could be in the process of a revival of sorts in 2013.
The biggest missing ingredient for this defense so far has been the lack of turning the ball over. They’re minus two in the turnover category and no one in their secondary seems to be the type to snatch an interception. Unless Ed Reed turns out to be a revelation for this unit, any luck turning the ball over is likely going to come from a fumble over an interception.
A lot about this defense will be revealed in the next three weeks. Baltimore has had a shaky start on offense, but Seattle and San Francisco have not. However, all three quarterbacks are above the talent they’ve faced so far in 2013 and with the memory of last December still fresh in mind, fans are going to be overly concerned until the Houston defense proves it can play against the best in the league throwing at them.