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Texans Stumble to 2-2 as Falcons Manage First Win

The Houston Texans came into Sunday’s game at Atlanta planning for a “W,” but to their surprise the Atlanta Falcons looked to prove they were the better team. The Falcons played well Sunday as they pulled out a 26-16 win, the first win for new Falcons Head Coach Bobby Petrino. The Texans weren’t exactly clueless on why they lost this game as Head Coach Gary Kubiak and many players took blame for the Texans lost. In actuality, the Texans lost for several reasons, including the Falcons dominating pass rush and run defense, crucial Texans’ play calling failing third and short on several instances, and the Falcons dominant WR Michael Jenkins.

At first, it was an early surprise Sunday to see the Falcons take off on the first drive, but as the half continued it was all too regular for Texans fans. Michael Jenkins, the 6’ 4”, fourth year receiver out of Ohio State, toyed with the Texans’ Demarcus Faggins and Von Hutchins. The young defensive backs were powerless against Jenkins’ large frame and size which proved to be too much for the Texans’ problematic secondary. Jenkins pulled in a team-high six passes for 64 yards while scoring two touchdowns. His first score came on a five yard pass in the first quarter, and his second was on a seven-yard pass in the second quarter. Jenkins, who caught most of his balls on the right side of the field, managed most of his yards after the catch after beating Faggins and, or Hutchins. It came to the point where Faggins, who was partly responsible for the two quick touchdowns to Steve Smith at Carolina, appeared to be benched for CB Jamar Fletcher. The rest of the secondary could not maintain coverage as Atlanta’s offensive line overpowered the Texans defensive line. This was the first time the Texans defensive line this season. Although Atlanta was without their two starting defensive tackles, the Houston defense was never really able to stop Atlanta’s conservative passing and running game. Harrington completed 22 passes for 223 yards and two touchdowns. Dunn managed 62 yards on 18 carries.

The Houston offense looked powerless at times as HC Gary Kubiak kept pounding RB Ron Dayne for first, second and third down plays. This was a crucial step to loosing this game even though Shaub managed to pass well during the game. Shaub never took over the game, but he did make spectacular throws and runs displaying why the Texans never gave up. On three cases, the Texans called a run play on 3rd and short and came up empty.

“When you can’t convert third downs with less than 2 yards to go,” Schaub said, “it’s definitely frustrating.”

Not converting 3rd and short occurred for a few reasons. First, the Falcons defensive line overpowered the Houston offensive line. Dayne was shut down for 62 yards on 15 carries, and Shaub threw 317 yards with one touchdown. The most remunerable third and short that failed was in the fourth quarter as the Texans were at the goal line, on the 1-yard line when Ron Dayne mishandled a Shaub pass on the left side of the field as the ball fell out of his hands. Dayne, according to Megan Manfull of the Houston Chronicle, said it was his fault. Shaub said it was his fault. Kubiak took the blame for failed 3rd and 1’s, but more so, left tackle Ephraim Salaam felt the blame rested with him. If it weren’t for Atlanta DE John Abrahams nonstop pass rush, the Texans may have pulled out a win.

The Texans were without several key starters, including RB Ahman Green and WR Andre Johnson, but Texans defensive leader Dunta Robinson said the Texans can’t look to injuries for why the team lost Sunday. What it really comes down to is executing on third down plays. It comes down to shutting down receivers and scaring young QBs like Joey Harrington. The Texans were not able to do these things, and they were handed a “L.” The blame resides with the team. Blaming one person is not enough, and if it is a team game then the blame resides on the losing team and execution by the winning team. The Falcons executed well and managed their first win over the Texans.

Next week, the Texans hope for a healed Ahman Green and Andre Johnson to return and make an impact against Miami at Houston. Johnson, who was hurt in week 2 versus Carolina, may be out a couple more weeks but is healing on schedule. Johnson called himself a fast healer for someone who rarely gets hurt. If he is unable to get back on Sunday, WR Andre Davis should be back starting and showing off his quickness and catching abilities. WR Kevin Walter should look for the endzone this week again. Green, on the other hand, should be ready with a less swollen knee. Dayne, Green’s backup, will be ready to take more short yardage situations and the fourth quarters as usual. With Johnson and Green back this team is in good shape. Miami (0-4) is off to a bad start in which the Texans look to capitalize off of and get back over .500.

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