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Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Game Review: Packers @ Texans

by Mark Lawrence
PackerChatters Staff

The Packers traveled to Houston to play the Texans for the first time in their new stadium.

Houston has a long history with football teams. Their original team, the Houston Texans, moved to Kansas City and renamed themselves to the Chiefs. Later they had the Houston Oilers, but these guys moved to Tennessee one night and renamed themselves to the Flaming Thumbtacks. Now the Texans are back, again.

The Texans are a three year old team. Their first game every was played on ESPN against the 'Girls. This was their first prime-time exposure since that game, so it's very reasonable to say this was the Texan's Superbowl, at least for this year. They certainly showed up for the game, and gave 110% all night long.

This seemed to me to be a game of two halves. In the first half, the Packer's offense seemed to sputter, and simply could not maintain a drive. My impression was that the running game was acceptable but not dominating, and the passing game had 'way too many incompletions. In fact, the statistics do not completely back this up: our running backs were 14 carries for 62 yards, a respectable but not dominating 4.4 yards per carry. Favre went 12 for 19 for 151 yards, which does not at all indicate that the passing game sputtered. There were, however, essentially no yards after catch - the Texan's coverage of the Packer's WRs was outstanding.

The Texans came into this game with the game plan that history has shown works best against Favre - play zone all night long, keep your eyes on Favre. And, once again it worked pretty well, at least for 3 quarters. Although the Texans have the 25th ranked defense, they managed to hold the Packers top-5 offense to 3 points in the first three quarters, 16 points for the game.

Najeh Davenport was out of this game nursing his hamstring, and Ahman Green played only part of the first half, running up a mere 15 yards on 5 carries due to a rib injury of currently unknown severity. Nick Luchey also left in the first half due to a shoulder injury. This left the Packers with Bill Henderson, and excellent fullback, and Tony Fisher and new-for-this-game up from the practice squad Walter Williams. Although I didn't notice it, apparently both Williams and Fisher also gut injured in the game, leaving the Packers with no running game at all for a short time. In the second half, Fisher went 8 carries for, again, a respectable 36 yards, a 4.5 yard average.

The Texan's offense is very average, ranking about 16th in the NFL. The Packer's defense continues to gel, with improving performances in both the secondary and the defensive line. In this game, Texan's QB David Carr was pushed, rushed, hurried, and sacked more than enough to prevent him from establishing a rhythm. Although the Packer's pass rush was nothing like overwhelming, in this game I thought it very adequate. Similarly, the Packer's secondary held up pretty well against the Texan's very fast WRs. Thanks to several heads-up plays by both Al Harris and Ahmed Carrol, the Texans several attempts at running reverses all failed rather miserably.

In the second half, Green Bay received a penalty for illegal substitution, due no doubt to the backfield injuries and resulting confusion. There was also a (imho) bogus pass interferance penalty on Driver and a couple holding penalties on Wahle. All told, a rather sloppy showing for an offense that needed to some up with 13 quick points. Favre also threw a couple interceptions, but both were on 3rd and long deep in Texan's territory. I don't mind interceptions like this to much, this is just an alternative to a punt in my mind.

Absent their running game and down by 10 points, Favre went to work, going 22 for 31 with 2 ints and a spectacular touchdown.

Meanwhile, the Packer's defense stepped up and held Carr to 5 for 12 for 49 yards, sacked him twice, and held the Texans to 28 yards on 11 carries. The Texan's offense simply could not move the ball at all against the Packer's defense.

The Packer's seemed to go flat sometime in the 3rd quarter against the Vikings last week, and stayed flat for about 3 quarters against the Texans. However, it seems they're all awake now, and ready to fly home and take on the Rams. This time on grass.

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