Are you ready for some football?
Well, it’s here like it or not. Four weeks into the National Football League and the season already oozes surprise and disappointment, success and failure. Perhaps most surprising? The bipolar nature of Texas football thus far.
The two professional football teams from Texas are a combined 4-4, with those wins coming against the lowly Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Tennessee Titans, Oakland Raiders, and Carolina Panthers (combined record: 1-14). Wasn’t this the year the Houston Texans challenged for supremacy in the American Football Conference’s South division? I know Jerry Jones expected better results from a team gets to play in a brand-spanking-new $1.15 billion small town of a stadium sporting a monstrous 60 yard high-definition screen centered above the field. Yet despite high expectations for both teams, each has been decidedly inconsistent.
The Texans were dominated in a home-opener against the upstart New York Jets, scoring only a single defensive touchdown when Jets’ quarterback Mark Sanchez was intercepted around midfield and Dominique Barber of Houston ran it back for a touchdown. The Texans’ much appraised offense managed a mere 183 yards total compared with 462 by the Jets and two costly Houston turnovers ended those drives which actually went somewhere. The outlook going to defending AFC South champion Tennessee for week two looked bleak.
And yet, the Texans looked like an elite team against the Tennessee Titans in Nashville, racking up 237 more yards than the previous week and, more importantly, not turning the ball over once. Houston quarterback Matt Schaub looked Peyton Manning-esque in carving up a Titan secondary boasting 3 Pro Bowlers from last year to the tune of 357 yards and 4 touchdowns. A Kris Brown field goal from 23 yards out with 2:55 left on the clock proved to be the game-winner as Houston knocked off a tough division rival and hated enemy. The season looked to be on the upswing again.
Then came Jacksonville. For the 2nd week in a row, the Texans played a divisional foe, yet this time it was not meant to be for Houston. While Schaub again looked brilliant at times, he was intercepted by Rashean Mathis on Houston’s opening drive and the Jaguars capitalized with a field goal. One week after giving up 240 yards rushing to Tennessee’s Chris Johnson and LenDale White, the Texans’ run defense was again gashed, this time for 184 yards, 119 by Jaguars’ stud tailback Maurice Jones-Drew, who also added 3 touchdowns. The Jaguars spent last season in the cellar of the AFC South; Houston’s latest blunder could have devastating consequences. A win over the Oakland Raiders did show the Texans are capable of beating up on yet another of the league’s worst teams, but means little in the big picture if they fail to maintain the momentum gained from that win.
As for Jerry Jones’ self-styled ‘America’s Team,’ the situation is decidedly less grim. The Dallas Cowboys stomped the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on the offensive side of the ball en route to a 34-21 Cowboys’ victory at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. The offense looked good under the guidance of quarterback Tony Romo as it piled up 462 total yards with no turnovers. The defense surprisingly struggled against the inept Tampa offense, giving up 450 total yards, but holding when necessary.
Game two of Dallas’ season failed to cover up the flaws in Dallas’ performance the victory in Tampa Bay did. With division rival New York coming into town and the opening of the most expensive football stadium created to date, Dallas was expected to put on a good show. Instead, the defense surrendered over 400 yards for the 2nd straight week and Tony Romo again faltered in the spotlight. Despite 3 Romo interceptions and a defense barely capable of halting Eli Manning and the Giants’ offense, Dallas found itself ahead by 1 with just under 4 minutes to play in the fourth quarter. Manning proceeded to put together a truly Manning-like drive, eating up the remaining time on the clock and setting up Giants’ kicker Lawrence Tynes with a 37 yard field goal to win the game. Tynes connected and the Cowboys’ fell.
The win against Carolina was not too impressive, with the defense getting the big play when they needed but not much else. The recent fiasco in Denver created a cause for concern, as ‘Them Cowboys!’ just looked awful. Tony Romo looked like a college quarterback in a professional game.
Either way, what has happened to Texas football?