It was a thriller in the desert as the Texans came into Glendale looking to snap their six game losing streak against the rejuvenated Arizona Cardinals. The Houston offense came out looking pretty good in the first half with 194 yards and 17 points. Case Keenum looked pretty good throwing the ball in his third career start as he threw another pair of touchdown passes to Andre Johnson, as well as a third to rookie tight end Ryan Griffin; all of this coming without him throwing an interception. He almost did on a couple of separate occasions, but luckily for him and the Texans almost only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades. Anyways, as crisp as the Houston offense looked in the first half, they looked very poor in the second half (putting up only 41 yards and seven points, those coming off of a Rashard Mendenhall fumble deep in his own territory). It is clear that the play-calling abilities of Gary Kubiak were missed in this one as Houston really got away from the run, rushing it with their backs only 19 times in this one.
The key match-up of this game was Andre Johnson vs. Patrick Peterson. I had my eye on these two throughout the entertainment and it was a heckuva battle to watch. As stated before, Johnson bested the third year corner twice in the end zone, but both touchdowns surrendered were hardly Peterson’s fault. The first came early in the first quarter and the ball was perfectly thrown by Case. The best coverage in the world could not have prevented that one from getting in as Johnson hauled it in in the back of the end zone, tapping both toes in bounds in the process. The second touchdown was quite remarkable, actually. Peterson had great coverage and batted the ball in the air. Johnson had the wherewithal to locate it in the air and come down with it. As you can see, the touchdowns were simply great individual efforts by Andre. Outside of the scores, Peterson locked him down allowing just 3 catches for 25 yards throughout the rest of the game. He did have some safety help over the top at times, but for the most part the corner out of LSU did a great job locking one of the league’s best receivers down.
The Arizona defense shut it down in this game. They got a lot of pressure on Case Keenum and the Houston offensive line looked overwhelmed. I thought Duane Brown played a poor game; he was beaten badly towards the inside on a couple of occasions. John Abraham had a nice game, racking up two sacks plus a forced fumble. The Arizona offensive line did not do much better against the Houston pass rush though and J.J. Watt looked like a beast, once again. I thought that D.J. Swearinger played a nice game. He had one interception and did a good job playing over the top, taking away many of the deep shots that Carson Palmer, Bruce Arians, and the Cardinal staff wanted to go for. Luckily for them, their defense was able to hold the Texans back because if it wasn’t for their effort then Houston would have easily won this game.
The Cardinals defense is keeping this team’s season afloat. Yes, Arizona has five wins now, one more than they had all of last year, and they are actually in a position to make a run at the wild card. I’m telling you, that win at home in Week 5 over Carolina is going to loom large. The victory over the Lions certainly helps their cause as well. For Houston, you can stick a fork in their season now. The Colts fell flat on their faces against Tavon Austin and the Rams while the Jaguars upset the Titans on the road on Sunday afternoon, so if the Texans were to make some noise in the AFC South, they would have had to win this game, and they didn’t. That was an opportunity that they needed to take advantage of, but they failed to do so. Next week the team plays host to a scuffling Oakland team in what will be an emotional game with the return of Gary Kubiak after he suffered a mini stroke last weekend. It will be interesting to see how the play-calling changes with him back behind the wheel. I understand that Arian Foster is likely going to miss the rest of this season, but the team still has a gem in Ben Tate and they should really look to utilize him more than they did in this game. Case Keenum has been playing well, but he cannot do it all on his own. The bottom line is that Houston needs to play much better in the second half of their football games. This is the second straight week in which they took a lead into the half and then let it slip away. This team needs to do a better job playing with and protecting a lead and leaning on strong running game a little more can help. That will also help alleviate some of the pressure that Keenum will likely face in the future. I think that the Texans need to work on going back to their roots in the coming weeks and prepare for the 2014 season that might see them rallying behind Case Keenum, who has showed some promise in his first three starts.