Week 4 Game Recap: Houston Texans 10, Cincinnati Bengals 16
What you need to know
Coming off a bye week, the Texans played their best game of the year, but fell to 0-3 in a hard fought loss on the road. During the bye week, the Texans fired offensive coordinator Chris Palmer, and replaced him with offensive line coach Joe Pendry. The switch did not provide for immediate dividends in the win column, but when they could avoid the sack, David Carr did a better job of keeping the offense moving.
David Carr finished the day with 17 completions on 26 attempts for 174 yards and one touchdown with no interceptions, but coughed the ball up with less than four minutes left in the game, and trailing only 13-10. The Texans’ leading and most targeted receiver against the Bengals was Jabar Gaffney, who caught six passes for 88 yards. Andre Johnson seemed to disappear at various points throughout the game, and caught only three passes for 38 yards. Carr spread the ball out evenly throughout his backfield and tight ends when the Bengals brought a heavy rush, completing four passes to Domanick Davis, two passes to Jonathan Wells and one touchdown pass to fullback Moran (Moochie) Norris.
The Texans tied the game several times, but played a majority of the game from behind, and were unable to establish any significant tempo on the ground. Domanick Davis finished with 19 carries for 81 yards. Jonathan Wells received the only other carry amongst running backs, and took it for ten yards. David Carr was consistently flushed out of the pocket, and was credited with 35 yards on three carries.
For the first time since 1988 (when the Bengals lost to the 49ers in the Super Bowl), Cincinnati opened their season at 4-0. The Bengals squandered a number of opportunities in the red zone due to penalties. Key injuries to the offensive line forced the offense to adapt on the fly when they lost their top centers, and forced guard Eric Steinbach to move over to the center position.
Carson Palmer continued to build upon his successful season, completing 25 of 34 passes for 276 yards and one touchdown. Palmer’s primary target in this game was T.J. Houshmandzadeh, who caught eight passes for 105 yards. Houshmandzadeh had an early touchdown pass called back due to an illegal shift on Rudi Johnson, Chad Johnson came on late when the game was on the line, and pulled in seven balls for 67 yards. At the end of the first half, Chris Henry appeared to catch a 26 yard touchdown pass, but after a review, he was ruled out of bounds, though he did draw a defensive pass interference on the play. The beneficiary of the penalty was fullback Jeremi Johnson, who caught a one yard touchdown pass on the next play. Rudi Johnson did not catch any passes out of the backfield, but backup Chris Perry was worked into the gameplan both out of the backfield and lined up as a wide receiver, catching four passes for 29 yards.
Despite adjustments on the offensive line due to injuries, the Bengals were still able to move the ball well on the ground. Rudi Johnson ended the day with 19 carries for 88 yards while running mate Chris Perry had four carries for six yards.
What you ought to know
|QB David Carr, Pass: 17 - 26 - 174 - 1 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 3 - 35 - 0|
Carr had a 97.3 passer rating on the day, but with it a key fumble with 3:18 remaining which kept his team from winning. Carr was sacked seven times, which stopped a number of drives and kept him from building any significant rhythm. Carr avoided the key interception that the Bengals had been so proficient in causing over the first few weeks of the season, but his 6.7 yards per attempt average was not enough to keep the offense moving.
Fitpatrick’s stat line from Sunday is nothing to brag about, but it does not truly indicate his performance against his old team the Buffalo Bills. For instance, the 1 touchdown to 2 interception ratio is less than ideal, but one interception was the result of a batted ball at the line of scrimmage, and another came on a decently thrown deep ball into single coverage which Leodis McKelvin happened to outfight DeAndre Hopkins for. Head Coach Bill O’Brien called a very good game for Fitzpatrick and the offense, but the problem is that Fitzpatrick is only as good as that play calling. That is to say, he can play within the structure of O’Brien’s offense, but as soon as he leaves that structure bad things happen. Still, Fitzpatrick’s 7.2 yards per attempt show decent efficiency given that he was also the Texans’ lead rusher with 14 yards. Fitzpatrick made some very impressive throws, such as a back shoulder throw to Andre Johnson in the third quarter that was placed perfectly where only Johnson could catch it. The Texans offense was able to put up 16 points despite turning the ball over three times, featuring a not completely healthy Arian Foster, and playing a determined defense that stymied the run. Fitzpatrick will continue to have value only as a bye week or injury fill-in, and even then there are other quarterbacks that likely have a higher floor than Fitzpatrick.
Davis averaged 4.3 yards per carry, and finished the day with over 100 combined yards, but did not find the end zone as the Texans only found themselves in the red zone twice in the game. Nine of Davis’ nineteen carries went for at least five yards, but he could not break the big one.
Wells was used as the primary back to spell Domanick Davis in this game and got three touches. Vernand Morency did not receive any touches in this game, and Tony Hollings was inactive.
Norris made a four yard touchdown reception in the third quarter.
Blue had just as frustrating a day as Foster on the ground, and as with his backfield mate his lack of production was due more to poor run blocking up front. Blue has a tendancy to run his assignments only. While that likely makes Bill O’Brien and the other offensive coaches happy, he has not shown the consistent ability to create for himself, and is rather only capable of getting what is blocked for him. While he is a decent receiver, he is still not completely trusted in pass protection duties which keeps him from having a steady third down role once Foster is fully healthy. Still, Blue has clearly taken over as the primary backup for Foster. There were times that Blue took whole series’ in order to spell Foster. If Foster has another setback which keeps him out, Blue’s ceiling is likely a RB2 given his lack of creativity and the Texans mediocre run blocking.
Foster was held out of the first quarter against the Raiders due to missing one team meeting and being late for another. While this shows a lack of maturity by the former Tennessee Volunteer, his play once he entered the game more then atoned for his errors. Foster was, once again, the best player on the field against Oakland. Foster's forth carry resulted in 74 yard touchdown that showed him breaking through the right side of the line, making one cut, and then speeding past all of the Oakland defenders. For the day, Foster had 186 total yards and two touchdowns, with the second coming on a short 10 yard pass in the fourth quarter which completed the Texans' scoring for the day. Foster also protected the ball well and only has one fumble in four games this season, a clear improvement for the Texans considering the rash of fumbles they experienced last year. Foster is showing great balance and patience behind the line of scrimmage as he waits for the hole to develop and follows his blockers. Once through the hole, he is showing tremendous speed and vision in the open field allowing him to chew up large gains on most any carry.
Ward had a chance to play Sunday as starter Arian Foster was benched for the first quarter of action against the Oakland Raiders. Ward came in to relieve starter Steve Slaton after two successive carries and quickly broke free for a 33 yard touchdown run. On the play, Ward took the ball from the right side of the line and showed patience and vision in letting the hole develop before darting through it, making one cut at the second level and then heading in to the end zone. Considering Ward had not player so far, he had quite a debut. Ward had success running both inside and outside and appears to be a more natural complement to Arian Foster as a power runner then Steve Slaton. On the Texans second drive of the third quarter, Ward and Arian Foster carried the ball between them on 8 of 10 plays to help set up a Neil Rackers field goal.
Gaffney caught all six balls intended for him, and made the most of his opportunities as the Bengals seemed intent on shutting down Andre Johnson.
The Bengals’ pass rush combined with their blanketing secondary limited Andre Johnson from getting many looks in this game. Two of the three passes Johnson caught went for first downs, but as the primary playmaker, he was not able to gain more than sixteen yards on any catch.
Bradford had a very limited role in this game, as the Texans used multiple tight end sets to protect against the Bengals’ pass rush throughout much of the game.
Davis took advantage of the opportunity to play and had an excellent game. He not only showcased his deep speed, but also ran good intermediate routes and had good timing with Schaub. Two of the targets he did not catch were thrown just out of his reach.
Hopkins wasn't targeted until the final minute of the second quarter. He was running side to side with Brandon Browner, but the pass was overthrown over the sideline. With around 30 seconds left in the game, the football finally found Hopkins. On second and 20, Hopkins came free on a deep in route for a 17 yard gain. Hopkins caught a sliding out route by the sideline for a first down on the Texans' second drive in overtime.
Martin saw his first target late in the third quarter, but couldn't make a difficult reception as he slid out of bounds. On third and 19, Martin caught a crossing route underneath for a short gain.
Rivers was the only tight end targeted in this game, but did not catch a pass.
Graham's first reception was a shallow crossing route when he lost Kam Chancellor in a crowd. Graham adjusted well to a low pass over the middle for a first down on the Texans' next drive. Graham's first down reception set up a touchdown reception when he came free down the seam. On third and four, Graham settled down in a curl over the middle of the field against zone coverage for a first down. On third and four just before half time, Graham drew a pass interference flag against Chancellor. The pass was overthrown and the call was questionable, but the Texans still got a first down. Graham caught a short crossing route for three yards on second and 10, but he fumbled the ball as he was tackled. Fortunately for Graham, the ball went out of bounds.
Brown kicked his first field goal of the year from 28 yards out early in the second quarter, and added an extra point midway through the third quarter.
The Bengals’ rushing offense averaged 133 yards per game coming in, but were held under 100 yards in their closest game of the year by the Texans’ rush defense.
The Texans could not slow down T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Chad Johnson, giving up 276 yards through the air, and not creating enough pressure to cause Carson Palmer to struggle, finishing with just two sacks.
|QB Carson Palmer, Pass: 25 - 34 - 276 - 1 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 1 - -1 - 0|
Palmer entered the day with a passer rating of 114.0 and kept the momentum going with a 107.0 passer rating against the Texans. Palmer averaged 8.1 yards per passing attempt, and was able to find openings in the Texans’ secondary throughout the entire game.
After a rough start, Dalton put together a very impressive second half performance in a nice comeback win over the Bills. He threw 2 interceptions in the first half, including one that was returned for a touchdown although it came after a dropped pass and was not his fault. Dalton also had a fumble returned for a touchdown before the replay review changed it to an incomplete pass. Despite seeing some pressure from the Bills defense, he remained very calm and made some great throws, both from inside the pocket and while on the move. One highlight for him came on a 17-yard touchdown pass to TE Jermaine Gresham, who was covered very well but Dalton put the ball in a perfect spot where only he could get it. Dalton later tied the game up on a 3-yard QB draw play late in the fourth quarter when the Bengals went with an empty backfield and caught the Bills completely off guard. He continued to move the ball very well against the Bills and helped lead the team on a game-winning FG drive as time expired. While the Bills defense did not play particularly well, it was a strong finish for Dalton and likely a sign of bigger things to come for this rookie QB.
Johnson averaged 4.6 yards per carry, and like his opponent Domanick Davis, had nine carries of his nineteen carries go for five yards or more.
|RB Chris Perry, Rush: 4 - 6 - 0, Rec: 4 - 29 - 0 (6 targets)|
Perry was used out of a number of different sets in this game in an effort by the coaches to get the former first round draft pick as many touches as possible. He finished with eight touches for 35 yards on the day, and continues to provide versatility to this explosive offense. Perry’s biggest play of the day came on the first drive, when he recovered a Carson Palmer fumble in the red zone and kept the drive alive for a Shayne Graham field goal.
Johnson made a one yard reception to score the only touchdown of the game for the Bengals.
Bernard faced a tough, nasty defense. He didn’t find a lot of running room, but he still impressed, as he has in every game this year. Early in the game, Dalton hit Bernard on a short pass and he exploded past the first defender, turned upfield and got a 10 yard gain. A number of times, he used his speed and wiggle to plow through the defense, always making the first defender miss and understanding how to hit the holes.
The vision of Bernard is really impressive. On a shovel pass late in the game, Bernard looked like he had nowhere to run. He made a spin, avoided another defender and somehow picked up 9 yards.
There will be much, much better games for Giovani, but of note is that he is quickly becoming a big weapon for Dalton in the passing game. Dalton hasn’t really had a good option out of the backfield in his career, so this should help him out. Bernard’s hands look very good, as he demonstrated the ability to catch it cleanly and without breaking stride.
Peerman’s lone offensive touch actually came on special teams. As the punt protector, he took the direct snap and streaked 48 yards for an easy first down. Jacksonville’s coverage unit was clearly fooled on the play and the right side of the Bengals’ line blocked well, leading to the big gain.
Houshmandzadeh went over one hundred yards and was Carson Palmer’s favorite target in this game. Houshmandzadeh briefly had a touchdown pass on the Bengals’ first drive of the game; however it was called back due to an illegal shift by Rudi Johnson on the play. This is the third touchdown brought back against Houshmandzadeh this season; otherwise his numbers would be much larger.
Johnson saw heavy coverage throughout the entire game, and as a result, Carson Palmer wisely spread the ball around until late in the game, when Chad Johnson made a number of key catches on the go ahead drive in the fourth quarter.
Like teammate T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Henry briefly thought he had scored a go ahead touchdown, but officials ruled he had stepped out of bounds. The rookie, who drew a defensive pass interference on the play, has stepped up and taken the role of the third receiver in this offense and made a number of big plays. Teammate Kelley Washington was inactive in this game.
Perry did not play in this game because of a hamstring injury he is still nursing.
While Green did not reach the end zone this week, he showed off his playmaking skills and still managed to break 100 yards on just 4 catches. Green was mostly matched up against Bills corner Leodis McKelvin in the game and victimized him for several big gains. The highlight came on a 58-yard play down the right sideline in the second quarter when he basically reached back over McKelvin to snatch the ball. Then, on the third play of the 3rd quarter, he used his body to box out McKelvin for a 40-yard gain down to the Bills 7-yard line. After those big gains, the Bills started moving a safety over to his side of the field and that helped open things up more for other players. Green finished the game with a game-high 10 targets and looks like he’s clearly establishing himself as the #1 WR on this team.
Jones saw some playing time as the fourth receiver, receiving two targets on the day. Jones ran a nice route and made a contested catch, fighting for the ball in close contact with the defensive back. Dalton came right back to Jones on the following play, targeting Jones on a broken play. Jones worked his way back to the quarterback, but couldn’t complete the tough catch while falling out of the bounds. The tools are there for Jones’ role to continue to grow in this offense. Dalton clearly trusts the rookie to make a play in traffic.
Sanu had a quiet day. He had 2 early catches, both for first downs. First, he took a short outlet pass on 3rd and short, and burst through two defenders for the first. Then Dalton fired a rocket on a slant pass to Sanu, who made a great catch with his hands and got another first down.
Sanu drew a pass interference call as well. After exploding past two defenders who bit on the flea flicker, Sanu was wide open down the middle of the field. Dalton hung the ball in the air, however, and Sanu was unable to score. The PI call was nice, but didn’t lead to a touchdown. A better pass, and the entire game would have changed right there.
Due to the physical presence of Haden, you would think Sanu would have been in the gameplan a bit more, but at this point, he doesn’t appear to be a primary option.
Kelly made both of his receptions during the second drive of the third quarter.
Multiple injuries to the offensive line forced the Bengals to utilize a number of blocking tight end sets with Reggie Kelly and Tony Stewart, and limited the number of pass routes which Matt Schobel was able to run.
Stewart caught a pair of balls, netting ten yards on the day.
Eifert had two short receptions for minimal yardage, but was finally able to make an impact in the second half. Eifert lined up wide, and faked in for the slant and then continued straight up the field. Dalton hit him in stride, and Eifert picked up a big 29 yard gain. Although it won’t show up on the stat sheet, he made another play which shows his tremendous ability. Dalton rolled out to the right and tried to hit Eifert on a long sideline route. The pass was thrown high and out of bounds, but Eifert leaped into the air and made an amazing catch, albeit out of bounds. The leaping ability of Eifert is something we haven’t quite seen yet, especially in the red-zone, but that will likely show up in the future.
Gresham had the second-most targets on the day in what was yet another respectable contest for the promising young tight end. The announcers were gushing throughout the day about how much the Bengals organization loves this kid and it’s easy to see why: he’s jacked, he’s fast, he can catch the ball, he can block – what’s not to like? It’s looking like Gresham will be the tight end of the future for the Bengals and as such, is worth a serious look in dynasty leagues with a starting tight end position.
Penalties in the red zone kept the Bengals from putting up big points in this game, but Graham was the beneficiary of this inefficiency. Graham connected on three of four field goal attempts, hitting from 24, 27 and 46 yards and missing wide right from 42 yards.
The Bengals led much of the game, and were not significantly challenged by the rushing attack of the Texans, despite the fact that Domanick Davis was moving the ball when given the opportunity to do so. Counting the scrambling yards of David Carr, the Bengals gave up 126 yards on the ground, but the pass defense was strong enough to keep the Bengals on top in this one.
The blitz schemes of Marvin Lewis’ defense yielded seven sacks in this game, and kept David Carr from developing any rhythm. 36 intended pass plays (26 passing attempts, seven sacks and three scrambles for positive yardage) yielded just 163 net yards, which was the primary reason the Bengals one this game despite not intercepting a pass after a league leading twelve interceptions thus far on the season.