It wasn’t pretty, but it was a win. The Houston Texans walked away from the Meadowlands with an undefeated record, but looking otherwise disheveled. Most notably, the Texans lost defensive captain, and freak-of-nature LB Brian Cushing in the first half after sustaining a low clip to his left leg. The team confirmed on Tuesday afternoon that Cushing sustained a season-ending tear to his left ACL. The loss stings even more given that in the 20 minutes Cushing was on the field Monday night, he had 5 tackles. Despite the loss, the Texans motored on and pieced together a victory.
Sports pundits have tackled this win in various ways. Some opine that despite the rough-and-tumble Big Apple showing, the Texans are still on top of the NFL’s totem pole. Others are not so sure. Players like RB Arian Foster and DE J.J. Watt put on Pro Bowl worthy performances. But that’s where the shining moments ended for the Texans. The rest of the team was merely “on the field” Monday night. The Texans secondary looked lost and confused, and the offense in general (outside of Foster) had no real moments of greatness outside of the first touchdown.
As unreliable as the defense was, even more striking was the virtual absence of star WR Andre Johnson. Dre had only one catch for the entire game. The Jets covered Johnson the entire game giving QB Matt Schuab one less opportunity downfield. Johnson’s ineffectiveness was particularly strange given that Darrelle Revis was out for the Jets. Apparently Jets CB Antonio Cromartie watched his film and ate his Wheaties because he certainly flexed his muscle on Monday night.
The Texans’ next two hurdles look like this: Green Bay and Baltimore. That’s enough to send a shiver up the spine of any sports fan. The Texans have the talent to win both games in decisive fashion, especially because these games are at home. Both teams are beatable. Packers QB Aaron Rodgers likes to be sacked. Ravens’ LB Ray Lewis has struggled against run offenses this season. Good thing workhorse Arian Foster looks to have hit his stride Monday night. However, the Texans will lose the next two games if they play like they did under the Monday night lights.
With Cushing out and with too many issues in the Texans’ secondary, there are obvious gaps. The Texans’ front seven defenders are solid – most notably Watt, Smith, Barwin and Reed. But Tim Dobbins and Bradie James need to step up to fill Cushing’s shoes. With injuries to Johnson, Mario Williams and Matt Schaub last season, the Texans lived by the mantra that one player was not bigger than the team. The loss of Cushing, then, is not uncharted territory. Despite this being familiar ground, the Texans must suck it up, tie up the loose ends and get ready for some hard hitting football in weeks 6 and 7 if they hope to remain on top.