Big plays prove costly for Texans’ defense

Big plays prove costly for Texans’ defense
August 25, 2013, 8:30 pm
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Kenny Stills makes a 40-yard catch over Kareem Jackson in the second quarter.

(USA Today Images)

A good defense is just one big play away from being a bad one.

That’s something the Texans’ defense, especially their secondary, knows all too well after a 31-23 loss in the third preseason game at Reliant Stadium on Sunday.

After the first-team offense staked the Texans a 10-0 lead, Drew Brees led the Saints' offense back onto the field for what would be his final series of the day.

Then one play changed the game.

Brees threw a short pass to Pierre Thomas in the middle of the field. First, Joe Mays missed a tackle, then Shiloh Keo missed one too as Thomas scampered 51 yards for a touchdown.

“That’s one thing that we can’t do,” safety Danieal Manning said. “We (pride ourselves) on that, not giving up the big plays, keep the ball in front of us, stay on top. Those guys make plays as well.”

But the Texans’ defense gave up that play to Brees, one of the best quarterbacks in the league. Surely they wouldn’t get beaten by Luke McCown, right?

Wrong.

As the second quarter began to run down, McCown had big throws to beat the Texans’ defense on two separate occasions. First, he hit Kenny Stills for a 40-yarder down the left sideline over Kareem Jackson. Jackson had what appeared to be good coverage but Stills came down with the ball.

“The guy made a nice little catch,” Manning said. “Kareem was covering him. If we had to do that three more times again, I’d bet we’d break that ball up three times.”

Then, four plays later, Stills burnt the other cornerback, Johnathan Joseph, for a 14-yard touchdown. Still beat Joseph with a double move; he started going outside, then broke inside and was wide open.  

“It’s simple,” Joseph said when asked how the team can avoid giving up big plays. “It’s nothing too hard. Just stay close to your guy in coverage and make the play and make the tackle. Things like that, that’s what prevents big plays.”

In one series against McCown both Texans cornerbacks – many consider them to be one of the top units in the NFL – were burned by Kenny Stills and Luke McCown.

“I think we are giving up too many big plays,” head coach Gary Kubiak said. “And I think (Joseph) will be the first one to tell you, and (Jackson) from that standpoint. We are a man-coverage football team. And those guys get put on an island quite a bit. We’re trusting them to make those plays. And I know they will. I think they’ve both had good camps. And obviously, you’ve got to have a short memory in this business.”

That touchdown catch by Stills put the Saints up 17-13 and they didn’t trail again. Had the Texans been able to eliminate those three big plays, they likely would have walked out of Reliant Stadium with a win on Sunday night.

But the wins and losses don’t mean anything now. That all changes in 15 days in San Diego.

“Good thing that it’s preseason,” Manning said, “because you can see what you have to work on because when the regular season comes, you definitely have to work on those things but it counts as a loss and you don’t want to go through that. Right now, we have a chance to get it all clean.”