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Magazine looks closely at Texans-Steelers

11/16/2011

The new edition of ESPN the Magazine delves deeply into the Texans' Week 4 win over the Steelers at Reliant Stadium, with a bunch of behind-the-scenes stories worth your time that will offer you info on plaster defense and PRP therapy.

My two favorites: Seth Wickersham on the construction and adaptation of a game plan and Ryan McGee on the life of a trainer.

Wickersham’s interviews subjects included defensive coordinator Wade Phillips and quarterback coach Greg Knapp, who talked about what they look for and how they piece together a plan.

“After Phillips has a bead on an opponent's tendencies, he seeks tendencies within tendencies. Prior to this game, he finds a doozy: Pittsburgh has called passes 28 of the 30 times it has used "11" personnel (one back, one tight end, three receivers) from the shotgun. As tells go, that's huge. He can use that.

“Of course, pressing (Ben) Roethlisberger is one thing; bringing him down is another. The QB has made a career of fleeing the pocket, lumbering about and firing to receivers from a windup so slow it's as if he's holding a dumbbell. Phillips learns from video that Steelers receivers have a standard reaction to Big Ben's scrambles: Those running short routes turn upfield; those running long routes circle back to Roethlisberger. The Texans' answer will be their "Plaster" defense. As soon as Big Ben runs, Houston's secondary will shove the nearest receiver to the ground, and if the wideout is near the sideline push him out of bounds -- both legal tactics, as long as the quarterback is outside of the tackles. It's a revealing tenet to this week's game plan: The Texans, used to being pushed around, believe they can manhandle the Steelers.

You know the Texans won the game with a physical effort, but read the piece for how they fared on the specifics they talked about heading into the game.

McGee had access to Geoff Kaplan, starting off with a great description of how the Texans' head trainer watches a game.

“As happens on every play, the snap of the ball had launched his eyes into a scan of the field. They never follow the ball. Rarely do they look above the players' belt lines. When everyone else is turned to track a run or a reception, Kaplan remains focused on the line of scrimmage, making sure all of the timbered linemen get up off the ground. He watches knees and ankles. He looks for drooped shoulders, unusually heavy breathing -- any sign of injury. On this play, Kaplan's eyes had whipped toward (Andre) Johnson just as the 6'3", 226-pounder crumpled without being hit.”

And McGee got to follow the Johnson story beyond game day, offering more detail about the injury Johnson’s due back from when the Texans resume play Nov. 27 than I’ve seen anywhere else.

“The MRI (two days later) identified a hamstring strain, and as Foster was nearly two months earlier, Johnson is ordered to begin platelet-rich plasma therapy. PRP is an injection of blood plasma that contains huge amounts of bioactive proteins, created by using a small amount of Johnson's own blood. It won't directly repair the injury, but it will prevent excessive scar tissue from building up around the injury as it heals.”