AFC South: 2011 Week 5 coverage

Wrap-up: Raiders 25, Texans 20

October, 9, 2011
Thoughts on the Houston Texans' 25-20 loss to the Oakland Raiders at Reliant Stadium:

What it means: We gave the Texans leeway when they failed to put away the Saints and lost late in New Orleans. They don’t get that benefit out of this home game, in which they did more than enough to beat Oakland and could have finished the day alone atop the AFC South. Instead they fell to 3-2 and gave life to all the same old questions about their ability to finish someone off when they have the chance. Matt Schaub threw a horrific interception to Michael Huff in the end zone on the last play of the game when he could have thrown the ball away and had one more play.

What I didn’t like: It’s hard for me to get beyond that pick. Did I make it clear just how bad it was? Schaub was flushed to his left, and Jacoby Jones tried to shift direction to move with him instead of against him. But Schaub tried to sneak it to him going right, and Huff was right there. Awful. If Schaub hadn't decided to throw it away, he would have had a better chance to run it in.

What I liked: They talked all week about needing to spread the ball around and find alternatives with Andre Johnson out. And they got 100-yard receiving days from running back Arian Foster and tight end Joel Dreessen and touchdown catches from receiver Kevin Walter and Dreessen.

Huge injury concern: Mario Williams suffered a pectoral injury as he sacked Jason Campbell and didn’t return to action. If he’s lost for games or, in the worst scenario, for the season, the Texans would be in huge trouble. Brooks Reed can do well, but Williams is a singular pass-rushing force.

Struggled: The Texans' inability to run was a big issue. They turned 25 carries into only 70 yards, which put the game on Schaub. He threw for 416 yards and two touchdowns but also had two picks, one of which you may have heard about.

What’s next: The Texans head to Baltimore to face the Ravens. They’ll likely be without their best player on offense, Johnson, and their best player on defense, Williams.

Wrap-up: Bengals 30, Jaguars 20

October, 9, 2011
Thoughts on the Jacksonville Jaguars' 30-20 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals at EverBank Field:

What it means: The Jaguars have lost four in a row and don’t have much reason to hope right now. Their numbers weren't terrible against Cincinnati but they didn’t make the clutch plays they needed, left themselves in a desperate situation at the end and handed away a touchdown on the game’s final lateral-fest that made the losing margin bigger than it needed to be. No matter the margin, a losing streak, a rookie quarterback and a coach under increasing fire is an ugly combination.

What I didn’t like: Beyond Maurice Jones-Drew, who ran for 4.5 yards a carry, and a 74-yard Blaine Gabbert-to-Jason Hill touchdown pass on a busted coverage, there weren’t enough big plays. The Jaguars were unable to translate another reasonably good defensive effort, in which they limited Cincinnati to 77 rushing yards, into a win.

What I liked: Jones-Drew spun and then smashed straight into Bengals cornerback Leon Hall, knocking the defender flat on his back before rumbling into the end zone for a 6-yard touchdown. Beautiful power running.

Battle of the rookie quarterbacks: Statistically, Andy Dalton and Gabbert were almost a wash. Dalton threw a pick, after which he tackled Dwight Lowery near the goal line and saw his defense limit the Jaguars to a field goal. Gabbert lost a shotgun snap he wasn’t ready for from Brad Meester that gave the Bengals the ball back late with a 3-point lead to preserve.

What’s next: The Jaguars draw a trip to the Pittsburgh Steelers, who are feeling much better about themselves after a rout of the Tennessee Titans. It’s the last of four consecutive games against the AFC South for the Steelers, who have beaten Indianapolis and Tennessee and lost to Houston.
PITTSBURGH -- Thoughts on the Titans’ 38-17 loss to the Steelers at Heinz Field.

What it means: Tennessee isn’t as good as it looked over the past three weeks, as we saw flaws everywhere. They gave up big plays on defense and special teams and failed to find them on offense. They lost up front against a team missing a starting offensive lineman, two starting defensive linemen and a starting linebacker. A week earlier Houston, the Titans' primary AFC South challenger to this point, took advantage of both and was more physical than the Steelers.

What to worry about: Special teams got gashed on a kick return and on a fake punt. And the defense was picked apart by the first truly good quarterback the Titans have seen so far. Ben Roethlisberger threw five touchdown passes. With Matt Schaub (twice), Matt Ryan, Josh Freeman and Drew Brees still to come, it certainly raises questions about Tennessee against upper level signal-callers.

A bad day: Matt Hasselbeck was a lot less accurate than he has been. There appeared to be some miscommunications and he threw several balls behind targets. Others were thrown low on purpose, but wound up too low. He overthrew Nate Washington late on what would've been a wide-open, 29-yard touchdown.

Chris Johnson watch: He had a nice 21-yard run on the Titans’ first play from scrimmage and showed good patience at times, too much patience at others. He went in standing for his team’s lone touchdown from a yard out and turned 17 touches into 65 yards.

Too sloppy: Seven penalties for 55 yards hurt, especially early for the offense in the red zone and a block in the back by Jamie Harper that undid a blocked punt returned for a touchdown by Cortland Finnegan.

What’s next: The Titans have an off week to recover and get a head start on preparation for their crucial Oct. 23 matchup with the Houston Texans at LP Field in Nashville.