AFC South: Chicago Bears
CHICAGO -- Thoughts on the Houston Texans' 13-6 win over the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field:
What it means: The Texans won on the road against a top NFC team in bad weather to boost their record to 8-1 and should get even more attention as a potential Super Bowl team after this effort in Chicago.
What I liked: After all the talk about the Bears’ propensity for creating turnovers, it was the Texans who proved to have more of the playmaking defense with four takeaways -- two fumbles and two picks of Chicago’s Jay Cutler. Running back Arian Foster did yeoman’s work, with 29 carries for 102 yards. He also scored the game’s lone touchdown with a pretty diving catch of a 2-yard pass from Matt Schaub with linebacker Lance Briggs covering him well. While Brandon Marshall made a big 45-yard catch, there were hardly any instances when you felt like a run or short pass by Chicago had a chance to turn into something significant and damaging.
Other good things: While a potential big return by Keshawn Martin was washed away by a holding penalty, and Donnie Jones wasn’t crushing his punts, the Texans' special teams had a reasonably good night. Coverage teams contained Devin Hester, making several one-on-one tackles. And while Chicago’s Robbie Gould missed a 48-yard field goal in the third quarter that would have made it 10-9 Texans, Houston’s Shayne Graham hit his attempts from 20 and 42 yards.
What I didn’t like: On a rainy, windy night, Schaub and the Texans couldn’t find much through the air. A deep, bootleg pass for Andre Johnson on their first series went off his fingertips. Kevin Walter's 23-yard reception in the third quarter was the long pass of the day for Houston.
What I want to know: How much linebacker Tim Dobbins is going to get fined for the hit above the shoulders to Cutler that left the Bears quarterback with a concussion that kept him out of the second half.
What’s next: The Texans host Jacksonville at Reliant Stadium in an AFC South matchup. Houston won the first matchup at EverBank Field on Sept. 16, 27-7.
They’d be wise to add this to that list: a big finish for Chicago.
And that would be a good thing for Tennessee.
If the Bears are in the market for a head coach to come in, fix Jay Cutler and get the Bears moving in the right direction, you’d have to expect Titans offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger would be on their list.
Heimerdinger has not only helped resurrect Vince Young, a quarterback who many thought was incapable of playing effectively in the league, but he also has a good history with Cutler and ties to the area.
As a high-ranking offensive assistant for Mike Shanahan in Denver in 2006 and 2007, Heimerdinger helped make Cutler the hot commodity the Bears were willing to give up so much to get.
As a 57-year old coach in line for his first NFL head coaching job, you’d figure his price tag would be reasonable. Money would be a factor for Chicago, which couldn’t have afforded to court Shanahan even if he wasn’t in line to take over in Washington.
To top it off, Heimerdinger grew up a Bears fan in Dekalb, Ill., west of Chicago.
Chicago’s gain would be a big setback for the Titans, who are already facing an offseason that’s expected to include a lot of roster turnover with veterans including Keith Bulluck, Kevin Mawae, Alge Crumpler, Kyle Vanden Bosch and Nick Harper due to become free agents.
The offense doesn’t face a lot of change, except perhaps a bit of offensive line shuffling.
But if Heimerdinger were to leave?
The defense’s adjustment to Chuck Cecil as its new coordinator after Jim Schwartz was hired in Detroit was part of the Titans’ 0-6 start this season. The offense has settled into Heimerdinger’s scheme, reinstalled when he returned to the team in 2008. It would hate to face a similar circumstance to the Schwartz-Cecil transition next year and it could really stall Young.
I asked three key Titans on offense what they thought.
“We have adjusted to every situation or circumstance that you could possibly have, we keep finding ways to get better and not give up and he’s a huge part of it,” Crumpler said. “I think it would be a serious blow.”
“That definitely would be a good fit,” tight end Bo Scaife said. “But every offense needs players to make things work. Dinger’s done a good job with V so far. I think this is just the start of something that could be special here for our organization and out offense. That would be a blow.”
Said Justin Gage: “For him personally I think it would be good. It’d be a chance for him to move up to a head coaching spot, be in a city he’s familiar with and loves and a quarterback he’s familiar with. For me? I think it would set us back. …If I was going to be selfish, I’d make him stay here.”
|David Stluka/Getty Images|
|Minnesota's Adrian Peterson ripped the Colts for 160 yards rushing in Week 2.|
Yesterday we looked at the Colts' struggles running the ball, but that's only half their problem concerning the ground game.
They've faced two power running attacks so far and came out of games against Chicago and Minnesota with the a run defense ranked 28th, ahead of only Houston, Cincinnati, Kansas City and Detroit. That's not exactly a bunch you want to hang around with in any category.
Indy cannot continue to give up 181.5 ground yards a game and survive. Now they are without strong safety Bob Sanders for four to six weeks with a high ankle sprain and maybe knee surgery.
The Colts have shown that even when they play their best defense, they will give up rush yards. They gave up 98.3 a game last year when they had the league's third-best yardage defense and No. 1 scoring defense.
The Colts facilitated a short Q&A for me this week with middle linebacker Gary Brackett about the run defense.
When the offense isn't running it well, does that put even more responsibility on the defense to stop the run?
Gary Brackett: "I think it does. Obviously, stopping the run gets them off the field on third down and gives us the ability to get our offense the ball back. I think it's more of our offense not having the ball enough to figure out what the defense is doing. So, we can help those guys out by getting off the field on third down."
GB: "It's extremely crucial. Obviously, we want our offense to have as many chances as possible, and we want to start playing better run defense. Later on in the year, that's really going to be huge for us, how we stop the run, so we just want to get that started and get that trend started of us playing good defense and being solid in our run defense."
What's been the primary problem in run stopping so far?
GB: "I think just the big plays, a big play here and there. Obviously the long run [Matt] Forte had the first week, some of the long runs Adrian Peterson had last week, I think three of them, if you eliminate those plays, I think our run defense has been pretty stout. So, we just have to eliminate the big plays and I think that will take care of everything else."
It's common for run defenses to talk in such a fashion about the big plays, but those are the ones that kill the per-game average and tend to swing games. Just about any team failing in run defense can say the same thing.
The Colts have given up six runs of 10 yards or more, including Forte's 50-yard touchdown and Peterson's 29-yard run on his first carry of the game.
Jones-Drew has a big history against Indianapolis, with 200 all-purpose yards in three of his four games against the Colts. He's run for a 7.2-yard average against them, scoing four touchdowns on the ground and five total.