TEMPE, Ariz. --Cardinals coach Bruce Arians opened his Wednesday press conference with a statement that is probably on the lips of many Houstonians.
When discussing the
Texans, a team some analysts pegged for the Super Bowl, Arians remarked: "How they're 2-6 is beyond me."
Houston owns the NFL's top-ranked defense (273.5 yards per game) and the NFL's eighth-ranked offense (393.9 yards per game). Those numbers might back Arians' notion, but a look at more meaningful numbers than yards reveals a litany of problems.
Despite the presence of ends
JJ Watt (5.5) and
Antonio Smith (4.5), a former Cardinal, Houston has just 20 sacks this season, which ranks 21st in the NFL. The Texans' run defense is allowing 115.5 yards per game (ranked 18th), 4.2 yards per carry (17th), opponents are converting 38 percent of their third downs (15th), and the unit has forced just nine turnovers (only San Diego has fewer).
Some of those defensive shortcomings are due to the fact that Houston has played from behind a lot this season. Which brings us to the offense. Before he got hurt and was replaced by
Case Keenum, QB
Matt Schaub set an NFL record with a pick-6 in four straight games. Houston has scored just 18.2 points per game (ranked 28th) while giving up 27.6 (27th) and turning the ball over 15 times.
Even when the Texans have built leads, they've blown them. Houston blew a 17-point fourth-quarter lead and lost to Seattle; and they blew a 24-6 second-half lead last week against
Indianapolis and lost.
"We've just got to find a way to finish out games," Watt said. And solve a whole lot of other problems while they're at it.
Newly signed Cardinals tight end
Jake Ballard had a memorable season with the
Giants in 2011. He caught 38 passes for 604 yards for an impressive a 15.9-yard average, and he won a Super Bowl.
But he played on a torn ACL in that game that finally gave out. He was set to spend 2012 on IR with the Giants but was exposed to waivers and the
Patriots claimed him. He was then placed on the physically-unable-to-perform list all last season before the Patriots cut him at the end of the 2013 preseason.
"It was a rough first eight weeks of the season doing all the rehab and training while you’re watching your buddies on the Patriots and Giants playing," Ballard said. "I started working out for teams just two weeks ago, and
Arizona was one of the first. I was a little surprised with how soon they called back, but I am thankful for the opportunity."
Ballard said there are no more issues with the knee; he just needs to get back in practice and game shape and build up strength in the leg.
If Ballard can become anything like his former self, he could be a major catch. The Cardinals' tight end production has been poor this season, mostly due to the continued disappointing play of
Wade Phillips is no stranger to the head coach's seat. In his 44-year coaching career, he has been the head coach for New Orleans (interim, 1985), Denver (1993-94), Buffalo (1998-2000),
Atlanta (interim, 2003) and Dallas (2007-10).
But none of those experiences prepared him for this week's events. The Texans named him their interim coach while Gary Kubiak recovers after collapsing on the field at halftime of Sunday’s game due a transient ischemic attack (TIA), a stroke-like condition.
"It was certainly shocking what happened in the bal lgame and the aftermath of that," Phillips said Wednesday in a conference call. "Generally, things haven't been going our way. This was another example of that."
SALUTE TO SERVICE
USAA, the official military appreciation sponsor of the NFL, has designated Sunday's game between the Cardinals and the Texans as a Salute to Service game.
Fans in attendance at the game will take part in a show of support for the military in the form of a card-stunt. In between the first and second quarters of the game, fans will hold up cards that will spell out the words “Thank You Military” and “Thank You Veterans” in the stadium. Fans are being asked to remain in the seats during this time to help show support for the military.
HONEY BADGER ON THE BALLOT
Defensive back Tyrann Mathieu was added to the Pro Bowl ballot this week at free safety.