Originally posted on Football Nation  |  Last updated 12/21/11
Week 15 was upset weekend across the NFL and few were more surprising than the 4-9 Carolina Panthers handily beating the 10-3 Houston Texans in Reliant Stadium. The Texans had been riding high on a franchise record 7-game win streak, but came out completely flat against an undervalued Panthers team. The Panthers wasted no time building a 21-0 halftime lead and coasting to a nice fifteen point victory after a T.J. Yates redzone interception sealed the deal midway through the fourth quarter. Here are 5 things we learned from the game.
 
Now we know how Kevin O’Shea felt in the Little Giants Championship Game:
 
It wasn’t quite the epic pee-wee football upset in Urbania, Ohio from Little Giants  the Panthers victory over the Texans was indeed an upset. It wasn't for town bragging rights between brothers Danny O'Shea (Giants) and Kevin O'Shea (Cowboys) in a game that featured legendary players such as the Becky “The Icebox” O’Shea and Spike Hammersmith. But the game did feature the winning team using the famed “Annexation of Puerto Rico” play; originally designed by famed Little Giants offensive coordinator Nubie and recreated by The Panthers Rob Chudzinski. The Panthers successfully ran their own version of this play on a seven-yard scamper by rookie fullback Richie Brockel.

It was his first career carry and a memorable one at that. While the fumblerooski (real term for the play) is illegal in the NFL, the Panthers wisely ran it legally, by not allowing the ball to touch the ground. The successful trickeration caught the entire Texans defense off guard en route to an easy score before the half and a 21-0 lead. Moreover it took the air right out of the stadium and left the fans and players alike standing in disbelief.  Probably the same way Kevin O’Shea felt as he watched his coaching glory, and the ownership of his famed car dealership go down the tubes as a 99-yard trick played capped off an improbable Giants victory. Well, maybe not that painful but embarrassing nonetheless. 
 
Texans need Andre Johnson back
 
Obviously having a Pro Bowl caliber receiver helps any team, but even more so when that team is starting a rookie quarterback. Like most first-year signal callers T.J. Yates has trouble going through his progressions and tends to focus in on his primary target. When your primary target is Andre Johnson it makes life a lot easier. Not only will he bail Yates out on some throws, but he’s the type of threat that makes the defense key in on him throughout the game freeing up space for other receivers, as well as, the running game.
 
In Sunday’s game the output of the Texans receivers was simply pathetic; whether the onus was more on them or T.J. Yates is inconsequential, as the fact remains the same. 
In fact the leading receiver Sunday was Arian Foster with five catches. Not a single receiver or tight end managed to catch more than two balls and the longest such play was a twenty-four yard snag by Jacoby Jones; his only of the game. It’s time for Texans fans to wish for healthy hamstrings this Christmas because the Texans offense is obviously neutered without Andre Johnson & a rookie quarterback at the helm.
 
Connor Barwin is good at football
 
It’s true ladies an gentleman Connor Barwin can successfully rush an NFL quarterback, at a Pro Bowl level, over the course of a sixteen - game season. Barwin (a David Schimmer with muscles look alike) registered another sack on Sunday bringing his total to 10.5 for the season, and likely playing his way into a Pro Bowl roster spot.
 
After a gruesome injury on the first series of last year’s opening game its good to see Connor Barwin healthy and exceeding expectations. Since moving to Mario Williams position in Wade Phillips’ 3-4 defense Barwin, has recorded 8.5 sacks, and has been a terror for opposing quarterbacks. Last week in Cincinnati his sack and forced fumble in the opening drive of the 3rd quarter kick started a Texans comeback ultimately, capped off by T.J. Yates remarkable 80-yard drive.
 
The man can flat out play so Texans fan should sit back, enjoy, and lick their chops at the prospect of Connor Barwin and Mario Williams coming off the edge together for an entire season next year.
 
T.J. Yates is still a rookie
 
While it was a bad day for T.J. Yates, it was an even worse day for the crazies that have been calling into Houston radio stations clamoring for Matt Schaub to get run out of town at the end of the season. That’s a good thing.
 
Yates definitely had his worst day as a professional quarterback thus far with two egregious picks and an overall inability to get he ball down the field. The play calling was not designed to protect him on Sunday, rather he was unable to take advantage of a porous Panthers defense. Instead he reverted to the famed Check-Down Charlie quarterbacking method, dumping the ball of underneath nearly the entire game. In fact 53% of his completions were to players coming out of the backfield and the longest pass play of the day was a 25-yard screen to Arian Foster.

The Panthers clearly with no worry about T.J. Yates going over top of them and kept their safeties close to the line all day in an effort to stymie the Texans devastating rushing attack. Unfortunately for the Texans they were unable to get that rushing game going early and  by the time it did they had already dug themselves into a three score deficit.

Two of the biggest indicators for evaluating quarterback play outside of QB Rating (depends who is doing it -not you ESPN) is 3rd down conversions and redzone efficiency. The Texans were 2 for 9 (22%) on third down (lowest mark of the season) and a brutal 1 of 4 (25%) in the redzone - both rather grotesque numbers. Those numbers just reiterate what you already knew; T.J. Yates had a bad game. 
 
While it's unlikely the outcome of the game would have been different but it would have been nice to see Yates take a few more shots down field against what has been a suspect defense all year in the Carolina Panthers. Look for Yates to bounce back this week against the Colts and be a little more aggressive against their defense. 
 
 Arian Foster needs to hold on to the rock
 
Dear Arian,
 
We love you, but you need to lock it up.
 
Best,
 
Texans Fans
 
Without Andre Johnson on the field Arian Foster is clearly our best and most dynamic offensive weapon. Thus he needs to stay on the field, which isn’t going to happen if he keeps fumbling the football. NFL coaches’ feel the same way about fumbles as they do herpes, and they don’t want that virus affecting the team. So not surprisingly anyone showing consistent signs of such contagion will immediately be out and Texans fans who think Gary Kubiak made a mistake by benching Foster following his fumble are dead wrong.

Although the fumble itself was rather unusual, it was Fosters' fourth fumble in his last four games and the third that the Texans have lost. Moreover, it was the most damning one he’s had all season as he coughed up the ball on the second play of the game, deep in Texans territory; on the 21 to be exact. The blunder gave the Panthers great field position to work with which led to an easy score and an early 7-0 lead.  That series of events sucked the air right out of the building and was a precursor for a half that essentially saw the Texans sleep walking through everything. 

I doubt this will be a continuing problem with Arian Foster and lets hope not, otherwise he'll end up like Steve Slaton. MIA.
 

 
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