By Steve Shackelford
Cold, Hard, Football Facts AFC South Beat Reporter (@SteveOnStuff)
The Houston Texans entered Week 2 hoping to re-assert their dominance as a rising NFL power.
The rest of the AFC South entered Week 2 attempting to avoid the dreaded 0-2 start.
The Indianapolis Colts avoided that troubling fate, as they squeaked by the Minnesota Vikings 23-20 on a late field goal. But the Jacksonville Jaguars and Tennessee Titans failed to join their divisional brethren in the win column.
Houston embarrassed the Jaguars in Jacksonville, 27-7, while the Titans lost 38-10 at San Diego, the week's biggest blowout.
Houston sits alone atop of the AFC South standings at 2-0. Will any team be able to stop the Texans powerhouse going forward? The outlook is not so good.
Here are five things learned about the AFC South in in Week 2:
1. Don't mess with the Texans!
The Houston Texans are a serious force to be reckoned with right now. They entered Week 2 No. 2 overall on our Quality Stats Power Rankings, right behind the Baltimore Ravens (who lost at Philly).
So when the statistical dust settles on Week 2 action, Houston will likely be No. 1 in our Quality Stats Power Rankings, the same spot they held at the end of the 2011 season.
Rumbling into Jacksonville, the Texans established their dominance early, especially on defense. The Jaguars were held to 117 yards of total offense, the worst performance in franchise history. The previous mark for punchless efforts was set back in 2004, also against Houston (126 yards).
Texans quarterback Matt Schaub spread the ball around, completing passes to seven difference players, with Owen Daniels leading the team in receiving yards (47).
One concern? He was extremely ineffective getting the ball downfield. His 35 attempts yielded just 195 yards (5.57 YPA) and he failed to find the zone.
But Houston is a complete team capable of winning a number of different ways, even when the passing game is out of sync. They pulverized the Jaguars on the ground, as Arian Foster, Ben Tate and Justin Forsett combined to carry the ball 46 times for 219 yards, 4.76 YPA and 3 TD.
Schaub managed the game and fed the ball to arguably the best running-back tandem in the NFL for 2012, Foster and Tate.
Tate looked particularly effective, with 12 carries for 74 yards, 6.17 YPA and 2 TD.
Jacksonville's crushing defeat makes it appear the Texans will continue the AFC South dominance through the 2012 season.
2. Luck kicked the rookie turnover habit.
Indy's quarterback gave away the ball four times in Week 1. He played turnover free football in Week 2.
The rookie appeared confident in the pocket, and occasionally used his legs to make the Vikings defense pay for dropping too deep into coverage.
Carrying the ball, Luck produced 21 yards on four well-timed quarterback keepers. Luck's ability to make the right reads and avoid throwing costly interceptions far out-shined his motor in Week 2.
He completed 20 of 31 passes (64.5%) for 224 yards, 7.23 YPA 2 TD and 0 INT.
His passer rating of 107.5 marked a vast improvement over his debut effort of 52.9.
Sure, Minesota's defense is by not good, but Luck's success in his second appearance definitely left Colts fans with a little more peace of mind going in to Week 3.
3. Tennessee's ground game is officially a disaster.
The Titans famously ran for jut 20 yards on 16 attempts against the Patriots in Week 1.
Week 2 did not go so well, either: 10 rush attempts for 38 yards, most of them again by quarterback Jake Locker (2 rushes, 21 yards). Chris Johnson was inept for the second week in a row, carrying the ball 8 times for 17 yards. The explosive record-setting runner for 2009 is cleary gone, and perhaps for good.
In fact, Locker is easily the team's leading rusher, and it's not a good sign in the modern NFL when your quarterback is the only one who can advance the ball beyond the line of scrimmage. Here's a look at the Titans rushing totals through Week 2:
- Jake Locker: 4 attempts, 32 yards, 8.0 YPA, 0 TD
- Chris Johnson: 19 attempts, 21 yards, 1.11 YPA, 0 TD
- Darius Reynaud: 2 attempts, 2 yards, 1.0 YPA, 0 TD
- Jamie Harper: 1 attempt, 2 yards, 2.0 YPA, 0 TD
- Titans 2012 rushing totals: 26 attempts, 57 yards, 2.19 YPA, 0 TD
The defense was not much better, either.
In the first quarter, the Chargers successfully completed five straight third-down attempts to start the game against a sloppy Tennessee defense.
The Titans committed a roughing the passer penalty on San Diego's sixth attempted third-down allowing another first down. The Titans defense gave up 14 points in the first quarter, a quarter in which the offense ran only five plays for a total of 3 yards. Ouch.
Nothing improved for the Titans. They lost the game 38-10 and it wasn't as close as the score indicates. Jake Locker and Kendall Wright connected for a touchdown, but that dim bright spot doesn't make up for their 0-2 start.
The one-time sexy pick to win the AFC South in 2012, the Titans might be out of contention much sooner than anticipated.
4. The Indianapolis defense is still a liability.
Heading into the fourth quarter against the Minnesota Vikings, the Colts sported a 20-6 lead, but the two-touchdown lead was far from a guaranteed victory for Indianapolis.
Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder scored 2 TD in the last six minutes of the game, and Indianapolis' defense allowed them to tie the score 20-20.
Luck bailed out the defense with solid passing, game management, and an odd, unnecessary spiked-ball following a defensive penalty.
Following a field goal, the Colts emerged victorious 23-20, and moved to 1-1. They currently reside at second place in the AFC South.
5. No two ways about it: the Jaguars are terrible.
Maybe Jacksonville's Week 1 loss to Minnesota was simply too painful to escape, or maybe the Jaguars are just really bad.
Losing 27-7 to the Houston Texans, the Jaguars were atrocious to start the game, and were lucky to come away scoring any points at all. Houston defensive coordinator Wade Phillips is proving his defense to be impenetrable.
Rushing for only 60 yards, Maurice Jones-Drew was a non-factor in this game, as was the entire offense. Receiver Laurent Robinson dropped passes, Justin Blackmon didn't catch a ball, while quarterback Blaine Gabbert appeared rattled and was rendered useless by the ferocious Texans defense.
The defense for Jacksonville didn't fare much better than their offense, allowing Arian Foster and Ben Tate to run wild on Sunday. Foster and Tate combined for 3 TD and 244 total yds against the Jaguars.