BABINECK ON TEXANS: Stats, results don't quite jibe
HOUSTON -- The city that endured the Enron scandal can appreciate fuzzy math.
So, too, can its football team.
On more than a few fronts the Houston Texans boast some eye-popping statistics that place them among the AFC's elite. It doesn't take a bookish federal prosecutor to dig a little deeper and find the truth behind some of the numbers:
FACT: Only Tennessee and Indianapolis are outdoing the Texans' 348 yards per game in the AFC. Yet those other two teams are fighting for the AFC South lead while Houston is fading, albeit expectedly, at 2-4.
REALITY: That No. 3 offense falls to No. 14 when it comes to points, which after all is the only stat that determines who wins and loses. The aforementioned Titans and Colts are among the scoring leaders, too, but the Texans are scuffling at 16.7 points per game.
Center Steve McKinney said Tuesday the coaching staff wants to average one touchdown per 100 yards, which would mean the Texans would like to be in the 20-TD range right now. Instead they've scored just 11. To make matters worse, they are one of four AFC teams whose defense or special teams has yet to chip in a touchdown.
FACT: The Texans are getting 19 first downs a game, fourth-best in the NFL and a vast improvement from the inaugural season.
REALITY: Houston is moving the chains on first, second and even fourth downs (they're 6-for-8). NFL offenses butter their bread on third down conversions, however, and that's where the black ink turns to red.
The AFC average for third down conversions is 35.6 percent, with Oakland the most inefficent at 26 percent. Houston isn't much better, and it's 31 percent conversion rate is 14th best in the conference.
Third-down woes, exacerbated by inopportune penalties, killed the Texans last Sunday against the Jets. Houston outgained New York yet couldn't manage a scoring drive after the first quarter and finished the game 3-for-12 -- or 25 percent -- on third downs.
"Our third down is an area that we have to improve in," Capers said. "That's what enables you to stay on the field and maintain drives. So we have to get better in that area."
FACT: David Carr has been sacked just 10 times in six games, making him among the best-protected quarterbacks in the league. It's a far cry from last season, when he went down a record 76 times.
REALITY: There's nothing fishy about this stat in and of itself. The revamped offensive line is doing yeoman's work, Carr is executing better and the playcalling has lent itself to keeping him upright.
The problem comes when Houston's defense is added to the equation. When coach Dom Capers pores over game results he correctly considers net sacks, hoping his defense dropped the opposition quarterback more often than Carr was felled.
That isn't happening. There were plays Sunday when Jets quarterback Vinny Testaverde looked like he could have analyzed Enron's convoluted finances and still had time to throw.
FACT: Corey Bradford is second in the NFL in yards-per-catch (21.4) for players with 10 or more receptions.
REALITY: He barely meets that standard with 13 catches in six games, and that comes on an offense that had struggled to run the ball consistently until Domanick Davis' breakout game against the Jets.
Whether he's not getting open frequently or the Texans don't trust his hands enough to try him more, Bradford has shown he can do big things once he gets the ball downfield. Now that talented rookie Andre Johnson is going to see most of the defensive attention, Bradford, Jabar Gaffney and Billy Miller must become more visible targets.
This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index