Know Your Enemy: Steph Stradley Talks Texans

Steph is on again. The uber Texan fan who would never pull a Fireman Ed is back to talk Texans/Titans. Actually there aren’t any Titans-related questions in here so you’ll be able to get through this post without needing antidepressants. Steph chats about product placement, winning Super Bowl tickets and the David Carr days, kind of.

Steph writes about the Texans for the Houston Chronicle and she is a Houston lawyer.

Let’s get this out of way. Where does Ndamukong Suh rate on your hated list? Is he approaching Cortland Finnegan territory? He just makes me sad. Finnegan isn’t a talented player, but acts like a punk because that’s all he has. That’s Richie Incognito too. Players like Suh and Jared Allen don’t have to play dirty to be effective, they just choose to do so. Though the kick to the groin was the hit that has been talked publicly about the most, it was the shot in the 2nd quarter at 2:52 that could have ended the Texans’ season. Matt Schaub had already thrown the pass, but Suh took down Schaub like cattle. Unnecessary. Career threatening stuff. [Zach note: See the last interview with Steph for her thoughts on Schaub’s underrated toughness.]

How is the team reacting to the injuries on defense? Diagnose the issues the team’s had on D the past two games. DT Shaun Cody has been out with broken ribs. This means the Texans dlinemen rotation is limited, guys are on the field more, potentially getting tired. CB Johnathan Joseph missed the end of the Jaguars game and all of the Detroit game. Having him available (and healthy) makes a big difference in the secondary.

The linebacker group is very thin. ILB Brian Cushing has been out since the Jets game, and he was one of the reasons the early Texans defense was so very dominant. With him out, it reduces the margin of error. Tim Dobbins, Bradie James on the inside got hurt, and Brooks Reed on the outside left the last game and will be out for likely at least 3 weeks. Darryl Sharpton fortunately came back in a timely way from his significant quad injury, but is knocking off some rust. By the end of the Detroit game, they were down to just Sharpton and Barrett Ruud as inside linebackers available to run the defense.

I also think that the Texans offense hasn’t been as effective early in games. Long, time-killing offensive drives keep the defense off the field and fresh, and early points by the offense puts more pressure on opposing offenses to become one dimensional earlier in games. The Texans are currently 8th overall in 1st quarter points, but for the last 3 games have been 23rd.

The good news about the defense is that they’ve done well when they’ve need to do well to close out games. Some of that was luck, some of that was making their own luck.

The injury report is worth checking out near the end of the week–as I am writing this, I expect Cody, Dobbins and Tate to be back. No Reed. I’m guessing Joseph and James will be question marks, depending on how they feel by the end of the week.

Have you gone to a game in Nashville before? I see you’re not making this year’s game. I wanted to know what your experience was like, if not in Nashville than being a Texans fan at road games. I’ve only been able to attend one road trip: the Texans playoff game in Baltimore. It used to be that the few, most dedicated fans traveled to games. It is hard to spend a bunch of money on a game with knowledge that your team is a big underdog. In recent years, more Texans fans are traveling to games and putting together meetups prior to games. I can tell you the meetups in Baltimore were a ton of fun.

The nice thing about a game in a city like Nashville, as opposed to much more spread out cities, is it is easier to get fans to go to one place. [Zach note: Basically hit 2nd avenue downtown and you’re onto something. Want a restaurant idea? Ask Tim.]

Congrats on winning Super Bowl tickets. What was the contest and how did you emerge victorious? The company Procter & Gamble has an association with the NFL for a number of their products. They selected 16 bloggers, some sports bloggers, some mommy bloggers (I’m both I guess) to get folks to sign up for their Facebook promotion called Fancestry. Basically, it is a way for fans to find out what fan they are and you can still sign up for it. The winner of the contest received two tickets to the Super Bowl and if they won, two of their signups won as well. We did the push for signups earlier this month, and they told us they’d announce the winner around Thanksgiving. And I won, and then my Texans won on Thanksgiving proper. A good week.

Given that I already booked a condo in New Orleans back in July, I really was motivated to win this contest. I figured the condo rental wasn’t a jinx. If the Texans were in, I’m the queen of the French Quarter. And if the Texans weren’t in, well, New Orleans is as good a place to drown your sorrows as any. When the Super Bowl is in smaller, fun locales like South Beach or New Orleans, the people watching is amazing. [Zach note: As opposed to the giant, endless metropolis of Indianapolis.]

Fans still have until the end of this week to win even more Super Bowl tickets. One of the P&G NFL brands is Tide. They are having a Facebook promotion called “Show Us Your Colors.” You download a picture for your particular team, and all entrants have a chance for tickets. The deadline is Friday, so get on it! If you click on the Texans, you can see my picture there too, wearing my hand-painted Battle Red suede jacket, which is my favorite one.

P&G has been wonderful to work with as a NFL sports blogger, and not just because I won Super Bowl tickets. They’ve sent me lots of their products to hand out to fans. At the next game, I’m giving away some really cool Texans-branded Gillette Fusion ProGlide razors. Free stuff? Love giving it away to fans. (Also, for a chance to win a trip to the Super Bowl plus other free stuff, Gillette has a Facebook promotion with Clay Matthews called, “Gillette: No Debate Contest.”

See you thought you were going to read a game preview, but it’s even better. I’m trying to get us all at the Super Bowl for an all time party. If the Texans make it in, I-10 going east will be a parking lot and the game will be like a home game. Houston has a bunch of pent-up desire and a whole lot of money in the city, and New Orleans is driving distance. And Houstonian Beyonce is the half time act. It just needs to be. It would be too perfect.

Are the close wins especially hard to take for a fan who went through five years of David Carr? LALALALALA. NOT LISTENING!!!! PTSD!!!! NEXT QUESTION!!!!

What kind of fan experiences have you had due to the blog that might not have happened otherwise? Wow. I’m not even sure. So much. I think social media in general has made a big difference. The increased connectiveness of people within the city and throughout the country. I’ve been blogging since 2006, but before that I knew a lot of fans, players, Texans folks through fan events, tailgating, message board stuff. I think the biggest difference once I started the blog was just instead of people knowing me as a super fan, they knew me as someone who knew about the team.

The blog and social media stuff in general has made people connectiveness easier to do. Sort of makes super fandom more scalable. The biggest change the blog did was connect me to all sorts of great people across the country who work with AOL Sports’ FanHouse. I learned so much through that experience and met so many funny, smart people. Like going through blog school. And through my experience there and on my blog, I’ve got to know a community of people who are as enthusiastic about the NFL as I am and do that online writing thing. I just love talking football with diehard folks of all sorts–writers, tailgaters, facepainters, media etc.

Originally, I wanted to write my Houston Chronicle blog under a pen name because I had strong opinions but didn’t want it to be about me. But the Chronicle wouldn’t let me do that. Giving up a little bit of my privacy turned out for the best. I’ve had neat experiences because of the blogging, met some amazing people, and have been able to use it to advocate for things that are good or useful for Texans and NFL fans and support various charitable causes that are important to me.

I love to read and always been a fan of quality sports writing and newspapers. In recent years, because of the blogging, I’ve been credentialed to attend training camp. I have a lawyer background and not a journalism one, and I must say that seeing what beat writers do on a daily basis gives me a deeper appreciation of how hard it is to get unique stories in a business where most people don’t want to be a part of headlines. Also makes me appreciate the challenges of doing quality journalism in a world where content is often free, quality journalism costs money, and sensationalism and pageviews want to drive content often at the expense of fairness and accuracy.

I never planned for whatever this fan thing I do to evolve this way, and I’m not sure I could have planned it even if I wanted to. I just figure if I try to do various forms of random do-goodery and minor generosities, good things will happen for more people more often than not. And it makes you feel good to do do-goodery and create community. Sports can bring people together easier than many things in society, if you choose to make it a positive force.

Oh, and Super Bowl tickets. Woooooooo! (Yes, I’m unfashionably earnest but not totally oblivious).

Are you at all worried that Arian Foster’s seeing a career-high workload? Yeah, I know what the numbers say about backs with that sort of workload. But I will say the guy likes to run. You can see him at times waving off the backup trying to come into games. That being said, I dearly hope that Ben Tate gets back soon from his hamstring issue, and that the Texans can get the sort of leads where Tate and Forsett can close out games.

Really, the Texans fortunes ride on key players staying healthy. With more starters suffering injuries, the Texans’ margin of error has gone down. Foster is one of those guys you want to stay healthy.

Once again, follow Steph on Twitter, read her blog and check out her law firm’s site.

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