October 11, 2009
Don't Call It a Comeback
by Keith Weiland
The Texans were once again the little team that almost could, nearly digging out of a 21-point deficit at halftime before falling a few inches short in losing to the Cardinals 28-21. Three failed chances to score from one yard out spelled doom for the visitors, as running back Chris Brown was stuffed on fourth down just outside the goalline with forty seconds remaining.
Quarterback Matt Schaub nearly evened the score on third down, but his pass attempt to reserve tight end Joel Dreesen sailed high. Dreesen was able to leap for the reception, but his first foot down landed halfway outside the back of the endzone.
Schaub, who completed 35 of 50 passes for 371 yards and two touchdowns, had already brought the team back from behind once to a 21-21 tie before he threw a pick six with two and a half minutes left in the game. Cardinals cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie stepped in front of receiver Kevin Walter on a pass near the sideline, and Rodgers-Cromartie returned the interception 49 yards for what would prove to be the game-winning score.
In spite of the loss, it was a very effective comeback for the Texans up to that point. Schaub completed eleven consecutive passes before his lone, albeit decisive interception of the game. In fact, Schaub completed 25 of 32 passes for 279 yards in the second half to rally the good guys.
And defensively, the Texans shut down one of the league's most potent offenses in the second half. The Cardinals punted in all five of their second half possessions before their last one drained the final forty seconds off the clock to end the game.
But for as good as the Texans played in the second half, the first half proved too much to overcome. Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald caught two touchdown passes in the second quarter, the second of which went for 26 yards in the final minute of the half. Kudos to the Texans for never giving up, but this team still has yet to play a full 60-minute football game this season.
Schaub and the offense were chugging right along before Rodger-Cromartie made the game-changing pick six. It didn't quite ice the game, as the Texans came within inches of tying it again before regulation ended, but the turn of events made things too difficult.
As for the fourth-and-1 decision to run it up the middle, it was a faulty one at best. Running between guard and center with one of the smallest interior lines in the league was not the most creative of ideas as it usually fails for the Texans time and time again. And Chris Brown's effectiveness as a goalline ball carrier has to come under question now, especially when his fumble at the goalline against the Jaguars in Week 3 is added to the equation.
Chew on this: Had Brown converted both goalline opportunities against the Jags and Cards to force overtimes in both games, we may be talking about the 4-1 Houston Texans instead of the 2-3 version with which we now have to suffer.
So note to head coach Gary Kubiak and his protégé offensive coordinator Baby Shan: Yours is a passing offense, a not-so-distant relative of another former Houston passing offense known as the Run-n-Shoot. If you want to run next time, split 'em out wide and shoot the draw through the gaps. Or better yet, throw the stinkin' ball. Or run it off tackle. Just quit expecting to run it up the middle with any measure of success.
Andre Johnson had a so-so first half with four catches for 48 yards, some iffy route running and an uncustomary drop to boot. But Angry Dre emerged in the second half, the sort that bounces off linebackers to convert his second touchdown of the half to complete a 21-point comeback. Johnson finished with eight receptions for 101 yards and the two scores, and he did it as a counter punch to Fitzgerald. Best receiver in the game? Angry Dre.
It's also easy to bag on Jacoby Jones for his irreverent return techniques and reckless ball handling, but his 62-yard punt return set up the comeback in the third quarter. A helmet sticker to André Davis, too. His 63-yard kickoff return following Rodgers-Cromartie's interception return cut Schaub's field in half in making the final push.
The defense also came to play out of halftime. They don't normally get a lot of production out of either safety position, but between Bernard Pollard and Eugene Wilson, the Texans might finally have a workable combination. Pollard laid out a few hard hits in leading the way with six tackles, and Wilson forced a first half fumble that stopped the early bleeding, at least temporarily. The front seven also figured out a way to put some pressure on Warner in the second half, and without it, the Texans offense never would have been able to complete the comeback.
Fourth down efficiency was the suck this Sunday. The Texans first fourth down conversion attempt came on the opening drive of the second half before the comeback began in earnest. On fourth-and-1 from the Cardinals' 22-yard line, Schaub let fly a deep ball into the endzone intended for Johnson.
Their other fourth down attempt, of course, was the goalline dive by Brown. Had either been converted, which likely would had involved better decision making not just better execution, Sunday's outcome might have been a far more joyous one.
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