November 30, 2009
Colts Say Nay to Our Playoff Hopes
by Keith Weiland
In a story as old as time, the Texans lost to the Colts on Sunday. In other shocking news, the sun rises in the east and also sets in the west. By falling 35-27 to the Colts, the Texans, now the last place team in their division, squandered a 17-0 lead with miscues, penalties, and apathy, flushing away any faint hopes of their first postseason berth in franchise history.
The Texans at least built their lead looking like a team capable of beating the undefeated Colts. From the opening kick, they drove 79 yards in 11 plays, only once even needing to convert a third down. The drive ended with a short touchdown pass from Matt Schaub to fullback Vonta Leach.
After forcing the Colts to punt on their first possession, the Texans offense again made it look easy with a 7-play, 66-yard scoring drive, one devoid of any third downs this time. Running back Chris Brown ran it the last five yards to push the score up to 14-0. Yes, a rushing touchdown following a scoring reception from the fullback... it was as though Santa had arrived early.
Linebacker Brian Cushing then intercepted Colts quarterback Peyton Manning. On the ensuing drive, it briefly appeared as if the Texans would build a 21-point lead. Replay, however, reinforced that Andre Johnson failed to complete a reception in the endzone, leaving the offense to settle for a 35-yard field goal from Kris Brown and the 17-point lead.
Further misfortune for the Texans: They left forty minutes and change on the clock, far too much time for Manning to complete a comeback. Manning found receiver Pierre Garcon on the end of a 9-yard pass to the endzone to put the Colts on the board midway through the second quarter. Another 33-yard field goal from Kris Brown put the Texans in front 20-7 at the half.
Manning led the Colts on another touchdown drive to open the third quarter, finding receiver Reggie Wayne to quickly narrow the deficit to 20-14. Then early in the fourth quarter, Manning threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to tight end Dwight Clark, taking the lead 21-20.
With more than eight minutes remaining in the game, the Texans had ample opportunity to respond. Would they fight for their playoff lives?
After an incomplete pass on first down to Leach foreshadowed some timidity on behalf of Schaub, his weak throw on second down intended for tight end James Casey was easily intercepted by linebacker Clint Session and returned twenty yards for the pick six and a demoralizing 28-20 advantage.
Schaub has been one of the league's better quarterbacks this season, as his 21:11 touchdown-to-interception ratio and 97.7 QB rating suggest, but lapses such as this are still concerning. He threw a similar pick six late in the Cardinals game that thwarted another comeback attempt.
Since eight minutes remained on the clock after the turnover, Schaub still had one last chance to rally. After six straight plays which called for him to pass, the Colts found a way into the backfield where defensive end Robert Mathis sacked Schaub and forced him to fumble.
Defensive end Raheem Brock recovered the fumble, and the Colts offense took advantage of the short field, capitalizing with a 23-yard touchdown run by Chad Simpson. Schaub threw a touchdown pass to Jacoby Jones with 25 seconds remaining, but his teammates were unable to recover the onsides kick for a chance at a miracle comeback.
Ech. Well, Cushing deserves one for his third interception of the season. And fellow rookie Brice McCain picked off Manning as well, which ought to be early career highlights for both players. Bernard Pollard also made some noise defensively with his ten tackles, several of which were in fact quite audible.
The three turnovers in the second half from Schaub (two interceptions and one fumble) were certainly Rosencopter-esque, especially considering the opponent, but since when did it become common for the Texans to attract so much yellow laundry?
Granted, a couple of the penalty flags thrown in the team's direction were questionable, such as the 43-yard pass interference call on Jacques Reeves on the Colts' first drive of the third quarter. But the undisciplined nature of the Texans is a sign of a mediocre team that lacks the same sort of mettle to play four consecutive quarters of good football.
It doesn't bode well for head coach Gary Kubiak. With playoff hopes only left to mathematical improbability, his future has never before seemed so tenuous.
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