December 6, 2009
Puff Puff Halfback Pass
by Keith Weiland
The Texans have had their share of problems with the football so close to the goalline, and Sunday's game in Jacksonville was no different. An ill-advised and intercepted halfback pass virtually took points off the board in what turned out to be a 23-18 loss to the Jaguars.
Trying to climb out of an early 17-point hole, quarterback Matt Schaub emerged from the locker room nursing an injured left (non-throwing) shoulder to mercifully relieve an ineffective Rex Grossman. Schaub completed all six of his pass attempts in driving the offense 82-yards for a score. Running back Chris Brown ran it the final eight yards to cut the lead to 17-7. The Jaguars pushed the lead back up to 13 points with a field goal just before halftime.
A punt on the opening possession of the second half buried the Jaguars at their own 3-yard line. Two plays later, the Texans defense capitalized on some slippery turf when Jaguars quarterback David Garrard fell in the endzone for a safety.
Following a Jaguars field goal that increased the lead to 23-9, Andre Davis recovered a muffed punt deep in Jaguar territory. Stalled into a fourth-and three on the 9-yard line, the Texans intended to go for broke before a false start penalty on right guard Chris White changed their strategy. Instead, the team settled for the field goal to move the score to 23-12.
Unfortunately, that penalty wouldn't be the team's most egregious redzone error of the afternoon. With their next possession, Schaub completed a 53-yard bomb to Andre Johnson to move into Jaguar territory, and four plays later, he had a first-and-goal from the 5-yard line, 8:36 remaining in the game.
Schaub's return from injury had been admirable, and while he maybe lacked full range of motion with the bum shoulder, he had proven capable of making the accurate thrown since his return. So win with the football in his hands, right?
But the Texans tried to get cute instead. Calling for the halfback pass, Brown rolled right and had a man open in the endzone, but he was hit when releasing the throw. Safety Gerald Alexander made the easy interception, all but killing any decent chance at completing the comeback.
Schaub rallied the offense after the Texans defense forced a three-and-out. Having abandoned the run, he attempted eight straight passes before his ninth attempt ended as a 1-yard touchdown reception by Johnson. Down five at 23-18 with four minutes remaining, the Texans went for the two-point conversion, a short pass to Brown which failed.
Needing to keep the Jaguars from cranking out first downs to churn the remaining clock, the defense failed to contain running back Maurice Jones-Drew. Having bottled him up for much of the game, Jones-Drew ran the ball eight straight times, picking up three first downs to expire the game clock.
Schaub gets a game ball for finishing this game. His shoulder injury was painful, and with his team down by 17 points early, it would have been easy to stay out of this hot mess. But he didn't. He shrugged off years of catcalls from fans and pundits of him being too soft to complete a full slate of games, and his return immediately gave this team hope for a win. He nearly delivered, and damn well might have if someone on the sideline hadn't taken the ball from his hands in calling for the halfback pass.
Andre Johnson also deserves a game ball. Only he can make seven catches for 99 yards and a score look like just another day in the office. He fought for the ball in the air, toughed out extra yards on the ground, and generally played like Angry Dre with Schaub back in the game.
The linebackers are going to get a game ball for the goalline stand they made early in the game. DeMeco Ryans, Zac Diles, Brian Cushing, and Xavier Adibi each had a hand in pushing back Garrard and Jones-Drew. But I'm going to take all of those game balls back for how they failed in the end to keep Jones-Drew in check when it counted most.
There is no stat that exists to properly question the losing mentality that affects the Houston Texans right now. Mired in a four-game losing streak, head coach Gary Kubiak has been unable to coach his way out of this disaster.
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