December 27, 2009
A White-Knuckling Cliffhanger
by Keith Weiland
With faint playoff aspirations growing a little stronger, it took a onsides kickoff recovery for the Texans to close out a 27-20 victory over the Dolphins in a game where they once held a 27-point lead. The win, coupled with a host of other helpful outcomes around the rest of the league, keeps the Texans' playoff hearts beating into the final week of the regular season.
As they did versus Seattle two weeks ago, quarterback Matt Schaub and the offense tallied another impressive first half of football. Schaub hit receiver Andre Johnson for a 10-yard score to give his team the 10-0 lead through the first quarter. Schaub later nailed a deep pass to Jacoby Jones for a 44-yard touchdown and a 17-0 lead early in the second quarter.
The rushing offense also got involved as rookie Arian Foster rumbled 17 yards for the third touchdown of the half, giving the Texans the quick 24-0 lead. Kicker Kris Brown added his second field goal of the game before the defense finally allowed the Dolphins to respond with a three-pointer of their own just before halftime.
Then, as has been customary for the Texans, the team turtled out of the gate in the third quarter. The Dolphins narrowed the margin to 27-10 following a 12-play drive that ended when running back Lex Hilliard scored on a 2-yard run. Hilliard scored again early in the fourth quarter, catching a 10-yard pass to cut the deficit to just ten points.
As the Texans offense continued to sputter, the Dolphins kicked a field goal with 2:35 remaining in the game, shrinking the lead to seven.
Out of timeouts, the Dolphins surprised no one by attempting an onsides kick. To say that the Texans' anuses could have crushed granite at this point is (probably) an overstatement, but to have a 27-point lead reduced to an onsides kick recovery is darn near inexcusable.
Well, we're living a Christmas miracle, so who cares right now. Wide receiver Kevin Walter leapt a million feet into the Miami sky to pull down the lofted onsides kick, securing the win. A crucial first down run by Foster on the ensuing series sent the game to kneeldowns, and the Texans escaped to keep their playoff hopes alive one more week.
Brian Cushing, take a bow. Deserving of the Defensive Rookie of the Year award, Cushing was once again a difference maker for the Texans defense, picking up a deflected pass for an interception, notching another sack, and making plays all over the field with his nine tackles.
Fellow linebacker DeMeco Ryans also played inspired defensive football in this one, leading the game with 11 tackles and generally enforcing his will wherever he went. The Texans also got decent games out of Bernard Pollard (seven tackles and a sack) and Antonio Smith.
Offensively, Foster quietly amassed 97 yards on his 19 carries. He justafiably enjoyed his final rush of the contest, a 6-yard run on third-and-3 to ice the win. And even more importantly, Foster kept a handle on the ball for the entire game.
Credit to the defense, particularly the front seven, for shutting down the Dolphins rushing offense. The Dolphins went to the air with some unexpected effectiveness in the second half (imagine if a tripping penalty had not negated that 62-yard touchdown catch by the Ted Ginn family?!), but the bottomline result here was that the Texans defense turned their opponent into a one-dimensional unit, their non-preferred dimension at that.
In doing so, they get a critical road victory and give their fans the chance to possibly witness history when they close out the regular season at home next Sunday against the Patriots. Where will you be when it happens?
Copyright 2009 ...In
the Bullseye is in no way affiliated with or
endorsed by the actual Houston Texans franchise. It's a non-commercial
website for the enjoyment of football fans and is not intended for
any other purpose. For legitimate content on the team, its operations
and its actions, please visit