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December 7, 2008
We're Going Streaking Thru the Quad!

by Keith Weiland

The Texans have a new philosophy when it comes to turnovers: If you can't beat 'em, join 'em. So, in spite of four turnovers and a -3 ratio, the Texans overcame single digit temps at kickoff to beat the Packers 24-21.

Kicker Kris Brown nailed a 40-yard field goal attempt as time expired to prevent the game from going into overtime. Brown, who converted two other attempts earlier in the game from 30 and 41 yards, had missed from 41 yards just before the time expired in the first half.

The game-winning drive began from the Texans' own 3-yard line. Quarterback Matt Schaub, returning from an injured MCL after missing the last four games, connected with fullback Vonta Leach for a 22-yard gain to move the team out for a little breathing room.

Following completions of 17 and 4 yards to receiver David Anderson, Schaub found tight end Owen Daniels in the middle of the field for a 27 yard gain. A short rush positioned the spot for the field goal, and Brown's kick enabled the Texans to escape with the victory, their third in a row for the second time this season.

Thanks to the turnovers, two of which came in the redzone, the final score was closer than it should have been. Daniels fumbled just a yard away from scoring at the start of the second quarter. Slaton also fumbled at the Packer 16 near the end of the third quarter.

Jacoby Jones also misplayed a punt midway through the fourth quarter when it bounced off his chest. That turnover set up the Packers at midfield, a possession which they later converted into a game-tying touchdown with six minutes to play.

The Texans were otherwise resilient to the frigid Wisconsin temperatures. Slaton rushed for 120 yards on a heavy 26-carry workload to pass the 1,000-yard mark on the season. Schaub, wiping clean a little rust in his return, threw for 414 yards and two touchdowns.

Key Play

The final drive was chock full of goodness, but it was set up by a key defensive series that forced the Packers to punt when they least wanted. It started with 4:37 remaining, when receiver Donald Driver hauled in a 59-yard bomb from Aaron Rodgers to move the Packers down to the Texans' 25-yard line.

Running back Ryan Grant then plowed forward for three yards, and a holding penalty on the offense negated Grant's next attempt, a 9-yard rush for a first down. Instead, the flag pushed Green Bay into a 2nd-and-17.

The defense then guessed right. In an obvious passing situation, coordinator Richard Smith went for the blitz, and it worked like magic. Middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans rushed past guard Daryn Colledge to sack Rodgers for a loss of 9 yards. Unable to climb out of the 3rd-and-26 hole, the Pack punted back to Houston and left them 1:49 on the clock for the winning drive.

Game Balls

Lots of game balls for this one, so settle in. First, for Schaub to come back from injury - on the road and playing on the Frozen Tundra no less - and throw for 414 yards is the stuff of guts and glory. No, he wasn't pretty, but it was gutty nonetheless.

Second, without Slaton, Schaub would have never had the game he did. Slaton understands this offense now, and he is getting more slippery to tackle as he learns it more. Also, can't forget his dash to get out of bounds at the end of the second quarter to stop the clock with one second left. It set up his kicker for a field goal attempt, and that's some admirable smarts on a rookie.

The next game ball goes to Kevin Walter, again making his share of big, clutchy grabs. Oh, and he scored the first touchdown too, en route to a six catch, 146-yard performance.

Vonta Leach, you're also getting a helmet sticker. I don't think anyone looks forward to seeing the football in your paws, but today was special thanks to you. Returning to the home field of your former team, you caught three passes for a fun 48 yards, refusing to be tackled.

Matt Turk, working with a new long snapper this week since Bryan Pittman was suspended, booted a few beauties, but that 18-yard rush for a first down was something out of the 1920s. I loved it.

Can't forget the defense, which as a group had its third straight noteworthy performance. Ryans' sack was a balls-out play, and Dunta Robinson made a nice pick in zone coverage. As a group, the defense produced the key stat.

Key Stat

1/10 - 10%

When a defense has this kind of efficiency on third down, it really is the kind of stuff that begins to make up for four turnovers by the offense. Some notable third down plays were by defensive end Tim Bulman when he got a second quarter sack of Rodgers and by Robinson when he made his pick of Rodgers on third down, too.

This kind of performance is indicative of a team getting better pass rush and better play from its secondary. Rodgers won't be mistaken for ...uhm, Brett Favre... but he has been capable quarterback for most of the season. The Texans defense didn't let him convert any of those third down attempts until a 3rd-and-1 in the middle of the fourth quarter.

That's how you win ballgames.

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