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January 3, 2010
Finding a Clutch City Address

by Keith Weiland

Known mostly to date for finding creative ways to squander 17-point leads, the Texans entered unchartered territory on Sunday, overcoming a 14-point deficit in the fourth quarter to beat the Patriots 34-27. The comeback, which was the team's ninth victory this season, gave the franchise its first-ever winning season.

The game itself seemed very much like a mini-version of the Texans' 2009 season. There was a decent enough start, followed by some troubles with the offense near the goalline, the emergence of the defense, a couple missed kicks, then a fumble, culminating with an impressive final push to close out the finish.

The fun started when quarterback Matt Schaub found tight end Joel Dreesen open for a 25-yard touchdown pass. The Patriots answered before the close of the first quarter when running back Fred Taylor ran off-tackle four yards to even the score. Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski then added a 51-yard field goal for the early 10-7 lead.

After a Texans drive stalled out on fourth down at the 1-yard line, the defense returned momentum to the home team. Linebacker Zac Diles forced Taylor to fumble, and safety Bernard Pollard pounced on the football for the defensive touchdown. Kicker Kris Brown's extra point attempt failed though, limiting the Texans to just a 13-10 advantage. Gostkowski tied the score at 13 with a 43-yard field goal in the final minute of the first half.

On their first possession of the second half, Schaub drove the offense down to the Patriot 15-yard line with a balanced attack supplemented by rookie running back Arian Foster. But a fumble by Ryan Moats nearly ruined the drive until receiver Jacoby Jones recovered. Alas, Jones' luck was short-lived, as he tipped a pass from Schaub that was intercepted by Darius Butler and returned 91 yards for a touchdown.

Brown then missed a 38-yard field goal attempt on the ensuing drive, allowing Patriots quarterback Tom Brady to engineer a scoring drive that ended with an 11-yard run by Taylor for the 27-13 lead.

Key Play

Down by two touchdowns with 14 minutes left in the regular season, the Texans had a gut check. Would this be the team to pack it up and accept another 8-8 season, or would it be a team that would turn the corner and fight for a winning season?

Having just taken a sack on second down to push the line of scrimmage back to the Patriot 46, Schaub faced a 3rd-and-15. Given the deficit, this might have been "four down territory", but the Texans quarterback wasn't ready to leave it to a single play. Instead, from the shotgun, he found Jones for a 17-yard completion that gave the offense a first down.

The play also seemed to give him a shot of confidence, as he went deep to Andre Davis on the next play, which resulted in a 26-yard pass interference. Following a false start penalty, Schaub then went back to Jones, who made an amazing 8-yard touchdown catch in the back of the endzone.

Following a three-and-out series by the defense highlighted by a sack of Brady by defensive end Mario Williams, the offense returned determined to even the score. Schaub completed passes to Foster, Andre Johnson, and Davis, setting up Foster for a 1-yard push into the endzone.

Brady remained in the game with four minutes to play. Dropping back deep for a pass on second down, Brady felt pressure from Williams and lofted a pass which Pollard intercepted.

With emotions high for the Texans and home crowd, the offense called Foster's number on four straight plays, the last of which ending with a 3-yard run for the 34-27 lead with 1:54 remaining. The defense then helped the Patriots force a turnover on downs to secure the win.

Game Balls

When nearly the entire team is seemingly deserving of a game ball, then the coaching staff is probably doing something right. Head coach Gary Kubiak may not be known for mid-game adjustments, but he has a group of players that have shown they are willing to play for him. Winning the last four games of the season, winning a game against the Patriots in which they were down by 14 in the fourth quarter, these are hallmarks of a coach who still has the heartbeat of his team.

Pollard certainly put his stamp on this one. Showing up earlier this season right about the time the defense started playing with an attitude, it was Pollard who was involved in both Patriot turnovers. Sure, he had teammates in front of him forcing the action, but it continues to be Pollard that enforces many of the good things this defense produces.

Offensively, Foster laid early claim to being the bell cow back of the future for this team. For the second week in a row, he had an impressive game. Against the Patriots, Foster carried 20 times for 119 yards and two touchdowns and caught three passes for another 26 yards. But it was his (and the offensive line's) ability to run it up the gut at the end that helped seal this victory for the Texans.

And if Pollard gives the defense its attitude, then Jones surely makes up for it on offense and special teams. Aside from his tip that led to the pick six, Jones put on another show in this one. Amazing catches, thrilling punt returns, and a playfulness to go with a short-term memory, Jones is starting to live up to immense potential.

Key Stat


Sure, a possible spot in the playoffs was on the line for the team, but a huge underlying part of the motivation for the Texans in this game was to finally make this franchise a winner. The comeback, the clutch plays, and the inspired emotion of the fourth quarter all come from a team playing for the pride of the team. For all the ups and downs this team gave us during the 2009 season, the final quarter is what should be most remembered, a milestone of performance and heart that will be the new hallmark of the franchise.

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