October 13, 2002
Tale of Two Halves
by Ric Sweeney
The Texans’ offense looked virtually unstoppable during Sunday’s first half, scoring 17 points and gaining 259 yards. Unfortunately, the high-powered Buffalo Bills, behind Travis Henry’s 159 rushing yards and Drew Bledsoe’s two fourth quarter touchdown passes, were able to overcome Houston’s 14-point, first half deficit and win at Reliant Stadium, 31-24.
The Texans wasted no time exploiting one of the NFL’s worst defenses. On their first play from scrimmage, QB David Carr rolled right and threw a bullet to WR Corey Bradford, who raced 81 yards to the Buffalo 9. Three plays later, Carr again found Bradford, this time in the back of the end zone, but officials ruled the pass incomplete, though replays showed Bradford had possession and two feet on the ground before the ball popped loose. The Texans settled for a 26-yard field goal from K Kris Brown.
Buffalo answered, helped by another questionable call. LB Jeff Posey was flagged for running into the punter, which gave the Bills a new set of downs. But Houston’s defense tightened, as they did for most of the first half, and the Bills eventually kicked a 33-yard field goal, which tied the score, 3-3.
On Houston’s first drive of the second quarter, Carr hit Bradford twice for 36 total yards, including a 19-yard reception on third-and-17, before finding WR Jabar Gaffney, who finished off Carr’s 26-yard touchdown pass with a nice spin move and an aggressive sprint to the pylon. Gaffney’s score, his first of the year, gave Houston a seven point lead, 10-3.
The Texans’ rookie trio of Carr, Gaffney and RB Jonathan Wells helped Houston increase it’s lead on their next drive. Wells rushed four times for 24 yards, Gaffney caught two passes for 22 yards and Carr scrambled 17 yards for the team’s first-ever rushing touchdown, and with 5:11 left in the half, Houston led, 17-3.
The Bills, one of football’s most explosive offensive teams, finally began to move the football effectively on their ensuing drive. Bledsoe completed 4 of 6 passes and Henry scored from a yard out to cut the Texans’ halftime lead to seven, 17-10. But overall, the Texans had dominated Buffalo, holding the proficient Bledsoe to 96 yards on 8/18 passing. The former Patriot entered Sunday’s game averaging 336 yards on 29 completions through his first four games.
After Houston stalled coming out of the second half gate, Buffalo tied the score behind the running of Henry, who gained 49 yards on the 11-play drive, including the final 23, which evened the score at 17-17. Henry’s touchdown came one play after his illegal leg whip wiped out an 8-yard Bledsoe-to-Jay Riemsrsma touchdown.
The Texans’ offense caught a break early in the fourth quarter when Henry fumbled and LB Jamie Sharper recovered at the Bills’ 18. An unnecessary roughness tacked on another 10, and Houston had the ball first-and-10 at the 8. On second down, Carr pitched to RB James Allen, who surprised everyone by stopping and throwing a 5-yard touchdown pass to TE Billy Miller. Houston had regained the lead, 24-17, with 14:15 left in the game.
And they officially seized the game’s momentum on Buffalo’s next series when CB Aaron Glenn broke up a critical third-and-1 pass play. But LB Jay Foreman taunted intended receiver Peerless Price, and Buffalo was given a first down. Foreman then compounded his penalty by grabbing Henry’s face mask on the very next play, which gave Buffalo another 15 yards. Bledsoe eventually hit Eric Moulds from 23 yards out, and the game was again tied, 24-24.
After the Texans went three-and-out, Bledsoe led the Bills back again. He ended their 9-play drive with a 26-yard TD pass to Price with 3:55 left in the game. Trailing, 31-24, Houston made one last gasp at tying the score, moving to the Bills’ 12, thanks to a huge 13-yard scramble from Carr on fourth-and-7. Unfortunately, Carr’s three passes into the end zone fell incomplete and Buffalo managed to get out of Houston with the win.
David Carr Carr spent much of his afternoon, especially the second half, running for his life, but he showed keen pocket presence on several scrambles, threw the ball away when he wasn’t able to find open receivers and didn’t turn the ball over. And his first quarter, 81-yard strike to Bradford was a thing of beauty. Man, does he have a cannon.
Jabar Gaffney and Corey Bradford Gaffney caught three passes and scored a touchdown after making a nice adjustment to a ball thrown slightly behind him. He then outran three Bills to the end zone. Bradford recorded his second consecutive 100-yard receiving effort and made tough catches throughout the first half.
The First Half For 30 minutes, fans were treated to a sneak peek at what’s to come, as Houston dominated Buffalo and built a 17-3 lead. The defense shut down Bledsoe, who looked rattled and confused, and Carr moved the offense, picking apart Buffalo’s 25th-ranked defense.
Jay Foreman Foreman had two, backbreaking personal fouls on consecutive plays early in the fourth quarter that all but sunk Houston’s upset bid. The second, a face mask, is forgivable but a taunting penalty after Aaron Glenn broke up a big third-down pass was a swift kick to the groin. Dumb, dumb, dumb. He was also flagged earlier in the game, accounting for three of Houston’s 11 penalties.
Rush Defense Travis Henry’s a decent back, but he’s not 159 yards good. The Texans’ containment was poor, their tackling even worse and he eventually wore Houston down, allowing Bledsoe to step in and finish them off in the fourth quarter.
Second Half Offense After generating 259 yards in the first half, the Texans’ offense played not to lose after intermission and their lack of production took its toll on the defense. Houston managed only 79 yards on six second half possessions, three of which ended after three plays. After holding Bledsoe in check for three quarters (13/26, 152 yards, 0 TDs), the defense began to show signs of wear in the fourth, as Bledsoe led the Bills to victory on 6/7 passing for 102 yards and 2 TDs.
With 12:41 left in the game, Buffalo trailed 24-17 and faced third-and-1 from their own 34. With the crowd back into the game after James Allen’s touchdown pass, it was a critical moment in the game. And Houston’s defense came through, momentarily.
Bledsoe’s pass to Peerless Price was broken up by Aaron Glenn, who hit Price and knocked the football out of his hands. Overjoyed, LB Jay Foreman taunted Price out of bounds and drew a 15-yard penalty, which gave Buffalo a fresh set of downs. On the very next play, Foreman grabbed Henry’s facemask and was hit with another 15-yard flag. Just like that, Buffalo went from 4th-and-1 at their own 34 to 1st-and-10 at the Texans’ 30. Three plays later, Bledsoe hit Moulds for the tying score, 24-24.
Offense Though he struggled in the second half, this was far and away David Carr‘s best game as a pro. His pocket presence looked much improved, as he avoided pressure, threw the ball away when he had to and made big, drive-saving scrambles. And though he wasn’t able to finish, he looked poised on the Texans’ final drive.
Eric Brown was once again around the football and making plays. He finished (unofficially) with seven tackles and made two big hits on what turned out to be the Bills’ game-winning drive, including a sack/forced fumble that Buffalo unfortunately recovered.
Special Teams Punter Chad Stanley once again did his part in Houston’s quest to win the field position battle, averaging 46.6 yards on five punts, including one inside the Bills’ 20. As has been the case all year, it’s not Stanley’s average that’s so impressive but his his hang time. Ex-Texan Charlie Rogers averaged 4.5 yards on his two returns.
Final 1 2 3 4 F Bills 3 7 7 14 31 Texans 3 14 0 7 24 PASS ATT CMP YDS TD/IN Carr 23 12 218 1/0 Bledsoe 33 19 254 2/0 RUSH ATT YDS AVG TD Wells 12 70 5.8 0 Henry 28 159 5.7 2 REC NO YDS AVG TD Bradford 5 126 25.2 0 Price 8 121 15.1 1
2002 Record: (2-4) 10.20.02 | 12pm
3-23 9.29 @ Eagles 17-35 10.06 OPEN 10.13 BILLS 24-31 10.20 @ Browns 17-34 10.27 @ Jaguars 21-19 11.03 BENGALS 3-38 11.10 @ Titans 10-17 11.17 JAGUARS 21-24 11.24 GIANTS 16-14 12.01 @ Colts 3-19 12.08 @ Steelers 24-6 12.15 RAVENS 19-23 12.22 @ Redskins 10-26 12.29 TITANS 3-13 OVERALL 4-12 click on a team to read the GameDay Preview; click on the score to read the GameDay Review