November 24, 2002 Texans Pounce on Sleeping Giants
by Ric Sweeney
At times Sunday, it was difficult to distinguish the 2-8 expansion Texans from the Wildcard-chasing Giants. New York, winners of three straight coming into the game, had trouble moving the football offensively, committed costly penalties and turned the ball over twice with the game on the line, helping Houston to their third win of the season, 16-14.
The Texans pinned their hopes on the defense and special teams, both of which came through in a big way. After the Giants took an early fourth quarter lead, 14-13, Houston held New York scoreless the rest of the way, intercepting two passes and knocking down a last second Hail Mary attempt. Meanwhile, kicker Kris Brown capped an 11-play, 41-yard drive by nailing a 50-yard field goal with 7:01 remaining in the game, giving Houston the eventual margin of victory, 16-14.
On the drive, Jonathan Wells rushed for 19 yards and David Carr completed 2-of-3 passes for 22 yards. It was one of Houston’s most productive drives on the day, as the offense struggled. Overall, Carr was 10-23 for 103 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions. But he managed to contribute on the ground, rushing for 54 yards, including 18 on two of Houston’ scoring drives.
The game got off to a sloppy start. Wells fumbled the first play from scrimmage (which Carr recovered), losing seven yards and eventually leading to the first of Chad Stanley‘s nine punts. On the ensuing series, Tiki Barber coughed up the football on New York’s first play from scrimmage, which Jamie Sharper recovered at the Giant 29. But two incomplete passes later, James Allen returned the favor, and New York had dodged an early bullet.
But they couldn’t move the football, nor could Houston, and the first quarter ended in a scoreless tie. But Houston quickly rectified that. As the first quarter wound down, Carr hit Billy Miller for 42 yards to the Giants’ 29. But two holding calls stalled the drive and Brown banged a 40-yard field goal with 12:34 left in the half, giving Houston the lead, 3-0.
And it stayed that way until late in the quarter, when Barber reversed his field on a sweep, broke several tackles and raced down the sideline 70 yards to the Texans’ 23. Four plays later, Barber capped the drive with a 2-yard touchdown run and New York led, 7-3.
After the Giants forced a punt, the Texans did as well, and caught a huge break. Center Bob Jones launched the snap over punter Matt Jones’ head, who raced to catch up to the loose football ahead of charging Texan defenders and kicked it out of the back of the end zone, resulting in Houston’s second safety of the season. And with it, Houston cut the halftime deficit to two, 7-5.
It didn’t take nearly as long for the teams to score in the second half. The Texan defense forced a punt on New York’s opening possession and Jermaine Lewis returned it 39 yards to the Giant 34. After Carr hit Corey Bradford for 16 yards, he pitched left to Allen, who then spun and threw back across the field to Carr, who pumped faked his way to the Giants’ 1-yard line. After a penalty moved Houston back five yards, Wells finished the drive with 3 carries, the last from a yard out, and Houston increased their lead to 13-7 after Carr hit Allen for the two-point conversion.
Things stayed that way until the fourth (thanks to a 33-yard missed field goal by Matt Bryant) when Delvin Jones returned a punt 17 yards to the Giants’ 39. Six plays later, Collins hit Armani Toomer, who bounced off Eric Brown and scampered 31 yards for the go-ahead score, 14-13, with 13:18 left in the game.
But Houston came back and regained the lead on Brown’s field goal and then put the game in the hands on their defense, who came up not once, but twice with turnovers late. The first, an interception by Matt Stevens, set Houston up at the Giants’ 39. But three runs netted 6 yards and the Texans punted.
New York began to drive as Collins hit Toomer for 16 and then Barber for 19, putting them at the Texans’ 31. After Barber lost two yards, Sharper got a piece of Collins’ throwing arm and Jeff Posey intercepted the errant pass one-handed to quell New York’s threat. A last second Hail Mary pass was batted down in the end zone by Marcus Coleman.
Special Teams Kris Brown hit two field goals, including the game wiiner from 50 yards out that would’ve been good from 60 and punter Chad Stanley continued to launch booming punts, enabling the Texans’ return teams to get downfield and make plays, including Jason Bell, who nailed Delvin Joyce on the team’s final punt. And then there was Jermaine Lewis, who was benched last week, racking up 128 return yards, including a 39-yard punt return that set up a score.
Defense Sure, Tiki Barber had a big day, but while the unit bent, they never broke, and kept Houston in the game, despite the offense struggling. They forced three turnovers, including two in the fourth quarter, and two big, timely sacks. Gary Walker and Seth Payne dominated the line of scrimmage and got tremendous push into the Giants’ backfield. That New York’s offensive line committed six penalties is a testament to how much pressure Houston brought.
Perseverance The Giants, winners of three straight and looking toward the playoffs, outgained Houston in total yardage, 386 to 212, and yet, Houston stayed in the game, never gave up, overcame penalties, sacks, pressures, etc. and wound up with the win. Big, big effort all around.
Tackling Or lack thereof. Houston’s defense played well, but missed a lot of tackles on the day, including quite a few on Barber’s 70 yard run. (What was Marcus Coleman doing?)
Offensive Line We know that, whatever the reason, Carr is holding the ball too long. But he was sacked five times and rushed countless others Sunday. On the final play of the first half, New York got to Carr rushing three down linemen. And the running game struggled again as the two running backs averaged 2.8 yards a carry.
Penalties None really killed the Texans, but they did commit 8 and, more damaging, lost 68 yards. On a day when they were only able to generate 212 yards of offense, 68 yards is a lot to overcome; against a better team, that might have been a huge factor.
Trailing 14-13, the Texans attempted a 50-yard field goal with 7:01 remaining, and Kris Brown stepped up and nailed it with at least 10 yards to spare, giving Houston the lead, 16-14.
The kick was Brown’s second game-winner of the year as he once again justified Charley Casserly’s decision to pursue him this offseason, despite a rough 2001 and the fact he cost Houston a draft pick (not to mention a fat contract).
Offense The numbers may tell a different story, but Jonathan Wells ran for 65 tough yards Sunday and scored a touchdown from a yard out to help Houston control the clock and win the time of possession battle.
Defense Lots of worthy candidates, including trench warrior Gary Walker, who had two stuffs behind the line of scrimmage, including one at the goalline, and Jeff Posey, who had a sack and a game-saving interception. But Jamie Sharper also had a stuff at the goal line, recovered an early fumble, forced another one and made Posey’s interception possible by hitting Collins’ throwing arm.
Special Teams Great to see Jermaine Lewis bounce back with 128 return yards, but the nod has to go to Kris Brown, who scorched a 50-yard in the fourth quarter to give Houston the win.
Final 1 2 3 4 F Giants 0 7 0 7 14 Texans 0 5 8 3 16 PASS ATT CMP YDS TD/IN Carr 23 10 103 0/0 Collins 41 18 214 1/2 RUSH ATT YDS AVG TD Wells 24 68 2.8 1 Barber 19 146 7.7 1 REC NO YDS AVG TD Miller 4 70 17.5 0 Toomer 8 113 14.1 1
2002 Record: (7-4) 12.01.02 | 3:05pm
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