December 30, 2002
Texans Can’t Catch a Break
by Ric Sweeney
The Texans’ 13-3 loss Sunday to the Titans ultimately came down to two pass plays. Tennessee completed theirs; Houston didn’t.
With 1:09 left in the first half, QB David Carr threw a perfect pass to WR Avion Black, who had beaten his man to the end zone and was in perfect position to score Houston’s first offensive touchdown since November 24. But the ball glanced off Black’s hands and fell harmlessly incomplete. Rather leading at the half, 7-6, Houston trailed, 6-0.
Early in the fourth quarter, the Texans defense was up to its usual tricks — stepping up their pressure and dragging their struggling offense back into the game. On second down, Gary Walker flushed Steve McNair from the pocket, grabbed him by the jersey and began to haul him to the ground. McNair was able to throw the ball away but his pass failed to cross the line of scrimmage, resulting in an intentional grounding call, setting up a 3rd-and-24 from the Tennessee 29.
But on the next play, McNair hit Drew Bennett, who had beaten Jason Bell, 53 yards downfield to the Texans’ 18. And five plays later, Eddie George scored from 4 yards out to put a final nail in Houston’s coffin, 13-3, with 5:14 remaining.
Not that Houston didn’t have other opportunities. Completing four in a row, Carr moved the Texans’ to the Tennessee 19 on the game’s opening drive. But a holding call on Billy Miller, coupled with a 3-yard loss from Jonathan Wells, forced Kris Brown to attempt a 50-yard field goal, which sailed wide left.
Tennessee answered by making their field goal, from 28-yards out, and led early, 3-0. Later in the quarter and into the second, Houston moved into Tennessee territory again.
This time, Houston effectively moved the football on the ground, as James Allen ran three times for 12 yards and Carr scrambled twice for 7, the last of which came up a yard short of the end zone, forcing Houston to make a decision on fourth down. Dom Capers elected to kick the field goal, which Samarie Rolle blocked.
Later in the half, another special teams blunder led to three more points for Tennessee. Chad Stanley‘s punt was blocked with 4:35 left in the half. But Tennessee could not punch it in from the Texans’ 22 and settled for a 26-yard field goal to give them the 6-0 halftime lead.
Houston’s lone points came late in the third quarter as Carr moved the team downfield, hitting Jabar Gaffney twice for 24 yards, Jabari Holloway once for 14 yards and James Allen on a middle screen which gained 8. But Wells lost 6 yards from the Tennessee 14, and the team was forced to kick a field goal, which Brown nailed from 31 yards. On the play, rookie Albert Hayneswoth was flagged for unnecessary roughness and Capers elected to take the points off the board. But two sacks, and -18 yards later, Brown was forced to hit a 42-yarder, which he did to briefly pull Houston within three, 6-3.
The Offense Moved the Football No one will ever confuse Sunday’s effort with game footage from the ’99 Rams, but the Texans did, somewhat consistently, move the football Sunday against the AFC’s second best team. David Carr threw for 214 yards, completed over 50% of his passes and more often than not, had time to throw the football — the offensive line allowed only three sacks. Not a bad effort heading into the offseason.
Jabar Gaffney He hasn’t done a lot this year, but he showed flashes Sunday, making some tough grabs and running well after several catches. Not sure he’ll ever be the go-to-guy, but he continues to show signs he’s going to be a competent second option. And there’s nothing wrong with that.
Offensive Vote of Confidence Hats off to Dom Capers and his staff for boldly taking points off the board and handing the keys to Carr and the offense in the third quarter. Especially coming after his rather gutless call to kick a field goal on fourth-and-goal from the Titans’ 1 early in the second quarter.
Special Teams This team simply can’t afford two blocked kicks and a missed field goal. So, kudos to the defense for holding Tennessee in check, especially after the blocked punt.
The Running Game Jonathan Wells carried 13 times for 1 yard and he actually had a 7-yard run thrown into the mix. Take that away, and he carried 12 times for -6 yards. Yuck.
Tennessee’s Game Plan To call Tennessee boring is an insult to boring teams. But, to their credit, their style of play negated a crowd anxious for something to cheer for and severely cut down on the Texans’ offensive opportunities.
Several candidates, including the blocked field goal (a gimme that would have made the score 6-6 heading into the fourth quarter) and Black’s huge drop, but the backbreaker was Drew Bennett’s 53-yard reception on 3rd-and-24 with 8:48 left in the game.
Gary Walker had just gotten to McNair, the crowd was finally into the game, and Houston was set to get decent field position on the punt that was coming right after Houston stopped Tennessee on third down… Oops! Bennett’s nice grab set up Eddie George’s game-clinching 4-yard TD run with 5:14 left in the game.
David Carr once again showed flashes, making some unbelievably tough passes while showing poise and a smidgen of confidence. But best of all, he survived 16 games, taking every single snap, behind one of the worst offensive lines ever assembled. Thank the maker!
Gary Walker anchored a tough line that bottled up not only Eddie George (102 pedestrain yards), but kept the scrambling McNair in check, too. And while the stat sheet only reads one sack, we’re giving him credit for one where McNair intentionally grounded a pass to try and avoid one.
Special Teams Tough week for the special teams unit. The usual suspects, Stanley and Brown, both had kicks blocked and Brown missed from 50 yards. So Jason Bell gets the call for his three tackles.
Final 1 2 3 4 F Titans 3 3 0 7 13 Texans 0 0 3 0 3 PASS ATT CMP YDS TD/IN Carr 40 21 214 0/1 McNair 22 8 148 0/0 RUSH ATT YDS AVG TD Allen 6 20 3.3 0 George 25 102 4.1 1 REC NO YDS AVG TD Gaffney 6 73 12.2 0 Bennett 2 58 29 0
2002 Record: (6-4) 12.01.02 | 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