A Rush to the Head

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November 9, 2003
A Rush to the Head

by Ric Sweeney

Against the Bengals on Sunday, the Texans resembled an episode of What’s Happening without actress Danielle Spencer: No D.

Cincinnati, led by Corey Dillon’s back-up, Rudi Johnson, who totaled 182 yards on 43 carries, rushed for 240 yards overall, scored three times in the second half and played keep away in the fourth quarter, overcoming a seven point, second half deficit to win, 34-27.

After building a 27-24 lead entering the game’s final stanza, the Texans’ offense managed only four offensive touches as they stood on the sidelines watching Johnson and QB Jon Kitna pick apart their woefully overmatched defense. The Bengals held the ball for all but 2:35 of the final 15 minutes, scoring twice on a 1-yard run from Johnson (which put Cincinnati ahead to stay, 31-27) and a 40-yard field goal from Shane Graham, which finished the day’s scoring. The Texans had one last chance to tie after Graham’s FG, but David Carr’s first pass of the drive was tipped twice and intercepted.

The Bengals started the day’s scoring, too, taking the opening kickoff 77 yards on 13 plays, many of them without a huddle as the Bengals tried to take advantage of Houston’s injury-depleted defensive line. Johnson carried 5 times for 36 yards, leading to a 6-yard touchdown toss from Kitna to Brandon Bennett, giving Cincinnati an early 7-0 lead.

Houston responded after JJ Moses returned the ensuing kickoff 38 yards to the Bengals’ 44, leading to a 45-yard field goal from Kris Brown. After a quarter, the Texans trailed, 7-3, but not for long.

On the first play of the second quarter, Carr hit Corey Bradford on a slant and the speedster outran five defenders 73 yards to the end zone to push Houston in front, 10-7. But Cincinnati went back to Johnson, who rushed 9 times for 50 yards before giving way to fullback Jeremi Johnson, who plowed in from a yard out to cap a 14-play, 74-yard drive that ate up 8:02 and gave Cincinnati a 14-10 lead.

The Bengals would increase their lead after Chad Stanley’s punt of 20 yards gave Cincinnati excellent field position at the 50. Peter Warrick followed that with a 20-yard end-around, but Cincy’s drive stalled and they had to settle for Graham’s 40-yarder, which increased their lead to seven, 17-10, with 2:37 to go in the half. But back-to-back miscues by Warrick gave Houston one more crack at the end zone.

Warrick’s illegal motion wiped out a huge third down conversion and he followed that up by running the wrong route (or, as CBS’ lead announcer for the game, Don Criqui, would say, "root"). Kenny Wright jumped on Kitna’s pass and picked it off in Cincy territory. A holding call on Chester Pitts wiped out a 10-yard toss to Johnson and moved Houston back to their own 46, but Domanick Davis finally broke out with a 16-yard blast. Carr then hit the rookie for 11, before tucking and scrambling for 19 big yards to the Bengal 8. Two plays later, he hit Jabar Gaffney for the 8-yard score and the Texans went into the break tied at 17.

Davis picked up where left off, breaking a 51-yard run on the opening drive of the second half before finishing off the 6-play drive with runs of 11 and 1 to push Houston ahead, 24-17. But then Johnson came roaring back. His 17-yard scamper capped a 9-play drive in which he accounted for 45 yards, and the game was tied at 24.

Moses again set Houston up in excellent field position with a 45-yard kick return as Carr and the offense took advantage. Twice, the Texans went for it on fourth down, the second on 4th-and-8 from the Cincy 27. Carr hit Johnson for 17 yards. But Carr took a sack and the team had to settle for a 33-yard field goal from Brown, giving Houston the lead once more, 27-24. From there, Cincinnati took control of the game.

Returning from injury, Carr looked rusty, missing several receivers, including two deep balls to Bradford. Overall, Carr finished 11-of-25 for 146 yards, 2 TDs and an interception. Davis cracked the century mark again, rushing for 104 yards on 15 carries.

What Went Right?

Double D Davis wasn’t consistently great; in fact, he struggled most of the afternoon, but sometimes, great backs are held in check and have to pick their spots. Davis flashed both his patience and game-breaking skills Sunday after his first five carries netted 6 yards. He kept his head in the game and broke out in a big way when the team needed him. His sixth carry went for 16 yards and helped Houston score before the half. His next three carries went for 9, 51 and 11 before he scored from 2 yards out.

In and Out As the first half wound down, the Texans turned a Kenny Wright pick into six points, moving 44 yards in :53 seconds after overcoming a holding penalty on their first play, post turnover. That, in and of itself, is worthy of mention, but wasn’t it gratifying to see the offense seize the momentum and carry it over to the second half? They followed the intermission with another six points on an impressive 83-yard drive, fueled by Davis’ 51-yard scamper.

27 Hard to imagine a team scoring 27 points through three quarters and losing… Regardless, the offense took advantage of great field position, played with urgency, mixed things up and matched Cincinnati point-for-point for 45 minutes. If they play like this next week against the Bills, win #4 is viable.

What Went Wrong?

D-spicable Granted, Corey Sears, Junior Ioane and Steve Martin are, under ideal conditions, back-ups, but, then again, so is Rudi Johnson. Let’s just move on…

Special (Ed) Teams JJ Moses had 87 yards of returns wiped out by penalties; Chad Stanley had punts of 20 and 34 yards, which turned into 10 points, the kickoff team gave up returns of 31 and 23 and Kris Brown’s two field goals both clanked off the upright. Granted, they were good, and there was a wind, but it was a rough day for the special teams.

The Monkey The Texans failed for the seventh time in their history to string together consecutive wins, and with each passing failure, the pressure intensifies. Fortunately, they have an Atlanta/Jacksonville sandwich to close out the month.

Key Play Of The Game

Trailing by four with 8:24 left in the game, the Texans’ defense stepped up it’s game, knocking Rudi Johnson for a loss and forcing a key 3rd-and-7 at the Cincinnati 24. Kitna’s pass, intended for Chad Johnson, falls incomplete but Marcus Coleman is whistled for illegal contact, giving the Bengals a new set of downs.

Cincinnati proceeds to run 12 plays, draining 5:47 from the clock. By the time Houston’s offense takes the field again, 2:26 is left in the game and the lead has swelled to seven. What could the offense have done with 8 minutes? We’ll never know…

Week 9 Review Andre Johnson keys Corey Bradford’s 73-yard dash to the end zone. Final Score Houston Texans 27 Cincinnati Bengals 34 Lookin’ Good

JJ Moses
Moses set up two scores with kick returns into Cincy territory. On the day, he totaled 186 yards on kick returns and had a 48-yard punt return wiped out by penalty. He was a tangible threat each and every time he touched the ball. Now, if he could only learn to out run the kicker…

Oh, my eyes!

The Run Defense
The Bengals dominated the line of scrimmage, wore down a depleted defensive line and attacked Jay Foreman all afternoon. The Bengals rushed for 240 yards on 57 carries and held the ball for 41 minutes.

2003 Schedule Date Opponent Result 08.09 Denver 12-20 08.15 at Dallas 6-34 08.23 San Diego 17-19 08.28 at Tampa Bay 3-34 Regular Season 09.07 at Miami 21-20 09.14 at New Orleans 10-31 09.21 Kansas City 14-42 09.28 Jacksonville 24-20 10.05 Bye 10.12 at Tennessee 17-38 10.19 New York Jets 14-19 10.26 at Indianapolis 21-30 11.02 Carolina 14-10 11.09 at Cincinnati 27-34 11.16 at Buffalo 12-10 11.23 New England 20-23 11.30 Atlanta 17-13 12.07 at Jacksonville 0-27 12.14 at Tampa Bay 3-16 12.21 Tennessee 24-27 12.28 Indianapolis 17-20   Overall Record 5-11