November 16, 2003
Texans Make the Bills Pay
by Keith Weiland
Forgive Houston fans for being a bit pessimistic about their chances of success when their pro football team travels to Buffalo. Old habits die hard.
The same might be said of the Texans’ playoff hopes in 2003. With a 12-10 victory on Sunday over the Bills, the team keeps its hopes alive – albeit barely – for a possible postseason berth as a wild card.
Receiver Andre Johnson’s 46-yard touchdown catch late in the first half kept the murmur of those hopes alive. The pass came from backup quarterback Tony Banks, subbing for the injured David Carr, who suffered a contusion on his throwing shoulder in the first quarter.
The win is the fourth on the season for the Texans, ensuring that they will have at least as many wins as they had during their expansion season of a year ago. The Texans (4-6) finished the 2002 season with a record of 4-12.
Banks, who led the team to victory two weeks ago over Carolina, needed to enter the game after former Texan linebacker Jeff Posey sacked Carr in the endzone for a safety. While perhaps unspectacular, Banks was quite efficient, completing 11 of 16 passes for 207 yards for the game.
The Bills, meanwhile, remain in a mysterious funk on offense. Failing to score a touchdown for the third consecutive game, even Buffalo’s kicker, Rian Lindell, appeared out of sorts. He failed to connect on two of his four attempts, including one from 29 yards away.
It was, however, just the tonic the 29th-ranked Texans’ defense needed after giving up 34 points one week ago. Though they allowed yet another 100-yard rusher in Travis Henry, the defense continued a "bend but don’t break" attitude that kept the Bills out of the endzone. Three times the Buffalo offense pushed its way inside the Texans’ 20-yard line, only to come away with three points total to show for it.
The Texans’ defense did their part to keep the playoff heart pumping on life support. Missing both cornerback Marcus Coleman and outside linebacker Antwan Peek to suspension, the team mounted enough of a pass rush to keep Bledsoe off balance, and it was especially clutch on the Bills’ final drive of the game.
Trailing by four points and needing a touchdown to win, the Bills were on Houston’s 31 with two minutes left to play. Linebacker Jamie Sharper sacked quaterback Drew Bledsoe and forced a fumble as he dropped back to pass. The Texans then kept the clock moving, even letting Johnson run out the final play in the back of the endzone for the game’s second safety.
Pass Rush The Texans finally found a way to get to the quarterback and bring him down. Nevermind that the Bills were minus their starting tackle, Mike Williams, or that their quarterback, Drew Bledsoe, looked more wooden than a log cabin. The fact remains that they pressured Bledsoe when they needed to. A sack and forced fumble put this game away for good.
Jamie Sharper And it was Sharper delivering that sack and forced fumble. Sharper filled gaps and played consisent pass coverage for the entire game to pace his team with six tackles and six assists. He actually notced two forced fumbles in the game, and proved once again that the team that wins the turnover battle is typically the one that wins the game, just as it was on Sunday for the Texans.
Andre Johnson With 122 yards receiving, Johnson sets a new personal best. His 46-yard breakaway touchdown reception restakes his claim for the league’s Offensive Rookie of the Year award, something he’s trying to wrestle away from teammate Domanick Davis. Johnson has made the wide receiver screen pass a staple of offensive coordinator Chris Palmer’s gamplan. In the fourth quarter, Johnson took a 1-yard pass from Banks at midfield and streaked 42 yards down the sideline to the Buffalo 9. The play set up a Kris Brown field goal to extend the Texans’ late lead to four points.
Return Game The absence of J.J. Moses was noticeable. Supplemental pick Tony Hollings tried to squeeze into Moses’ diminutive shoes to return kickoffs, but he averaged a measley 10.7 yards in his three returns. Gaffney’s failure to make a fair catch on a Bills’ punt in the first quarter pinned the offense on their own 2-yard line, leading to a sack and safety by former Texan Jeff Posey.
Ground Attack The Texans averaged only 1.2 yards per rush against a stingy Buffalo front seven. Andre Johnson’s last play safety, which took 34 rushing yards off the totals, didn’t help the numbers look any better, but Domanick Davis was little threat to cross the century mark on Sunday, rushing the ball for 68 yards on 26 carries. The interior of the Texan offensive line was overmatched most of the game by former Texas A&M Aggies Pat Williams and Sam Adams. That said, it was a heads-up play on the first safety by left guard Todd Washington to push the ball away from the Bills’ Sam Adams in the endzone, preventing a touchdown.
Run Defense The weekly culprit rears its head once again. Depsite an odd preference by Buffalo to pass on several third-and-short situations, Bills running back Travis Henry had no trouble cracking the 100-yard mark before halftime. Had he also not cracked his right fibula before halftime as well, he might have posted another C-note in the second half. For the most part, the Texans tackled well, but a big whiff by cornerback Kenny Wright in the second quarter allowed Henry to scamper downfield for a 64-yard gain, setting up a Bills field goal to extend their lead to 5-0.
Down 5-0 with 2:02 left to play in the first half, the Texans were hoping to at least put some points on the board during their two-minute drill. Tony Banks connected with Domanick Davis twice to move the ball down to the Buffalo 46-yard line in forty seconds.
Banks then turns to his gamebreaker, Andre Johnson, who catches a pass at the Bills’ 35 in between three defenders. All three converge on rookie, but Johnson proves too difficult to bring down. He burns a trail into the end zone to make the score 6-5. The score gave the Texans the lead, but more importantly, it sucked the life out of the Bills.
Week 10 Review Outside linebacker Kailee Wong sacks quarterback Drew Bledsoe. Final Score Houston Texans 12 Buffalo Bills 10 Lookin’ Good
Knowing that former Oiler offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride isn’t on the Texan sideline is enough to make Palmer look like genius. Despite losing his starting quarterback, Palmer kept pushing a gameplan that minimized the possibility for turnovers and put the ball into the hands of his best weapon, Andre Johnson.
Oh, my eyes!
The actual conversion play itself wasn’t so much the problem. It took instant replay to determine that the rush by Kailee Wong wasn’t enough to cross the goalline. The bigger problem is the decision to go for two so early. In such a close game, there’s no way of knowing just how valuable that extra point might have been.
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