Texans Work Overtime, Can’t Cash In

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November 23, 2003
Texans Work Overtime, Can’t Cash In

by Ric Sweeney

The Texans won the coin toss, blocked an Adam Vinatieri field goal, sacked Tom Brady at his own 4-yard line and marched into Patriot territory not once but twice in the franchise’s first-ever overtime game Sunday. in fact, Houston did everything right in the extra frame except find a way to put points on the board as the AFC East-leading Patriots escaped from Reliant Stadium, 23-20. The loss dropped Houston to 4-7 on the season, and drained the life out of their faint postseason hopes.

The overtime period marked a stark contrast to the third and fourth quarters, during which Houston took full advantage of the many opportunities they created to build a late, seemingly safe lead against a 9-2 New England team that has now won seven straight games.

The Texans, who managed only three points in the game’s first 41 minutes, used three Patriot turnovers to take a 20-13 lead with 3:15 remaining in regulation. But with :40 left, Brady threw a 4-yard touchdown pass to Daniel Graham to cap a 9-play, 80-yard drive that sent the game into overtime.

After winning the coin toss, Tony Banks’ first play from scrimmage was intercepted by Mike Vrabel at the Texan 23. The Patriots played for the field goal, leaving Vinatieri a 36-yard chip shot. But Ramon Walker broke into New England’s backfield and blocked the kick, giving Banks and the Texans a reprieve. Banks responded, converting two third downs to drive to the Patriot 40, but a botched end-around to Andre Johnson, followed by a Johnson drop, stalled the drive and forced a punt.

Pinned deep, Brady was sacked by Jamie Shaper at his own four, forcing New England to punt from their end zone. But Houston played safe, running Domanick Davis twice from the Patriot 35. He was stopped for no gain and then thrown for a 5-yard loss, knocking Houston out of field goal range and forcing them to punt for a second time in Patriot territory.

Brady, helped by two defensive holding penalties (the second, on Kenny Wright, was not evident on subsequent replays), moved New England and Vinatieri into field goal range, leading to the 28-yard, game-winning boot with :40 left in overtime.

New England’s offense rolled up 472 yards of offense, but made crucial mistakes in the second half to let the Texans, who managed only 9 yards in the second quarter and 169 overall, stay in the game.

Trailing 10-3 with 4:43 left in the third quarter, Marcus Coleman intercepted Brady and raced 29 yards to the Patriot 11. Banks, who was just 10-of-25 for 93 yards, hit Johnson two plays later from 10 yards out to tie the score at 10.

The Patriots picked up where their offense left off prior to the pick, moving to the Houston 8. But Antowain Smith was dropped for a 4-yard loss and Brady was sacked by Junior Ioane and Shantee Orr, leading to a 32-yard field goal from Vinatieri, temporarily giving the Pats the lead, 13-10. The Texans would again use a sack to thwart a promising Patriot drive when, on their next possession, New England moved to Houston’s 31. But on first down, Kailee Wong blasted Brady and Jay Foreman picked up the fumble, rumbling 33 yards to the Patriot 31.

Banks converted a key 3rd-and-9 with a 12-yard pass to Johnson and then found a wide-open Billy Miller for the 16-yard touchdown to put the Texans ahead, 17-13. After a defensive hold, Walker made his first big special teams play of the game, blocking Ken Walters’ punt, which gave Houston the ball at the Patriot 20. After 8 yards from Davis, Brown kicked a 31-yard field goal to increase Houston’s lead to seven, 20-13.

Brown also started the afternoon’s scoring, capping a 14-play, 79-yard drive with a 19-yarder. The Texans had to settle for three after they failed to score with a fresh set of downs at the Patriots’ 1-yard line. A nifty, 13-yard catch-and-run lateral to Jabar Gaffney set Houston up at the goal line, but Davis’ two attempts to score failed and Johnson dropped a pass in the end zone.

Houston also blew another big chance to alter the game’s course when, with 8:10 left in the first half, Eric Brown intercepted Brady at the goal line, only to fumble on the ensuing return. Given a second chance after recovering Brown’s gaffe, New England hit pay dirt on Vinatieri’s 21-yard field goal to increase their lead, 10-3.

What Went Right?

The Pass Rush It wasn’t consistent (Brady, after all, had time to wed, impregnate and divorce each of the Brady Bunch sisters, not to mention Carol and Alice, on his 33-yard completion to Graham on New England’s game-tying drive) but the Texans did fluster the Patriot signal caller. Wong’s sack forced a fumble that led to a score and Sharper’s sack in OT was, for a spell, the first nail in New England’s coffin. It was easy to dismiss their improved play last week against an awful Buffalo line, but after a second consecutive strong performance, perhaps the Texans’ pass rush has turned a corner, thanks in large part to Shantee Orr.

Resiliency The Texans trailed most of the game and were being pushed around by an obviously superior team, but they refused to give up, kept their heads right with ball and nearly pulled off the upset. The defense gave up yardage, but few points, made big plays when they had to and watched the offense take advantage of their gritty play. The Texans turned three turnovers into 17 points and blocked a field goal in overtime to keep the game tied. Tough loss, but difficult not to be proud of the effort.

Jabar Gaffney’s Run Chris Palmer loves the gimmick. Man, does he love it. At the Patriot 14, Palmer called a lateral to Gaffney, who looked downfield to throw. Sensing either nothing open or the wall of blockers in front of him, Gaffney wisely tucked the football, ran right, avoided two would-be tacklers and made an aggressive and determined cut to the end zone. A terrific tackle by Rodney Harrison and Eugene Wilson prevented Gaffney from stretching across the goal line, and the Texans eventually had to settle for a field goal, but Gaffney flashed big-play potential on the run.

What Went Wrong?

The Goal Line Early in the first quarter, the Texans had a first and goal at the Patriot 1 in a scoreless game. In that situation, against a team like New England, they have to score six points, not three. Davis carried twice for no gain (get well soon, Stacey Mack) and Johnson dropped a tough catch that nonetheless hit him in the hands.

Overtime Possessions The Texans made plays in overtime. Unfortunately, they failed to capitalize. Shantee Orr drew a flag on the opening kick-off, Tony Banks threw an interception on the first play after that, Andre Johnson dropped a key second down pass and Domanick Davis rushed for -5 yards on two consecutive running plays from the Patriot 35. Houston squandered two drives that moved into Patriot territory and had a (albeit ,questionable) flag overturn an interception.

Not the Wright Call Marlon McCree’s game-saving interception with 2:54 remaining was negated by a defensive holding flag on Kenny Wright. Problem was, subsequent replays seemingly showed no infractions whatsoever by Wright, who had his man covered step-for-step. Five plays later, Vinatieri nailed the game-winner. Wright’s flag followed an equally questionable defensive holding call on Sharper.

Key Play Of The Game

Unmolested on a corner blitz, Jamie Sharper had sacked Brady at his own four, forcing a punt that gave Houston excellent field position at the Patriot 35 with 5:50 left in overtime. At the tail end of Kris Brown’s range, the Texans needed positive yardage, but more importantly, couldn’t afford to lose any yardage.

After stuffing Domanick Davis for no gain on first down, Willie McGinest blasted Davis again, this time 5 yards behind the line of scrimmage, effectively knocking Houston out of field goal range and forcing a punt. New England scored the winning points on the subsequent drive.

Week 11 Review Andre Johnson can’t corral a goal line pass in the first half. Final Score Houston Texans 20 New England Pats 23 Lookin’ Good

Ramon Walker
Walker made two incredibly big special teams plays, including blocking Adam Vinatieri’s potential game-winning field goal in overtime that gave the Texans a second chance after Tony Banks’ interception.

Oh, my eyes!

Andre Johnson
Yes, both of AJ’s drops on Sunday (one in the end zone, the other in overtime) were tough catches, but here’s the frank bottom line: the great WRs make those kind of catches. Johnson also fumbled an end-around in overtime.

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