Second Half Turbulence

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December 5, 2004
Second Half Turbulence

by Keith Weiland

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: The Texans take a first half lead only to go scoreless in the second half to lose. Though it sounds an awful lot like what happened against the Packers two weeks ago, it’s what the Texans did yet again versus the Jets.

After taking a slim 7-6 lead into halftime, the Texans allowed the Jets to outscore them 23-0 in the final two quarters, losing 29-7 on the road. The loss drops the Texans to a 5-7 record, all but mathematically eliminating them from playoff consideration.

Missed opportunities highlighted the first quarter for both teams. The Texans failed on the first of two fourth down attempts when quarterback David Carr underthrew his receiver, Andre Johnson, streaking into the endzone. Later, tight end Mark Bruener was called for holding, negating a 60-yard touchdown run for Domanick Davis.

The Jets, meanwhile, jumped to an early 6-0 lead but failed to reach the endzone both times. The Texans then took the lead in the second quarter when Davis ran for a 2-yard score. The drive’s key play had been a 37-yard pass from Carr to Johnson down to the Jet 25.

Down by a point at the half, the Jets claimed the 13-7 lead in the third quarter on a 4-yard touchdown run by Curtis Martin. The score had been set up by a 46-yard Santana Moss punt return down to the Texan 4-yard line.

Following the Texans’ next drive that stalled after two penalties, including a bizarre intentional grounding call on Carr, Jets quarterback Chad Pennington threw a 5-yard scoring pass to Martin to increase the lead to 19-7. Pennington, returning to the field after sitting out his last three games due to injury, missed the two-point conversion attempt on an incomplete pass to receiver Wayne Chrebet.

Carr, who had rallied his team from 18 points down the week before, tried to ignite a comeback on the Texans’ next drive, but he was intercepted by Erik Coleman. Pennington made the Texans pay for the turnover, as he found tight end Anthony Becht in the endzone to bump the Jet lead to 26-7 with just more than nine minutes to play in the fourth quarter. A field goal late by the Jets sealed the final at 29-7.

Carr finished the day competing just 12 of his 25 passes for 157 yards and two interceptions. He was, however, able to find his star target often, as seven of those completions were to Johnson for 125 yards.

The offense could only muster 76 yards of total offense in the second half, failing to score double-digit points in a game for the first time all season. The seven points scored was the lowest offensive output by the team since scoring only three points against the Bucs almost one year ago.

The schedule won’t get any easier next week, as the Texans return home to face a super-hot Colts team averaging more than 45 points per game over the last month, including the 49 points they scored in their last meeting with the Texans.

What Went Right?

Angry Dre Andre Johnson muscled receptions out of defenders’ hands, and he bullied his way through arm tackles for extra yardage. The 125 receiving yards he amassed was his second-highest total of the season, and his seven receptions were the third-most. The yardage put him over 1,000 receiving yards for the season, a career high, and was perhaps enough to earn him a ticket to Honolulu next February.

The Rooks Came to Play Cornerback Dunta Robinson and linebacker Jason Babin offered a glimpse into the future of the Texans defense, as each had nice games in the loss. Robinson, a probable candidate for Defensive Rookie of the Year, intercepted Pennington once and made eight tackles, second on the team behind Jamie Sharper. Babin, who had six tackles of his own mostly in run support, also sacked Pennington on a first down attempt.

Carr Took a Lick, but Came Back Ticking This game could have been a whole lot different if Carr had been more seriously injured on a first quarter sack. The Jets’ Eric Barton, stunted on a blitz against Seth Wand that Jonathan Wells was unable to read, and smacked Carr’s blindside, leaving the Texan quarterback facedown in the Giants Stadium turf through a commerical break. Tony Banks relieved Carr for one play, but thankfully, Carr returned and later led a touchdown drive to give his team the halftime lead.

What Went Wrong?

Second Half Fudge Someone needs to keep the fudge away from the Texans at halftime. The offense was unable to score second half points for the second time in three games, as the running game found little room and the passing game fired blanks. Not too many teams win in the NFL after putting up goose eggs in the second half.

Ill-Timed Penalties The Texans were only flagged five times, but most of them came at critical moments. The first arrgh-inspiring penalty came when TE Mark Bruener held his man to allow RB Domanick Davis break a 60-yard touchdown run. Then, while trying to respond after the Jets claimed a 13-7 lead, the Texans were flagged twice on consecutive plays. The first was an unexplanable intentional grounding call that cost the Texans both the down and 10 yards. Then on 3rd-and-18, OG Chester Pitts caught laundry for a 15-yard personal foul, effectively killing the drive.

Run Defense The Jets have a future Hall of Famer in the backfield in Curtis Martin, so the Texans knew that stopping the run would be a key to victory. Still, they were unable to do so, as the Jets outrushed the Texans 210-83, and they held onto the football for almost ten minutes more than the Texans. Allowing opposing teams to average 5.8 yards per rush just won’t cut the playoff muster.

Key Play Of The Game

Early in the third quarter, up 7-6, the Texans failed to get a first down from inside their own 3-yard line, setting up a dangerous punt situation for Chad Stanley on fourth down.

An early deep snap saw the ball hit the referee and bounce out of bounds for an apparent safety, but the Texans caught a break when official Tom White noted that play had yet to begin because "everyone was not ready, including the referee."

A second attempt at the punt went cleanly off the foot of Stanley for no return, but a holding penalty on long snapper Bryan Pittman meant that Stanley had to punt it one more time from deep in his own endzone.

At the 9:02 mark, Stanley boomed a second punt 47 yards downfield on his third attempt, and disaster was averted. But another disaster was waiting, as the Jet returner, Santana Moss ran the return sideline-to-sideline, spun past Eric Brown, then scampered 46-yards down to the Texan 4-yard line.

After a flag for a block in the back during the punt return was waved off by White, Curtis Martin ran in the remaining four yards for the 13-7 lead, and the Texans were out of sync for the remainder of the game.

Week 12 Curtis Martin leaps over the goalline for a third quarter touchdown. Final Score Houston Texans 7 New York Jets 29 Lookin’ Good

Andre Johnson
And to think the Texans almost traded the 3rd overall pick in 2003 to the Jets… Johnson was his All-Pro self once again, accounting for 7 of Carr’s 12 completions and 80% of his passing yards. He made at least two highlight reel catches, including one where he went Angry Dre and pulled the football out of the defender’s hands.

Oh, my eyes!

Moran Norris
Norris’ role in the Texan offense is simple: block, block some more, and, um, block again. So when the Texans called a play in which Norris was to carry the football on purpose, it was the first time ever in his NFL career that the fullback attempted to run with with the football. The result? No gain.

2004 Schedule Date Opponent Result 08.14 Dallas 18-0 08.21 at Pittsburgh 3-38 08.27 at Denver 17-31 09.02 Tampa Bay 9-17 Regular Season 09.12 San Diego 20-27 09.19 at Detroit 16-28 09.26 at Kansas City 24-21 10.03 Oakland 30-17 10.10 Minnesota 28-34 10.17 at Tennessee 20-10 10.24 BYE — 10.31 Jacksonville 20-6 11.07 at Denver 13-31 11.14 at Indianapolis 14-49 11.21 Green Bay 13-16 11.28 Tennessee 31-21 12.05 at New York Jets 7-29 12.12 Indianapolis 14-23 12.19 at Chicago 24-5 12.26 at Jacksonville 21-0 01.02 Cleveland 14-22   Overall Record 7-9