January 3, 2005
Dawg-Gone Texans Buried
by Bob Hulsey
One team talked about achieving their first 8-8 season. The other talked about having jobs for next year. It was obvious which team wanted it more.
A three-win Cleveland Brown squad with an interim coach, an interim quarterback, and no motivation to play well outplayed a Houston Texans squad which started the New Year hung over by a 22-14 margin that wasn’t as close as the score would have you believe.
If the football field were 90 yards long instead of 100, the score would have been much worse. Instead, ex-Longhorn Phil Dawson booted five field goals, three from close range, to give the Browns all the points they would need to drop the groggy Texans to 7-9.
For one quarter, the Texan offense had some swagger. They crisply moved the ball 73 yards in nine plays on their second drive of the game to take a 7-3 lead on a six yard rollout pass from David Carr to Jonathan Wells.
Then, like Cinderella’s carriage at the stroke of midnight, Houston’s offensive line turned into a pumpkin. A Cleveland defensive line with household names like Ebenezer Ekuban, Kenard Lang, Gerard Warren and Alvin McKinley beat the Texan front wall like rented stepchildren, making a miserable finale for Carr and his teammates. Carr was sacked six times and pressured on countless more occasions, finishing with just 114 yards passing on the day.
Meanwhile, Cleveland’s Kelly Holcomb – coming back from bruised ribs – started hot and stayed hot, connecting on 20 of 29 passes for 228 yards. While the Texan defense managed to keep him out of the endzone until the third quarter, extending their touchdown-less streak to an NFL-best 13 quarters, Holcomb sliced and diced the Houston secondary on long drives all game.
It wasn’t like Holcomb was perfect. He served up two picks to give the Texans a chance to re-take the lead. The first, by Demarcus Faggins just before halftime, was squandered by Carr and the offense which couldn’t even attempt a field goal they were so busy backpedaling. Coming back from intermission, Jason Simmons nabbed a toss deflected by Jason Babin, but the offense sputtered again and punted.
At last, Holcomb extended a 9-7 halftime lead built by Dawson’s toe with a nine-yard scoring strike to tight end Steve Heiden who dragged defender Kenny Wright across the goal line. The touchdown capped an 80-yard drive which saw the Browns convert three third downs and overcome a 1st-and-25 situation.
Late in the third quarter, Cleveland got a chance for more points when the normally reliable J.J. Moses was stripped from behind by Dyshod Carter at the Houston 29 which was recovered by Eric Westmoreland at the 25. From there, Dawson added field goal #4, a 45-yarder, to increase the lead to 19-7.
The Texans tried to make a desperate comeback in the season’s final stanza but Carr spent much of it running for his life. Their first attempt was a three-and-out that gave an increasing flock of Houston boo birds a chance to empty their lungs. On their second try, they picked up a couple of first downs but found themselves with a 4th-and-1 at the Cleveland 43. While the Browns stacked the spot where Carr would normally do his high jump routine to pick up short yardage, Carr instead faked into the line and rolled right where Warrick Holdman collared him for a three-yard loss to the sound of more boos.
By now, Holcomb had wisely shifted strategy. He used tailback Lee Suggs to milk the clock and move the chains. Bottled for 30 yards at the half, Suggs ended with 131 yards rushing. Due mostly to Suggs’ legs, Dawson drilled his fifth field goal with 4:05 to play to up the lead to 15 points.
From the shotgun, Carr led the Texans on a last-gasp drive of 64 yards on nine plays which ended on a one-yard plunge from Domanick Davis to cut the score to 22-14. Carr did much of the work himself, scrambling for 20 yards on another pass play that didn’t have time to develop. When Cleveland’s Andre King cradled Kris Brown’s onside kick, the game and season were over.
Davis was the lone bright spot on the Houston stat sheet, rushing for 103 yards and picking up 42 more on five receptions but the totals are somewhat misleading. He had 56 yards rushing in the first quarter and padded more in the final drive when the Browns gave ground to burn clock.
The loss leaves a bitter taste for the Texans to live with all winter. They still set a franchise record for wins but the lowly Browns made clear what the Texans should concentrate on upgrading during the offseason.
Not a Whole Lot It didn’t rain only because the Reliant Stadium roof was closed. Other than that, it was a bad performance the whole team could share in. Even the special teamers were caught up in the suckage. Chad Stanley continued his punting slump, Kris Brown dumped one kickoff out of bounds, J.J. Moses fumbled. Heck, even the playing field looked like a George Toma nightmare. When an entire team looks this bad for a game where they had something to play for, you have to put the blame on the coaching staff as well. There ought to be some long looks in the mirror after this debacle.
Pass Protection If 2005 continues to be anything like 2002, Carr better double his health insurance and possibly his life insurance as well. I’ve seen bugs on my windshield more resiliant than the Texans’ offensive line was in the second half. In a game filled with stinky performances, the o-line’s was the most pungent.
Pass Rush No Peek, no pressure. Antwan Peek’s absence due to injury meant that once again the Texans had nobody harassing the quarterback – a particularly aggravating situation given what the Browns were doing to our signal-caller.
Seth Payne His first-quarter injury seemed to be the beginning of the momentum change. It might also be the end of his Texan career. With Junior Ioane inactive, Jerry Deloach and Robaire Smith manned the middle which gave Suggs more holes to run through.
With the Browns up by two midway through the third quarter and with the ball at the Houston 16 on a 3rd-and-four, Holcomb made a sideline toss to backup receiver Frisman Jackson. It was a lateral that was supposed to set up a pass downfield. Instead, the former quarterback sprinted all the way back across the field and out of bounds right at the first-down marker. Given the benefit of the spot, the Browns had a first down which they soon converted to six points. That changed the focus of the game from one of hope to desperation for the home team.
Week 16 Kenard Lang tackles David Carr as he scrambles for a first down. Final Score Houston Texans 14 Cleveland Browns 22 Lookin’ Good
Like Forrest Gump, he manages to show up at important moments. Faggins made a nice defensive play in the endzone to stop one Browns drive then picked off Holcomb which should have led to a halftime lead. Yes, he also failed to dive on J.J. Moses’ third-quarter fumble, but, on a day like this, you have to take your positives where you can find them.
Oh, my eyes!
The whole offensive line deserves the Golden Turkey, but Brown was most fowl. He made critical penalties and was beat in pass protection. Gerard Warren should write him a check. For one game, he made Warren appear to be the number one overall pick in the draft that Gerard once was.
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