Avert Your Eyes

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January 2, 2006
Avert Your Eyes

by Warren DeLuca

We needed them to lose…but that doesn’t mean we had to enjoy it. And we definitely didn’t enjoy this one – an ugly game that dragged on into overtime, at which point we begged for the mercy of “sudden death.”

The Texans locked up the title of the worst team in the NFL and secured the top pick in the draft with a 20-17 loss to the San Francisco 49ers. 49er cornerback Mike Adams intercepted a pass from fill-in quarterback Tony Banks in overtime to set up the game winning field goal by San Fran’s Joe Nedney. It’s what we needed to happen, but it wasn’t easy to watch.

The 49ers offense looked completely inept early in the game, and after San Francisco’s first possession punter Andy Lee added to the home team’s frustrations with an 18-yard shank that gave the Texans the ball at the 49er 21-yard line. The Texans converted that gift into a field goal. Ramon Walker blocked Lee’s next punt attempt and Vernand Morency scored a few plays later on a three-yard run to put the Texans up 10-0.

Late in the second quarter, the 49ers were finally able to piece together a scoring drive as rookie quarterback Alex Smith threw his first NFL touchdown pass, a 14-yarder to Brandon Lloyd. Banks stepped in for a pre-halftime kneeldown when David Carr remained on the sideline with an elbow injury. The backup would go the rest of the way for the Texans.

The 49ers tied the game midway through the third quarter with a 42-yard Nedney field goal. The Texans answered quickly with a four-play, 62-yard drive that started and ended with deep balls from Banks to Corey Bradford: first a 31-yard play and then a 25-yard score. Later in the quarter, Banks looked for Donovan Morgan but Adams stepped in for his first pick of the game, which he returned all the way to tie the game at 17-all.

The Texans’ best shot at retaking the lead came when they drove down to the 49er 13-yard line with just over six minutes left in the game, but Kris Brown’s field goal attempt inched just wide of the right upright. San Francisco chewed up most of the rest of regulation with a ground-pounding drive (10 runs and only one pass attempt) that stalled at the Houston 35. The 49ers elected to punt instead of trying for a game-winning field goal, and the Texans ran out the clock to send the game to overtime.

The 49ers won the toss but neither team could get much going. Three plays into the Texans’ second possession, Banks threw his second completion to Adams. The San Francisco defensive back lateraled the ball to teammate Ben Emanuel who returned it to the Houston 21-yard line. Three plays later, Nedney’s kick was good and the game was finally, thankfully, over.

What Went Right?

The #1 Pick The top pick in the 2006 draft belongs to the Texans thanks to today’s loss. Unless Reggie Bush shocks the football world and decides to return to USC for his senior season, the Texans will have the opportunity to add a true impact player to their offense or to trade the valuable pick to the highest bidder. They will also have the top pick in every other round, instead of having the top pick in only one out of every three rounds as they would have if they had ended up tied with the 49ers and Saints.

"E" for Effort Granted that it was against the lowly 49ers, but Texan players and coaches deserve some credit for almost winning a road game without Domanick Davis, Jonathan Wells, Gary Walker, Andre Johnson and Shantee Orr for most of the game, and Carr for the second half. Most of the same problems that have plagued the team throughout the season reared their heads today, but the Texans clearly didn’t just roll over despite Capers’ obvious lame duck status. In fact, they showed more fight than they did a year ago at this time against Cleveland.

It’s Over This long, painful season is finally over, and the Texans can start actually making the changes that have been discussed for many weeks but have been deferred until after the season. A search for a new coach, and perhaps a new general manager, can officially begin. A decision can be made on Carr’s bonus and contract extension and other player personnel moves can be made.

What Went Wrong?

Finding a Way to Lose… Again As they did against the Rams, Ravens, and Titans, the Texans refused to let a bad team, and the 49ers definitely fit into that category, hand them the game. They failed too often to capitalize on great field position, committed costly penalties, and turned the ball over at the worst possible time.

Run Defense San Francisco was able to run the ball down the Texans’ throat all too often. 49ers rookie Frank Gore had his best pro outing with 108 yards on the ground, and Maurice Hicks pitched in another 68. This is not a new problem, but the Texans had to know that they stood a much greater chance of winning if they could shut down the 49er running game and force the rookie quarterback to try to win the game through the air. The Texan front seven couldn’t get that done.

Quarterback Play Despite facing a battered 49ers secondary and receiving adequate protection from the line (no sacks), the Texan quarterbacks did not exactly have a strong day. Carr was only 4 of 11 for 23 yards before he left the game. That’s not the kind of performance that encourages the writing of multi-million dollar bonus checks. And after Banks’ key mistakes, Dan Reeves may already be mentioning the name “Tommy Maddox” to Bob McNair.

Key Play Of The Game

After the 49ers had punted for the second time in the overtime period and the Texans took the ball at their own four yardline, Houston fans began seriously considering the impact that a tie would have on the draft order standings (it would have been the same as a loss for the Texans). Those calculations would quickly become moot, as on the third play of the series Tony Banks lofted a pass downfield in the direction of Corey Bradford. Cornerback Mike Adams pulled the ball in at 49er 48 and Bradford grabbed him around the ankles. Adams pitched the ball back to strong safety Ben Emanuel, who sprinted past stunned Texan players down to the Houston 21 yardline to set up the game-winning field goal.

Week 16 Recap Brandon Lloyd celebrates his reception of Alex Smith’s first pro TD pass. Final Score Houston Texans 17 San Francisco 49ers 20 Lookin’ Good

Reggie Bush’s Jersey
The deep steel blue jersey that Reggie Bush and Paul Tagliabue will be holding up for the cameras onstage at the draft on April 29, 2006 ought to look really good. The countdown begins.

Oh, my eyes!

Kris Brown
The Texans kicker fails to convert another potential game-winning field goal attempt. This one wasn’t nearly as ugly as his shank in Nashville, but the same whispers of him missing on orders from Bob McNair will likely start again.

2005 Schedule Date Opponent Result 08.13 Denver 14-20 08.20 Oakland 19-17 08.26 at Dallas 9-21 09.01 at Tampa Bay 14-38 Regular Season 09.11 at Buffalo 7-22 09.18 Pittsburgh 7-27 09.25 Bye   10.02 at Cincinnati 10-16 10.09 Tennessee 20-34 10.16 at Seattle 10-42 10.23 Indianapolis 20-38 10.30 Cleveland 19-16 11.06 at Jacksonville 14-21 11.13 at Indianapolis 17-31 11.20 Kansas City 17-45 11.27 St. Louis 27-33 12.04 at Baltimore 15-16 12.11 at Tennessee 10-13 12.18 Arizona 30-19 12.24 Jacksonville 20-38 01.01 at San Francisco 17-20   Overall Record 2-14