Blown Opportunity

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November 20, 2006
Blown Opportunity

by Keith Weiland

This should have been a recap of how the Texans took care of business at home, winning their second in a row and building toward a finishing kick to create some real optimism for the future. Instead, the Texans misfired at key moments throughout their Week 11 match-up with the Bills, finally losing in the game’s final seconds, 24-21.

Bills receiver Peerless Price scored the 15-yard game-winning touchdown when he slipped past the Texan defense to the back of the endzone, then dove for a pass from quarterback J.P. Losman with nine seconds left in regulation. Upon further review, replay officials confirmed that Price had both feet inbounds with control of the football.

That the Bills even had life in the game’s final two minutes was disappointing. Ahead 21-17, the Texans faced a 3rd-and-2 situation at their own 19-yard line with 1:59 to play. Instead of attempting a run for a first down or at least to roll the clock and possibly cause the Bills to burn their final timeout, quarterback David Carr whipped a pass off-target to Andre Johnson that fell incomplete to the turf.

It was the first incompletion for Carr after tying an NFL record of 22 straight. The Bills regained possession near midfield following a punt, and they retained their final timeout, which proved key when attempting to convert their final drive into six points.

The Texans claimed the 21-17 lead in the third quarter when cornerback Dunta Robinson picked off Losman at the Bills’ 6-yard line. Robinson stepped in front of receiver Lee Evans to nab the underthrown ball, then he easily returned the interception for a touchdown.

The team had an earlier chance to claim the lead before haltime. Trailing 17-14, fullback Jameel Cook fumbled the football following a 6-yard reception at the Buffalo 13-yard line. Bills safety Ko Simpson, a rookie, knocked the ball free from Cook, effectively killing any momentum the Texans were building into the half.

The Bills built an early 14-0 lead in the game thanks to a pair of touchdown strikes from Losman to Evans. Both scores went for 83 yards each. The Texans calmly responded to the deficit by keeping the offense on the ground, first with a 17-yard scoring run by Wali Lundy, then later with a 1-yard plunge by Samkon Gado to narrow the deficit to 17-14.

What Went Right?

Running Back Committee Now in Session As fans, we like the predictability of a single running back that we can count on week after week, but with a rookie sixth rounder and an undrafted free agent at the top of the depth chart, we are not afforded such a luxury. It didn’t really matter against a normally tough Bills defense, as Wali Lundy and Samkon Gado combined for 130 yards on 18 carries, two of which ended in touchdowns. Toss in a couple wide receiver reverses and the hard-nose running of David Carr, and the Texans gained 188 yards on the ground against the Bills, which ought to be good enough to win most games.

Carr’s Completion Record David Carr’s 22 consecutive completions were the kind that sorta snuck up on you, much like the way they did when Redskins QB Mark Brunell did it against the Texans earlier this season. So, yeah, most of those completions were nothing too special individually, but taken as a whole, Carr had an effective day executing the gameplan of head coach Gary Kubiak, managing several drives deep into Bills territory.

Shantee’s Sack Outside linebacker Shantee Orr set the early tone for the Texans defense in the third quarter, sacking Losman on third down for their first drive of the half. It was cool enough to force a punt in a quarter that has been brutal for the team this season, but Orr made it totally awesome when he hurdled his blocker, cleanly clearing his helmet, en route to the point blank sack of Losman.

What Went Wrong?

Rookie Coach Decisions Yeah, it’s pretty typical to blame the head coach for a loss, but it seems especially appropriate here. Gary Kubiak, who for the record is still a rookie when it comes to this head coaching stuff, made a decision to throw the ball late in the game in a third down short yardage situation. Had Carr completed the pass for a first down, the game was probably over. Incomplete, it saved the Bills a critical timeout and valuable time on the clock for a comeback. Kubiak made a similar "no guts no glory" call near the end of last week’s win over the Jags that made him look like a genius. One week later, and he’s back to looking like a rookie.

Somebody Cover that Guy When an opposing receiver, in this case Bills WR Lee Evans, burns you once for an 83-yard touchdown, you tip your cap. When he does it twice for the same distance, you start looking around for scapegoats. CB Demarcus Faggins drew the assignment in both instances, and while he looked bad losing the coverage to one of the fastest men in the league, the lack of any safety help deep was equally troubling. Glenn Earl and Jason Simmons each appeared to have at least some responsibility in helping Faggins, but neither took a good angle to even have a decent shot at catching up to Evans. Sidenote: When Robinson later intercepted Losman, he had switched sides to cover Evans. Now why didn’t that switch happen earlier in the game? Maybe ask the rookie coach or his rookie defensive coordinator? Hmmm…

Cook-ie Crumbled Again Fullback Jameel Cook killed a huge momentum-building drive when he lost the football at the Buffalo 13 just before halftime. Credit Bills safety for a solid hit, but at worst, the Texans figured to at least tie the game at 17 with a field goal that deep in Bills territory if Cook had maintained possession. Instead, a player who rarely handles the football (everyone still remember Cook’s fumble two weeks ago against the Giants?) will probably find himself handling it even less in the future. Oh, and blame a rookie head coach for even allowing Cook the opporunity to hold the football again.

Key Play Of The Game

While there were several key moments that led to the final outcome, there was nothing certain about the Bills’ winning touchdown until wide receiver Peerless Price made a diving reception that demanded some extra appreciation.

After mostly dinking and dunking their way downfield in a drive that began with 1:57 left to play in the game, Losman spiked the ball on first down at the Texans’ 15 with fifteen seconds remaining and no timeouts. With perhaps as many as three more chances to score, Losman found Price in the seam of the Texans’ cover 2, slicing behind middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans and past safety Jason Simmons. Losman fired a bullet, and Price stretched out to make the catch, dragging both feet inbounds for the score.

Game 10 Recap Bills WR Peerless Price scores the winning touchdown with :09 to play. Final Score Houston Texans 21 Buffalo Bills 24 Lookin’ Good

Dunta Robinson
His interception and touchdown return gave the Texans the lead. After a slow start this season, Robinson is once again shutting down his half of the field.

Oh, my eyes!

Jameel Cook
Fumbles are painful enough to witness, but for some reason they are even worse to watch when they fall from the hands of a player that probably shouldn’t be given the football in the first place.

2006 Schedule Date Opponent Result 08.12 Kansas City 24-14 08.19 St. Louis 27-20 08.27 at Denver 14-17 08.31 Tampa Bay 16-13 Regular Season 09.10 Philadelphia 10-24 09.17 at Indianapolis 24-43 09.24 Washington 15-31 10.01 Miami 17-15 10.08 Bye 10.15 at Dallas 6-34 10.22 Jacksonville 27-7 10.29 at Tennessee 22-28 11.05 at NY Giants 10-14 11.12 at Jacksonville 13-10 11.19 Buffalo 21-24 11.26 at NY Jets 11-26 12.03 at Oakland 23-14 12.10 Tennessee 20-26 12.17 at New England 7-40 12.24 Indianapolis 27-24 12.31 Cleveland 14-6   Overall Record 6-10