Happy Ending

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January 1, 2007
Happy Ending

by Ric Sweeney

Led by an opportunistic defense, the Texans closed out 2006 with a victory over the Cleveland Browns, 14-6, Sunday. The win marked Houston’s sixth of the year (a four game improvement over last year) and their first back-to-back wins since beating Chicago and Jacksonville in late December 2004.

Cleveland took the opening drive 55 yards with surprise starting quarterback Charlie Frye, thought to be too injured to play, hitting on three of his first four passes and scrambling for 8 yards. But on second down from the Texan 18, C.C. Brown intercepted Frye in the end zone to squelch the drive and end Cleveland’s best hope of hanging six on the board all day.

Unfortunately, the Texans could not seize the momentum, going three-and-out on the ensuing drive. Cleveland again moved into Texan territory when Frye hit Travis Wilson for 16 yards to convert a 3rd and 8. But the Texans continued to dodge bullets when Anthony Maddox and N.D. Kalu stuffed Jerome Harrison on 3rd and short, forcing a 48-yard field goal attempt from Phil Dawson, which the former Longhorn missed.

Chris Taylor, playing for an injured Ron Dayne, rushed twice for 23 yards, and David Carr provided 23 passing yards for bookends as the Texans moved to the Browns 16. But on Carr’s third pass of the drive, rookie Kamerion Wimbley tipped the throw and Daven Holley picked it off to end not only the drive but the first quarter scoreless.

It looked like it would remain that way as Houston punted twice, Cleveland once, and Reuben Droughns coughed up the football to kick off the scintillating second quarter. Then with just over six minutes remaining, Droughns got going, rushing three times for 17 yards. Frye hit Kellen Winslow, Jr., four times for 29 yards, including two third down conversions, setting up Dawson with a 43-yard field goal as time expired, giving Cleveland a 3-0 lead heading into the locker room.

Third quarters have been anything but kind to Houston this year, but the Texans came out firing against the Browns on Sunday. Taylor rushed six times for 40 yards, including a drive-capping 5-yard TD gallop to push Houston ahead to stay, 7-3. On the 9-play, 70-yard drive, Carr completed all three passes.

After Frye hit Braylon Edwards for 19 yards, it looked like both teams were finally ready to make things interesting when Maddox slipped into the backfield to strip Frye and return the fumble 47 yards for the score, pushing the Texans’ lead to 14-3. Cleveland would later add a 36-yard field goal with 7:11 left in the game to wrap up scoring on the day.

The Texans finished 2006 winning three of their final five, including their first-ever win against Indianapolis. Now focus will shift to the offseason and the upcoming draft. Houston will draft eighth in April, their spot lowered by virtue of Sunday’s win. Of course, prior to, and likely afterwards, much of the focus will be on Carr, who finished with a whimper, completing just 9 of 15 passes for 86 yards, 0 touchdowns and 1 interception despite a game plan initially designed to feature his passing. His future with the team will be a constant topic of conversation well into next year, especially if the team brings him back for 2007. What Went Right?

Rookie Chris Taylor, making his first-ever start, looked like a potential diamond-in-the-rough, grinding out 99 yards on 20 carries and a score. He ran effectively both inside the tackles, as well as to the edge, displaying an exciting blend of both power and speed. He could be a factor in 2007.

Bent, Never Broke
The Browns gained 4.5 yards per rush and Kellen Winslow caught 11 passes for 93 yards, but the defense held when it had to, intercepting Frye in the end zone, stripping Droughns inside the Texan 35 and finally, sacking and stripping Frye and returning the fumble for a score.

Silver Linings
Six wins on the heels of just two is certainly proof the team is heading in the right direction. Interestingly, the team’s 6-10 record is just one off its best record in franchise history. Sad, but true…

What Went Wrong?

David Carr
Carr won back some fans last week, but likely lost them all this week with a flaccid, uninspiring performance Sunday. He averaged just 5.7 yards per attempt and failed to throw a touchdown for the 10th time this year. All told, he threw just 2 in the final 10 weeks of the season. Hard to imagine how the team could sell him to the fan base next year.

Bad Breaks
The Texans are a 6-win team; we won’t romanticize it, but if the team had just run on 3rd and 2 against the Bills… or not blitzed Vince Young… Coming off a 2-14 season, 8-8 would look a whole lot better heading into what promises to be a divisive offseason.

Mario Williams
Speaking of bad breaks, it looked like the rookie would end the year with a sack of Frye, but the Brown QB took the intentional grounding instead, robbing Williams of a sack, which would have been a cool way to end what’s been a rough year for the top pick in last year’s draft.

Key Play Of The Game

With Cleveland looking like it might wake-up from its coma and make a game of it with 5:43 left in the 3rd quarter and the Browns in Houston territory, Anthony Maddox slid into the Brown backfield, hit Charlie Frye’s arm as he was setting up to throw a pass, knocked the ball loose, picked it up and iced the game with a 47-yard TD return.

Game 16 Recap RB Chris Taylor lunges across the goalline for a 5-yard touchdown run. Final Score Houston Texans 14 Kansas City Chiefs 20 Lookin’ Good

DeMeco Ryans
The rookie middle linebacker added 7 more tackles, giving him 153 for the year, an impressive debut for the likely Defensive Rookie of the Year.

Oh, my eyes!

Texans Offense
The Texans were a dismal 2 of 8 on third down conversions and had four drives of three and outs, and two more drives of less than 5 plays. All in all, a putrid performance from the offense, Chris Taylor excluded.

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