Texans Buc’ed in Final Casting Call

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August 31, 2007
Texans Buc’ed in Final Casting Call

by Bob Hulsey

(Editor’s note: With this being the final week of the preseason, we at HoustonProFootball.com chose to sit Blake Gifford and have the game reviewed by our backup, a grizzled veteran still hoping to survive the final cutdown. What? You expected to see the first string this week? Are you crazy? We gave up two top draft picks to FalconsClaw.com to get Blake. There’s no way we’re going to risk getting him hurt this close to the start of the season. If he were to pull a muscle or tear a ligament in one of his fingers reviewing a meaningless exhibition, we’d never hear the end of it. Blake will return next week when the game really matters.)

If you had heard that Sage was throwing passes at Jacoby and Bruce was hooking up with Paris, you’d think it was "Hot Tub Night at some San Francisco" bathhouse. Instead, it was the final tuneup for the Houston Texans and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a game that meant little to many and meant everything to a few.

Anybody who was anybody had their butts firmly planted on the bench while those fighting for their jobs (aka "the expendables") saw most of the action in a 31-24 Houston loss that had some exciting moments to close the Texans’ preseason at 2-2. Starters like Matt Schaub and Ahman Green took the night off while the backups had one last chance to impress the coaches.

Schaub’s understudy Sage Rosenfels looked so impressive in a 5-for-5 63-yard opening drive performance capped by a three-yard flip to Jacoby Jones that he, too, was quickly pulled from the game after he gave the Texans a 7-0 lead. That margin doubled when cornerback Jamar Fletcher picked up a Tampa fumble and sprinted 36 yards to paydirt less than five minutes into the game.

But Tampa Bay would not surrender the evening. Luke McCown hurled three touchdown passes and the Buccaneers added a field goal to lead at halftime, 24-17.

Jared Zabransky, the Boise State legend, played most of the game at quarterback for Houston and showed that mixture of enthusiasm and inexperience that shouts, "practice squad!" He finished 12-of-22 for 117 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Z-Man spread the ball around with all five of the candidates for the final wide receivers spots (Jerome Mathis, David Anderson, Andre Davis, Keenan McCardell and Bethel Johnson) getting one reception each for 12-16 yards. Wali Lundy got the bulk of the running, gaining 50 yards on eight carries and 12 more on two receptions. Lundy’s one-yard plunge in the third quarter tied the game until midway through the final stanza.

Four plays after a Fred Bennett interception was reversed by replay, Tampa quarterback Bruce Gradkowski hit a streaking Paris Warren down the middle of the field for a 31-yard score that decided the outcome. It was Warren’s second touchdown grab of the night and probably his last for awhile. As Warren reached into the end zone, Houston defender Dexter McCleon fell on him. Paris dislocated his ankle and is lost for the season, putting a sour note on what had been a fine performance. Exhibit A for why the backups were playing all night.

In what may be the most significant job audition of the evening, punter Matt Turk had 3 kicks for 43.3 yards while incumbent Chad Stanley had 2 punts for 43.5 yards. Preferably, I’d rather not have Turk receive a visit from "the Turk." That would be too spooky.

The Texans begin the regular season on Sunday, September 9th, at home against the struggling Kansas City Chiefs.

Preseason Week 4 Yawn. Another game, another Jacoby Jones touchdown. Final Score Houston Texans 24 Tampa Bay Bucs 31 Lookin’ Good

Jamar Fletcher
"Right Place, Right Time" Fletcher had a flukish interception to go with his touchdown return of a McCown fumble. He might just wind up the starting corner opposite Dunta Robinson.

Oh, my eyes!

Pass Defense
It was hard to get the number since the tacklers weren’t often in the picture but allowing 314 yards, 17 first downs and four scores through the air surely can’t be comforting for Defensive Coordinator Richard Smith as he figures out who to keep and who to cut for next week.

2007 Schedule Date Opponent Result 08.11 Chicago 19-20 08.18 at Arizona 33-20 08.25 Dallas 28-16 08.30 at Tampa Bay 24-31 Regular Season 09.09 Kansas City 20-3 09.16 at Carolina 34-21 09.23 Indianapolis 24-30 09.30 at Atlanta 16-26 10.07 Miami 22-19  10.14 at Jacksonville 17-37 10.21 Tennessee  36-38 10.28 at San Diego   11.04 at Oakland   11.11 BYE  — 11.18 New Orleans   11.25 at Cleveland   12.02 at Tennessee   12.09 Tampa Bay   12.13 Denver   12.23 at Indianapolis   12.30 Jacksonville     Overall Record 3-4