November 22, 2004
Texans Pack It in Too Early
by Bob Hulsey
The Texans’ much-maligned defense was good, but Green Bay’s equally maligned defense was even better when it mattered. That turned a 13-3 Houston halftime lead into a 16-13 Packer victory, as Ryan Longwell’s 46-yard boot at the buzzer snuck inside the right upright to deflate a frenzied crowd at Reliant Stadium.
That, and of course, Brett Favre.
The NFL’s answer to Jason in those "Friday the 13th" movies just kept coming back and coming back until a tiring Houston defense left beaten, having surrendered 13 points in the final quarter.
It’s hard to make the claim that the Texans defense did well when Favre tossed for 383 yards but, after getting shredded in Denver and Indianapolis, the Texans kept the play in front of them and made sure tackles for most of the night. They picked off Favre twice and weren’t prone to the dumb mistakes that had killed them the prior two weeks. They just wore down in the Wisconsin blizzard of 50 pass attempts and received no help from the guys who are supposed to let them regroup on the sidelines.
The Texans’ offense made just 48 net yards in second half, 14 of them on three brief possessions in the final quarter where the offense resembled the Rockettes – one, two, three, and kick. Credit a quick and rested Packer defense or blame the highly conservative playcalling, but Houston went nowhere on offense and put all the pressure on their defense to win the game.
The Packers didn’t find the end zone until the fourth quarter when Favre marched his team 81 yards in seven plays, including completions of 23 and 27 yards before a 24-yard strike to Donald Driver for the touchdown, which narrowed the Texan lead to 13-10. Green Bay tied it with just under eight minutes to go on a 39-yard field goal from Longwell.
An interception by Dunta Robinson at the Houston 16 with 3:06 to play gave the home fans a chance to revive their hopes of pulling it out. After a seven-yard shot put from quarterback David Carr, with a tackle draped all over him, to halfback Domanick Davis moved the ball to the 23, Carr missed on two passes forcing a punt at the two-minute warning.
Favre made five straight completions on short passes for 26 yards to the Houston 43 before spiking the ball with :17 remaining. He then rolled out of the shotgun and hit Driver for 12 yards in front of Robinson at the Texans 28. The sideline official kept the clock moving and Favre made perhaps his most important scramble of the night, grabbing the referee to call a time out with four ticks left on the clock. From there, Longwell’s field goal hushed the crowd who hoped the kick would veer right instead of curving left and flying over the crossbar.
It was a Shakesperian first quarter – full or sound and fury, signifying nothing. The game started with both offenses moving the ball well only to have field goal attempts sail wide. The second Packer drive featured a 28-yard run by reserve runner Walter Williams but stalled at the Texans 34 on downs. The stalemate didn’t end until 9:21 left in the second period when Longwell converted a 23-yard field goal set up by a 50-yard bomb from Favre to Driver.
Houston’s offense responded with a six-yard touchdown pass to Davis on a play so open that Carr could have run it in himself. The score was set up by a 32-yard kickoff return by J.J. Moses and a 49-yard catch-and-run from Carr to Andre Johnson who sailed down the sideline to the Packer 2 (but wrongly called out of bounds four yards upfield).
A pair of Kris Brown field goals (46 and 40 yards) inflated Houston’s halftime lead to 13-3. The second of those drives was set up with a 27-yard punt return by Moses and a 24-yard scramble by Carr, the Texans’ longest run of the season.
The Pack attack was hampered by a series of injuries to their running backs. Starter Ahman Green left with sore ribs after five carries. Fullback Nick Luchey was also an early scratch while Williams left later with ankle problems.
Despite a solid first half, Carr’s numbers looked rather average by game’s end. He was 13-of-26 for 164 yards passing, 107 of them by Johnson who caught six balls but was plagued by drops in the second half. Davis netted 106 yards, 65 through the ground on 21 carries.
Houston gets a chance to stop their three-game skid next Sunday at home against the Tennessee Titans, whom they defeated in Nashville five weeks ago.
The Intangibles Remember those intangibles coaches always nag about that losing teams usually do? That wasn’t Houston’s problem. They had no turnovers, only three penalties and just one special teams miscue – the missed field goal by Brown in the first quarter.
Pass Protection After the beating Carr received in Indianapolis, the offensive line looked much better this week. Carr was sacked twice but one was a coverage sack on a rollout where Carr had already left the pocket. Seth Wand did a praiseworthy job on Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila while Todd Wade’s return at right tackle was a noticeable improvement from Marcus Spears’ performance the previous week.
The Cornerbacks Aaron Glenn and Dunta Robinson were very busy, but they held up well. Robinson bit on a fake when Driver caught the touchdown but, otherwise, both were all over the field making tackles and breaking up plays. Both had interceptions as well, combining for 13 tackles and two assists.
Playcalling It’s fashionable to pick on the quarterback or the offensive coordinator whenever a team loses but Chris Palmer’s choices in the second half clearly lacked imagination. Calling four reverses when none seemed to catch the Packers by surprise was shocking enough, but the repeated attempts to run Davis into non-existent holes in the line contributed to the loss. When you have an expansion team, it makes sense to play not to lose. But, by mid-season of year three and nursing a ten-point lead against one of the best quarterbacks in league history, sitting on the lead was inviting the ending we eventually saw.
Pass Rush Favre was not sacked once nor even dirtied. As a veteran, you wouldn’t expect blitzes to affect him as much as some quarterbacks, but it exposed again how inept the Texans are at getting to the passer. This has to be their top offseason priority. They must figure out how to apply pressure.
Third Down Conversions Five of fifteen. The last one came with 2:05 left in the third quarter. Enough said about that.
On the cusp of field goal rage with a second down and ten at the Green Bay 34 late in the third quarter, Andre Johnson was sent on a reverse play that was easily sniffed out by Packer rookie corner Ahmad Carroll for a nine-yard loss. On the next play, Carr rolled to his left and was sacked by Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila at the Houston 46 for an 11-yard loss.
That was the beginning of the end for the Texans. Their offense showed no spark after that. Had they been able to convert that drive into a field goal, it would have changed the entire fourth quarter and forced the Packers to score 14 points to win it.
Week 10 Recap Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila drops David Carr for a sack in the third quarter. Final Score Houston Texans 13 Green Bay Packers 16 Lookin’ Good
Both on special teams and on pass plays, backup safety McCree played like he’d just been released on bail, racking up 11 tackles and sending some Packers limping for the sidelines.
Oh, my eyes!
Mike Patrick’s coming off heart surgery, but what is the excuse for the rest of them? Joe Thiesmann twice called rookie linebacker Jason "Bibbin" while Suzy Kolber seemed to gush endlessly about Brett Favre like Katie Couric does about Hillary Clinton. Leave it to curmudgeonly Paul Maguire to question Houston’s second half playcalling and toss out opinions that showed his head was in the game.
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