December 19, 2004
Defense Bears Down to Down the Bears
by Keith Weiland
When the forecast calls for single-digit temperatures and a sub-zero wind chill, then a defense knows the game will probably be decided by two things: field position and turnovers. Telling a frigid Mother Nature to take a long walk off a short Navy Pier in Chicago, the Texans defense responded with an effort marked by two interceptions, a forced fumble returned for a touchdown, and just three points allowed.
The game opened though with the defense giving up big yardage on the ground to running back Thomas Jones, who ran the ball eight times for 27 yards on that first drive. The cold would help the defense on Jones’ next carry, as the back lost the football on the handoff from quarterback Chad Hutchinson.
Linebacker Jason Babin, who played college ball just north in Michigan, picked up the loose ball and returned it 15 yards to set up a field goal attempt. Bryan Pittman’s snap was off-target though, and Kris Brown’s attempt flew wide right.
The two teams continued to exchange punts and field position into the second quarter. With less than two minutes to play in the half, quarterback David Carr mounted a 6-play drive that resulted in a 37-yard touchdown pass to Corey Bradford and a 7-0 lead. Carr finished the game with 220 yards through the winter air, his most since losing to Denver six games ago.
After halftime, the battle for field position resumed, this time resulting in a safety for the Bears. Having pushed the Texan offense back to its own 5-yard line, Carr dropped back to pass and succumbed to the pass rush by intentionally grounding the ball from the endzone. The Bears then continued to take advantage of the field position to add a 43-yard field goal, cutting the Texan lead to 7-5 early in the fourth quarter.
On the Texans’ next possession, Carr answered with a 69-yard pass to Jabar Gaffney, setting up a 20-yard field goal for the 10-5 advantage. Gaffney led all receivers with 109 yards in the game.
The Texans defense then forced their sixth consecutive three-and-out series and handed the ball back to their offense. The defense only allowed the Bears to accumulate 72 yards of total offense in the second half.
The Texan offense responded by mounting a 14-play clock chewing drive which culminated with Domanick Davis’ 11-yard touchdown run, upping the Texan lead to 17-5. Davis would finish the game with 95 yards rushing and another 22 yards receiving.
As the Bears tried to regroup for a desperation comeback, the Texans defense went for the game-icing play. Cornerback Dunta Robinson sacked Hutchinson and forced a fumble that linebacker Charlie Anderson scooped up. Anderson then ran it all the way back for a 60-yard touchdown return, finishing the game’s scoring at 24-5.
The win may not have been pretty, but it was pretty historic for the third year franchise. It was their sixth victory of the year, most ever for the Texans in a single season. The Texans can now look forward to a revenge-minded Jaguars team when they head to Jacksonville next week.
Dunta, Dunta, Dunta Has Done It Again It’s long been time to drop the phrase "for a rookie" (as in "That’s a good game… for a rookie") when discussing what Robinson is doing on Sundays. His interception to close the first half made certain the Texans would enter the locker room with the momentum on the road, then his sack and forced fumble at the end of the game showed why he has become the team’s best playmaker on defense. Oh, and Robinson only led the team in tackles, and this was in a game where both teams were thinking "run first". Not bad… for a Pro Bowler.
Stingy Defense Granted, these were the lowly Bears they were playing, the same team that’s down to its fourth-string quarterback, but the Texans defense played with the confidence they built since the first quarter of last week’s game against the Colts. Has a Texan defense ever forced so many three-and-outs against an opponent? It was a performance reminiscent of another cold weather game they won two years ago in Pittsburgh.
Corey Bradford Heats Up As a free agent after the season, it may have been his swan song, but Corey Bradford returned to his big play frozen tundra roots when he scooted past the Bears secondary for a 37-yard touchdown reception just before the half. Bradford then won the attention of his quarterback, catching two more passes in the game, including a big one on fourth down. Bradford hadn’t been that involved in the offense since the Battle Red win over Jacksonville on Halloween.
Special Teams In field position battles like this game, special teams becomes just as important than every other phase of the game, and maybe even more so. Punter Chad Stanley, a sunny Texan native, finished with just a 30.7-yard net average, pooching punts that needed to be long and lacking touch on punts that needed to die inside the 20. Long snapper Bryan Pittman drew attention to himself in a bad way for the second time in three games, as his errant snap led to a missed field goal by Kris Brown in the first quarter. Jabar Gaffney fielded a kick off in the second half and bobbled the football before returning it a measely six yards.
Where is Angry Dre? The Texans failed to involve their best offensive weapon for the second week in a row. Andre Johnson finished the game with just two catches for 31 yards. Carr was able to get both Gaffney and Bradford into the mix, but Johnson saw some man coverage against the Bears with which the Texans were unable to capitalize.
Pass Rush The Bears are one of the few teams (and perhaps the only team) with a weaker offensive line than the Texans. So why did it take until the fourth quarter to finally score a sack on Hutchinson? That the defense’s best pass rusher is apparently a cornerback (Robinson) is appalling. Once Peek started seeing more snaps in the last quarter, quarterback pressure improved all around. The Texans need to find more ways to involve Peek and improve their pass rush in the offseason.
With a slim 10-5 lead and more than six minutes to play in the fourth quarter, the Texans offense faced a fourth down decision from the Bears’ 31-yard line. They could either (1) line up for a long, 49-yard field goal, (2) punt and hope Stanley pins the Bears deep in their own territory, or (3) nut up and go for it.
The first option would have given the Bears terrific field position had Brown missed the attempt, a dodgy one with a heavy football in those temps. The second was also risky, as Stanley had not shown his regular touch, and a touchback would have only resulted in a net 11 yards.
So with seven yards needed for the first down, the offense lined up in a shotgun formation and went for it. Carr scrambled away from the rush and found Bradford for an 8-yard completion and a first down. The play’s success led to a touchdown and a two-score lead.
Week 14 Recap Corey Bradford hauls in a 37-yard TD pass from David Carr before the half. Final Score Houston Texans 24 Chicago Bears 5 Lookin’ Good
Gaffney is from Florida, right? Then why is he out there in the cold making four great catches for a game-best 109 yards? The yards produced were a career-high for the former Gator, who was a long, long way from The Swamp.
Oh, my eyes!
Gaffney is from Florida, right? Then why is he out there in the cold returning a kickoff in the fourth quarter of a 7-5 ballgame? Gaffney had a tough time fielding the kick, then stumbled forward six yards when field position was still crucial. Blame it on brain freeze, perhaps?
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