December 8, 2002
Texans D-Moralize Steelers
by Ric Sweeney
Thanks to an opportunistic defense, the Texans stunned the Pittsburgh Steelers, 24-6, on Sunday despite not scoring an offensive touchdown.
In fact, Houston didn’t do much of anything offensively as David Carr and company totaled 47 yards on the day, the lowest output in NFL history by a winning team. But who needs offense when you have Aaron Glenn and Kenny Wright? The Texans’ defense scored three touchdowns on the afternoon (two from Glenn, one from Wright) and came up with big play after big play to help stiff Tommy Maddox and the AFC North-leading Steelers.
On the game’s first possession, Houston, thanks to Chad Scott’s pass interference, moved to the Pittsburgh 33 before two sacks ended the drive. It would be Houston’s one and only trip into Steeler territory without the benefit of a turnover. After punter Chad Stanley pinned Maddox at his 4-yard line (which became the 2-yard line after a Steeler penalty was marked off), Pittsburgh began to march upfield, converting two third downs (including a 19-yard pass to Plaxico Burress on 3rd-and-17), until, very Texan-like, back-to-back false starts seemed to stall their momentum at the 43. Facing 3rd-and-18, Maddox tried to scramble but dropped the football and Wright scooped it up and raced 40 yards for the game’s first score, 7-0, with 6:09 to go in the first quarter.
On the ensuing drive, the Steelers once again began moving the football, again converting two third down plays. But on second down at the Texan 35, Maddox, looking for Burress, was intercepted by Glenn, who made a perfect read on the pass, stepped in front and scored from 70 yards out, putting Houston on top, 14-0, with 2:13 left in the quarter.
Amazingly, Pittsburgh would turn the ball over again on their next drive, again in Houston territory, this time courtesy of a Antwaan Randle El fumble at the Texan 36. DB Jason Simmons recovered the loose football and Houston’s offense made it’s first appearance on the field in nearly 9 minutes. The rust showed as Houston was held to four consecutive three-and-outs the rest of the half by the overpowering Steeler defense. But the Texans defense held, too, until Pittsburgh, against soft zone near the end of the second quarter, managed a 40-yard field goal with :28 left in the half, cutting the Texans’ lead to eleven, 14-3. Houston was fortunate to have only given up the three — a questionable pass interference call on Matt Stevens gave Pittsburgh a first down at Houston’s 6, but Jamie Sharper sacked Maddox on third down to keep them out of the end zone.
Pittsburgh began the second half as they ended the first, with a field goal, this one from 31 yards out as the Texans’ lead, 14-6, grew more tenuous. But the Steelers couldn’t catch a break as both teams exchanged punts the rest of the quarter. Pittsburgh’s bad luck continued into the fourth when Jeff Reed missed a field goal from 43 yards out. Houston had dodged another bullet and maintained their shakey lead.
With 8:41 remaining, another Sharper sacked forced another Steeler punt, but WR Jabar Gaffney, filling in for the injured Jermaine Lewis, muffed the return, and Pittsburgh’s offense was back on the field at the Houston 25. After leading precariously for three quarters, it seemed Houston’s good luck had finally run out. But the defense rose to the occasion, helped by a huge holding call on Hines Ward that wiped out a third down conversion, and on fourth down, Maddox was sacked by Gary Walker and Jeff Posey. But unable to move the football, the Texans were forced to punt, which was, by far, their best offensive play of the day.
And Randle El returned the Gaffney gift by botching his return. Somehow, on the bottom of a pile, LB Troy Evans emerged with the ball. Minus five yards later, former Steeler Kris Brown nailed a 43-yard field goal at the same end that caused him so many problems last year, intensifying the boos from the Heinz Field crowd and all but ending Pittsburgh’s hopes of salvaging the game.
Up 17-6, Houston needed one more defensive stop, and they would get it and then some, courtesy of Glenn, who again read Maddox perfectly, stepped in front of his pass, and took it the other way 65 yards to officially ice it, 24-6, with 2:14 left in the game.
All told, Glenn amassed 135 yards on his two returns, tripling the Texans’ offensive output for the game. Pittsburgh did more than triple, totaling 422 yards of offense, but penalties, key drops (Burress had six, including a sure TD) and turnovers neglected their yardage domination.
Defense, Defense, Defense What can you say? The stats (Pittsburgh netted 422 yards) will tell a different story, but Houston’s defense, which was on the field for nearly 40 minutes, dominated one of the AFC’s better teams, not allowing a touchdown despite constant opportunities. And, oh yeah, they scored three times. Simply an amazing, Oilers in San Diego, circa ’79-like performance, with Glenn playing the role of Vernon Perry.
Special Teams Gaffney’s gaffe aside, Chad Stanley had a terrific afternoon, averaging 42 yards a punt and killing one (should have been two) inside the Steelers’ five yard line. The unit also gets credit for somehow coming up with Randle El’s botched punt return, which led to a pretty gutty 43-yard field goal from Kris Brown, which iced the game.
Penalties, Or Lack Of One. That’s it. One. ONE! Amazingly, the Texans’ committed one penalty all day, and even it, a pass interference call on Stevens, was questionable. The cynic will point out that Houston benefited from the offense (the usual culprits when it comes to infractions) not being on the field much, but that takes away from the fact the defense was on the field much and they committed only one penalty all day.
Hmmmmmm… They’re an expansion team, and as such, Houston’s talent simply isn’t up to par with most other NFL teams, which becomes especially clear against really good NFL teams like Pittsburgh. So we’ll mention that the offense was abysmal and move on — hey, they won!
Jabar Gaffney Eh. A dropped pass on third down and a rookie mistake on a punt were both crucial, especially the punt, in which he, subbing for Lewis, waved off his teammates and then proceeded to try and field a bouncing punt with Steelers all around him. Distracted, he fumbled and nearly broke the dam that threatened to burst all day.
Draft Position For those fans devoid of emotion, not to mention perspective, who can’t appreciate the enormity of beating the Steelers, on the road, in a game Pittsburgh desperately needed… I guess the afternoon was a waste. Too bad.
Tough call this week…. the candidates include Kris Brown’s 43-yard field goal, given the pressure he was under; Gary Walker and Jeff Posey’s huge fourth down sack of Maddox; Glenn’s second, game-icing touchdown…
But we’re going to go with Glenn’s first touchdown, a 70-yard interception return with 2:13 to go in the first quarter in which he read Maddox and stepped in front of the bigger, stronger Plaxico Burress. Kenny Wright’s defensive touchdown, which had just happened not five minutes prior, seemed flukey; Glenn’s TD confirmed that an upset might be brewing.
Offense In all sincerity, Chad Stanley deserves the award because he was, consistently and without question, Houston’s best offensive weapon Sunday. He boomed (and we do mean boomed) 10 punts, which allowed Houston’s coverage to get down field and bottle up Pittsburgh’s return men, helping the Texans win the field position battle. He had one downed at the Steeler 4 yard line and nailed another one that should have been downed at the half-yard line, but Jason Simmons was unable to cover up the football.
Defense After careful consideration and hours of studying game film… yeah, right. Aaron Glenn. He’ll be in Hawaii in February and not just because every team has to be represented in the Pro Bowl. What a career-changing year he’s had.
Special Teams Well, since Stanley’ already clearing off a spot in his trophy case… how about Kris Brown? Last year, he was 14-24 in Heinz Field, costing Pittsburgh several games. The Texans believed he was merely a victim of less-than-hosptial conditions in Heinz Field, so they gave him a fat contract and gave Pittsburgh a draft choice. So against a backdrop of boos, he calmly stared into the south end of the field, the one that had given him so many problems last season, and crushed a 43-yarder that iced the game. He has now played a key role in all four of Houston’s wins.
Final 1 2 3 4 F Texans 14 0 0 10 24 Steelers 0 3 3 0 6 PASS ATT CMP YDS TD/IN Carr 10 3 33 0/0 Maddox 57 30 325 0/2 RUSH ATT YDS AVG TD Allen 13 19 1.5 0 Zereoue 11 69 6.3 0 REC NO YDS AVG TD Miller 3 33 11 0 Randle El 8 88 11 0
2002 Record: (?) 12.15.02 | 12pm
3-23 9.29 @ Eagles 17-35 10.06 OPEN 10.13 BILLS 24-31 10.20 @ Browns 17-34 10.27 @ Jaguars 21-19 11.03 BENGALS 3-38 11.10 @ Titans 10-17 11.17 JAGUARS 21-24 11.24 GIANTS 16-14 12.01 @ Colts 3-19 12.08 @ Steelers 24-6 12.15 RAVENS 19-23 12.22 @ Redskins 10-26 12.29 TITANS 3-13 OVERALL 4-12 click on a team to read the GameDay Preview; click on the score to read the GameDay Review