Redemption for a Day

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December 25, 2006
Redemption for a Day

by Bob Hulsey

When the Texans’ season appeared bleakest, a Christmas miracle appeared. It wasn’t a bright star in the East or three wise men. There was no myrrh or frankincense. It was instead a little taste of redemption.

In a season of giving, it was a day for the Reliant Rejects to give something back to their few remaining long-suffering fans. The 27-24 upset of Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts marked the second-biggest win in franchise history (the 19-10 franchise opener over Dallas is still tops). It got a Yao-sized gorilla off a lot of backs in H-town.

At least for a day, the Texans also could collectively give a Christmas bird to their many detractors. The list of the redeemed are many.

Mario Williams, the oft-disparaged first overall pick, forced a fumble on the Colts’ second play from scrimmage to set up an early 14-0 advantage that had everyone wiping dust from their eyes. Could this actually be momentum the Texans were getting for Christmas?

The two touchdowns came courtesy of former Heisman Trophy winner Ron Dayne who’s been labelled a bust much of his pro career. He gashed through the Colts’ porous defense for 153 yards on the day, toting the rock 32 times, proving he could still chew up the yards like he did as a Wisconsin Badger.

Then there’s Kris Brown who booted two 40+ yard field goals in clutch fourth quarter situations, the second one a 48-yard game-winner on the final play. Last year, if you’ll recall, Brown’s shanks looked so bad that many in the media claimed he was purposely missing kicks so the Texans could draft Reggie Bush. Some have called for his head ever since but he has quietly put together a 19-for-25 season on field goal attempts.

Quarterback David Carr, practically shown the door already by many in Houston, turned in the sort of game he’s capable of, moving the chains and not making turnovers. Sure, his numbers weren’t special but he’s had a few games where the numbers looked better and the Texans didn’t win. Perhaps judging against the low bar set last week in the loss at New England, even Carr’s fiercest Scrooges will concede that he played a good game.

In fact, Carr was given the ball with just over two minutes to play in a tie game and the opportunity to win it, unlike two weeks ago against Tennessee when he could only kneel and watch Vince Young become the hero.

Carr threw just one pass in the game-winning drive but he made it count, finding Andre Johnson for 17 yards that moved the Texans into Brown’s range. It wasn’t David’s most stirring closing drive but it’s been awhile since we’ve seen Carr step up late in the game to pull out a win. It was refreshing to see it was still possible.

Finally, there’s Head Coach Gary Kubiak who saw his offensive coordinator leave for the Air Force Academy this week then showed he could script a gameplan to beat a playoff-bound team, in fact the last club to leave the undefeated ranks the past two years. Some have questioned whether Kubiak was the right choice for the job. He can say now that he’s beaten a team this year that his mentor, Denver coach Mike Shanahan, could not.

The plan was no secret. The achilles heel of the Colts is their run defense. If you can exploit that, you keep Manning on the sidelines and shorten the game to one where Manning has to score on every possession. The trick is getting and keeping the lead. Dayne’s running and Williams’ turnover gave them the chance to stage the upset while Carr, Johnson and Brown pulled it out at the end.

Yes, I know it was a "meaningless" game against a team who had already sewn up a playoff berth and may have lacked the intensity to play their best on the road against a team they had never lost to in the five years of the Texans’ existence. Yes, one win doesn’t make up for a whole season of disappointments.

But it means a lot when the owner singled out beating the Colts as one of the goals he’d like to accomplish in his lifetime before the season started. Mission accomplished, sir.

Now perhaps a closing kick of beating the Browns the way we should have to finish at .500 in 2004 will put an end to this two-year nightmare that has hung over the team. A 6-10 season is nothing to celebrate normally but it might just put some hope back in the steps of Texan fans, whichever ones haven’t grown weary from jumping on and off the bandwagon.

There’s a lot left to do before the Texans get respect around the league. A winning streak to cap December would be a nice start. The Christmas miracle was a wonderous thing. A New Year’s Eve celebration would gives us a warm glow throughout the long cold winter.

Bob Hulsey points out this is his 20th column of the season, some of which were even timely and relevant. Merry Christmas y’all and to y’all a good night.

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