Flip the Switch

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Flip the Switch

by Keith Weiland

That sound you hear is the thumpety-thump of thousands of Texans fans leaping off of the playoff bandwagon. Losing perhaps the most winnable game on their 2004 schedule 27-20 to the Chargers can cause even some of the most zealous of football fans to question their team’s chutzpah.

The Texans gave this one away, literally, too. Four turnovers with none in return will do that to even the best of teams. Starting a rookie at corner, employing a defense that fails twice to force a critical late fourth down, and an inability to score in the red zone, and one can just envision the Texans actually pushing people off of the bandwagon.

Thanks, guys, but to actually cut the stadium power in the fourth quarter was a little over the top, don’t you think?

This one did have its share of bad omens though. Here’s just two:

First, Moran Norris injured his shoulder in a practice just days before the game. It is the type of afterthought news item that if taken lightly, can weigh heavily in the bad karma category.

A fullback like Norris triggers the running game, and while Norris’ backup, Jarrod Baxter wasn’t the one fumbling the football, Domanick Davis, his backfield butterfingers counterpart hadn’t spent much time working together with him, not just this year, but since Davis first joined the team a year ago.

Baxter must have also been wearing something shiny to catch the eye of offensive coordinator Chris Palmer. Twice, both times at key junctures, Palmer’s offense went to Baxter, and neither time was Baxter able to deliver.

Baxter, who along with Seth Wand is essentially the closest thing to a rookie the offense played on Sunday, does bring with him a college resume that shows off some productivity once the ball is in his hands. Because of an injury he suffered last year though, one that cost him the entire 2003 season, Baxter was playing in just his first game since 2002.

So, yes, Baxter dropped a third-and-two pass in the endzone, one of three trips inside the Charger 20 that did not result in a touchdown for the Texans. But why was a pass even headed his direction in the first place? If Palmer and the Texans were willing to abandon Davis and the running game in that situation, then why not pass the ball to a wide open Mark Bruener standing three yards behind Baxter?

Okay, so losing Norris was the first bad omen. This second one may be a bit more controversial.

Why was the roof closed for this game? The skies were clear and the temperatures were pretty average for this time of year.

The official response was that the roof was closed for fan comfort. Okay, fine, but tell me how many fans were comfortable when the game ended?

Tell me that because the Chargers are from Southern California, another sunny and warm location, that the heat really didn’t create an advantage. But please don’t tell me that the roof was closed because the team was looking ahead to next week’s Lions matchup under the dome of Ford Field. That’s at least what the Chargers thought, and right or wrong, perception became reality for them, and they felt slighted.

One of the nice quirk’s to Reliant Stadium’s design is that at this time of year when the roof is open and the sun is shining, for the entire second half it stays shady on the home bench and sunny on the away bench. It can be a pleasant day temperature-wise outdoors, but on the inside the stadium can be a hotbox for those baking under the sun’s blaze.

It is the kind of blaze that can sap an opponent of the energy it needs in the fourth quarter to seal a victory with consecutive first downs.

Think my omens are wrong? Then why the freak power outage at a stadium boasting a power company’s name on the front with 5:07 to play in the game? Officially, it was some oversized mylar baloon hitting a transformer, but spiritually, I believe it was a sign from the football gods telling the home team don’t to mess with Texas sunshine.

Zealous, I am.

I’m Keith Weiland, and I approve this message. Reliant Stadium Reliant Stadium Home

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