Losing Made Fun

Losing Made FunBy Ric SweeneyHoustonProFootball.com

I know, I know — we’re not supposed to judge the 2002 Texans by wins and losses. I’ve even written that we shouldn’t. But four games into the season, I’m finding it’s much easier said than done. I’m too emotional; plus, I may have made one too many “lost in my own giddyness” bets the Monday after the Cowboy win that have now painted me into a financial corner.

Whatever the reason, I’ve tried to keep this “wait ’til next year” approach handy each and every Sunday as a means of grounding my expectations, but must admit, it’s probably gotten about as much use as Andy Reid’s copy of Sugar Busters.

Yes, the Charger and Colt losses greatly frustrated me, began to wear away my memory of the glorious win against the Cowboys; not because I expected victories, but because, even keeping one eye on the mythical horizon, I watched the team regress and make no progress. Fortunately, Sunday’s Eagle game lifted my spirits.At last, the Texans’ offense began to click. It wasn’t perfect, it may have even been an aberration, but they moved the football and made plays, on the road, against an obviously superior team. Strangely, perhaps the most rewarding aspect of Sunday’s game was that so many things finally worked, it was much easier to isolate what didn’t. As opposed to the San Diego and Indianapolis games, in which, “Yes” pretty much covered what went wrong.In fact, the Texans were one phantom face mask call and a fake punt Andy Reid obviously pulled from his Sam Wyche bag of tricks away from giving Philadelphia all that it cared to handle. Best of all, after falling behind 28-7, the team rallied and made a game of it through the third quarter by putting points on the board and forcing turnovers. Dare I say it, I even let myself think, for a brief moment, “Could they maybe, possibly win this thing….”Among the positives: Corey Bradford looked all the world like a burgeoning go-to-guy; Billy Miller emerged from whatver rock he crawled under after catching the franchise’s first-ever touchdown by catching two passes; Jonathan Wells continued to run the ball effectively, especially on his fourth down rumble, and David Carr looked like, for really the first time, he’s getting closer to catching up to the NFL. He’s still a work in progress, but on Sunday, his rookies mistakes were finally balanced out by more than a few flashes of what’s to come. Like, for instance, his third quarter, Marino-esque touchdown pass to Bradford.In fact, it was such a thing of beauty, I’m completely incapable of doing the throw justice, so here’s special guest Fran Blinebury, Houston Chronicle columnist, to lend a helping hand:

On Sunday, we once again were witness to another glimpse of David Carr’s prodigious talent.Just a taste.A nibble.On a third quarter score, Carr looked for Corey Bradford in the end zone and found Eagle cornerback Troy Vincent draped all over the receiver like a layer of onions on a Philly cheesesteak.But Carr was unfazed.He cocked his golden right arm.He locked in on his target.And he unloaded.Despite a margin for error as small as Eagle fans are subtle, Carr’s pass had the accuracy of a gun being shot into the ocean from two feet away. He somehow placed the football on Bradford’s right forearm, the only space he had to work with, and Bradford did the rest, hauling in Carr’s perfect pass to briefly cut into the Eagles’ seemingly insurmountable lead.And for a moment, 1-3, 26 sacks and all the rookie mistakes became a distant, cloudy, hazy memory; not unlike most mornings for Rocket head coach Rudy Tomjanovich.One day very soon, moments like this will hopefully be as common as sweat during a Houston summer. For now, they’re like filet mignon to the football-starved fans of Houston, who’ve been feasting on Big Macs the past six years.Just a taste.A nibble.But, oh the ambrosia.

Thanks, Fran. If the offense has in fact turned a mini-me corner, if this is a team that’s getting closer and closer to being able to score 14, 17, 21 points… OK, 14, 17 points on any given Sunday, then the final 3/4 of the season could get very, very, Real World in Las Vegas-like interesting.That’s because Dom Capers and/or Vic Fangio have fashioned — and I’m not afraid to say it — a great defense, and that’s not “great” in an expansion kind of way, either. The Texans put tremendous pressure on Donovan McNabb Sunday; it should have been a long day for him, but, unfortunately, he’s apparently not human and was able to scramble for just enough yards or buy just enough time to consistently break Houston’s back.

Time and again, he was surrounded.
But like a gridiron Houdini, Donovan McNabb found a way to make himself disappear. And reappear downfield 10 yards later.
OK, Fran, thanks. Seriously, I’ve got it from here. Applying that kind of pressure against a less active quarterback, like, say… oh, I don’t know, just randomly throwing out a name here… Drew Bledsoe, would’ve likely resulted in a field day for the defense, and hey, what do you know, the Texans play Bledsoe and the Bills next.Through four games, the defense has a legitimate Pro Bowler (Jamie Sharper) and three worthy of consideration (Aaron Glenn, Seth Payne and Gary Walker). But what I like most about the unit is what it’s not; namely, despite playing well enough to be at least 2-2, possibly 3-1, you’ve yet to hear a discouraging word from any of the players on the defensive side in relation to the offensive struggles.In fact, the defense has stepped up and actually shouldered much of the blame. They not only understand that their job is to make things easier on the offense by winning the field position battle and holding the other team scoreless, they embrace it — anything short of that is considered a failure, and they’ll tell you as much. It’s a far cry from the halcyon days of Buddy Ryan slugging Kevin Gilbride, isn’t it?It’s still going to be a long season, and we likely have 8-to-10 more losses to sit through before all is said and done. But if the Texans can throw down the kind of effort they showed Sunday on both sides of the ball, well, it’s going to make keeping that eye on the horizon a little easier.Ric Sweeney is going to use a 220, 221, whatever it takes.