November 18, 2004
Battered, Not Broken
by Ric Sweeney
"OK.. so? She’s a dog." — Dr. Peter Venkman, Ghostbusters
Hey, it was fun while it lasted, right? Which is not to say the Texans are dogs after two consecutive kicks to the chin. Far from it. But playoff contenders? I think we can pull the sheet over that dream.
When you lose 31-13 to Denver on a day when Jake Plummer looks more like John Elway than… well, Jake Plummer, you have every right to file that under "Any Given Sunday." But when you deja lose a week later to another playoff-bound team in much the same fashion, which is what the Texans did Sunday against the Colts, then it’s time to tap the brakes on any notion of this season lasting beyond January 2.
Which is OK. Really. At 4-5, the Texans are a win away from matching last year’s output. That we’re just past the halway point of the season makes that impressive. Further, they’re still on pace to go 8-8. Yes, we drank, maybe even swam in – heck, some of us probably mainlined – the idea of there being life after the regular season for the Houstons, but let’s not lose sight of the big picture, even as our hopes of meaningful winter games crash and burn all around us.
This is still an expansion team, not even three years old, in terms of game experience. Even if we use dog years, this team isn’t even old enough to legally buy beer yet. Now, I don’t know what kind of expectations you had at the cusp of turning 21, but for me, I was lucky if I awoke and wasn’t sleeping in someone’s yard.
So an 8-8 finish, with wins over Tennessee and playoff-bound Jacksonville, would not, should not qualify, on any level, as anything even remotely close to a disappointment.
Yes, the divide between the Texans and the playoffs is the Grand Canyon times Greg Gumble’s waist size. There’s a lot left to be done for this team to make the leap next year. Against the Broncos and Colts, Houston imploded, playing like it was 2002 all over again. Penalties, turnovers, pourous coverage, missed opportunities… it was frustrating. Maddening. Dogs and cats, living together – mass hysteria!
Believe me – I’m not schilling for the Texans here, trying to paint a lining silver and pass it off as hope. They still need to perform up to expectations – we just need to take a moment to rethink those expectations. The bottom line is that the Texans are moving in the right direction, even if they’re not on the same schedule as the rest of us. And they have seven games left to continue to build toward next year. There’s no reason Houston shouldn’t make a run at .500, and as they do, try and keep this in mind: it was just two years ago we were celebrating a 0-0 record.
So don’t for a second throw in the 2004 towel because the playoff potential was dealt its final nail these past two weeks. If the Texans are in this for the long haul, then, dammit, so are you. I’m not going to let the death of a pipe dream ruin what could be, at this stage, an historic season in the long storied history of our franchise. They have three games left with teams currently under .500. They should, at this juncture, win all three of those games. They also need to beat a good team and they have plenty of those opportunities left, too, beginning Sunday night when Brett Favre comes to town.
So, no, they’re likely not going to the playoffs. Cool. I can live with that; you can, too. This is still a work in progress and progress, this year, is the key term. Seven games left; anything can happen. It’s just likely won’t include the playoffs.
And that’s OK.
When someone asks Ric Sweeney if he’s a god, he says yes.
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