Colts 27, Texans 24: And That Will Just About Do It for 2013
Here comes the frustration.
Photos by Marco Torres
"What if I told you that a desperate team would play its best half of football in over a year, only to have the happiness taken away in an instant in the scariest way possible?" -- ESPN "30 for 30" Voice Guy on the eventual ad for the inevitable documentary on this bizarre Texans season
As a Texans fan and a human being, how do you process what happened on Sunday night at Reliant Stadium?
Yes, the Houston Texans found yet another way to lose a football game on national television. This time it was a Randy Bullock missed field goal as time expired (a 2009 Special, as I call it) giving the Indianapolis Colts an improbable, but at this point unsurprising, 27-24 win.
As high as this city's hopes were going into the season, Super Bowl or bust, it would seem to be almost impossible for anything that could happen Sunday night to overshadow the drastic football effects of a Texans loss.
So naturally, in a season where the painful has become the norm, when the Texans have sprinted past every boundary of "finding ways to lose" heretofore set by prior Texans teams, on this night their head coach would have what appeared at the time to be a chilling, for-all-we-knew near-death episode heading into the locker room at halftime.
That apparently is how you overshadow the actual football outcome of a game.
Sunday night's game will be lamented for the usual mountain of special teams gaffes, missed field goals, and offensive impotence in the second half. Sunday night itself will be remembered, in a macabre way, for Gary Kubiak's frightening issue at halftime, where it appeared he may have had a heart attack and wound up being stretchered to an ambulance and rushed to a local hospital.
In the end, Kubiak's trip to the hospital was reportedly precautionary, and the second half of the game was in effect the same as the second half of the last five games, which is to say it was depressing.
So how do we process it?
Different game, same fan reaction at Reliant.
Photo by Groovehouse
To ignore the human element of 46 men and a coaching staff trying to reassemble and organize after finding out their leader had something happen to him, something appearing to do with his heart, would be unfair. There are a lot of things you can say about Gary Kubiak, and in this space I've flung around many of them this season, but one thing is unequivocally true -- his players love the man.
Every player that I've spoken to who's played for Kubiak privately swears by him. They swear that he is their favorite coach they've played for, and that the sometimes infuriatingly bland, conservative guy we see after games and on Monday afternoons is different from the one they see behind the scenes, at practice, before games.
As one example I can give you (and there are many), recently I was having a conversation with former Texans tight end Bennie Joppru, who was a second round pick in 2003 and was injured for much of his Texans career. (His Twitter bio even admits it in the first two words: "NFL BUST.") Joppru only played for Kubiak for a few weeks to start the 2006 season before Kubiak cut him.
Unsolicited, Joppru told me that Kubiak, the man who gave him his walking papers after just a few games, was his favorite coach he ever played for.
That's pretty strong.
So I don't want to disregard the human element and the deleterious effect it may have had on the Texans' performance in the second half Sunday night. I don't.
But how can I say, "That was the reason they lost" when the second half of this game looked precisely like the second half of every game since the team's 2-0 start? With Gary gone, all of the byproducts of his indecision were left to crater the Texans' 2013 once and for all, namely a special teams unit that blocked a field goal and a punt yet still managed to garner a failing grade for the game.
And yet, come Monday, special teams coach Joe Marciano will still have an office.
The special teams ceded field position, they committed untimely penalties and ultimately their field goal kicker, who Kubiak has stuck with about a month longer than most other NFL coaches would, did them in. Hell, truth be told, Randy Bullock's 55-yard miss at the end of regulation may not even be necessary if he makes a 43-yard attempt just minutes earlier.
And the 55-yard attempt at the end is probably a much shorter one if the Texans offense doesn't burn off nearly 45 seconds of clock running a play on 3rd and 11 the previous series, another silly mistake that essentially turned the two-minute warning into a moot stoppage on a change of possession on the fourth down punt. Just inexcusable, junior high kind of stuff.
Yes, the whole thing was a mess in the second half, overshadowing what was a record-breaking first half for quarterback Case Keenum and wide receiver Andre Johnson, who hooked up for 190 yards and three touchdowns before halftime, Johnson's first three-touchdown game of his career. In fact, it appeared that Keenum was on a one-man mission to try and singlehandedly erase the "but he doesn't catch many touchdowns" objection from Andre's eventual Hall of Fame candidacy, they looked that good together.
Throws down the field, throws on the run, extending plays. It was that sweet to watch. It was an NFL offense.
But there's no denying that it doesn't matter who's under center; this is a team that can't execute in the second half of games. Aside from one garbage touchdown against the Rams in Week 6, the offense hasn't scored a touchdown after halftime since overtime of the Titans game in Week Two.
Sunday night, the offense and the defense shared with the special teams in a fourth-quarter collapse (outscored 15-0) that has now sent the 2013 season into a dark, helpless place.
The truly important thing, of course, is that Gary Kubiak will apparently be okay. For all of the campaigning I've done in this space for the man to be replaced, I can say that whatever day he returns to the job -- this week, next week, next month, whenever -- I will be happy for him after what he went through Sunday night.
It's been a crazy and mentally exhausting couple of weeks for football fans in this city. The sorrow of losing Bum Phillips, the coming to grips with how to process the death of Bud Adams, and now Sunday night.
Most of us want to believe that the football gods would follow Bum's unfortunate passing by blessing us with some sort of storybook ending -- the 2013 season rescued by a local hero, forgotten by 31 other teams, putting the franchise on his back.
But the football gods are cruel.
Instead of the Cinderella turnaround, the beatings continue, the injuries pile up and oh by the way, your coach is going to the hospital at halftime.
On Sunday night, a lost season became downright mean.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on 1560 Yahoo! Sports Radio from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays and nationally on the Yahoo! Sports Radio network Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. CST. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.
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