I'm a big guy - no literally, I'm 6'4", so I'm a big guy - so I can admit when I'm wrong. And I was wrong about Sunday's Texans/Titans game. And I was wrong big time.
Andre Johnson had a day for the ages with 207 receiving yards and a TD. Steve Slaton rushed for over a hundred yards. The Texans defense held the vaunted Titans running game to just 100 yards. Very impressive all around.
Of course, the Texans only won 13-12. The winning margin should have been much larger, and the Texans victory shouldn't have depended on Titans coach Jeff Fisher undergoing one of those "Freaky Friday" body switches that found his body occupied by Gary Kubiak when several key decisions were going down. Because as impressive as the victory was, it was still the victory that almost wasn't, and that's what has to be remembered if this team is ever going to live up to their potential.
For instance, the Texans once again had trouble converting trips to the red zone into points, settling time and time again for Kris Brown field goals (when Kris Brown wasn't missing field goals). And
Sage Rosenfumble Sage Rosenfels Matt Schaub did everything he could to give the game over to the Titans - thankfully replay review saved the Texans from losing the ball to the Titans at a key juncture. (It also appeared that the refs got a memo from the NFL that said that because Schaub was so fragile he was not allowed to be hit.) And then there was Gary Kubiak wasting what could have been a key timeout on a replay review that was so ill-advised that even CBS commentator Steve Tasker had to call it stupid.
In the past, these things would have doomed the Texans. But like I said, Jeff Fisher coached this game like he was Gary Kubiak. For instance, why go for the on-side kick at the end of the half if you're just going to kneel on the ball? With the way the Texans defensive backfield was committing defensive interference, there was a chance the Titans could have gotten into position for a field goal. And what's the use of having one of the best kickers in the NFL in Rob Bironas, if you're not going to use him for a 49-yard field goal? (The fun part of that was listening to CBS's Steve Tasker switch from his "Gary Kubiak is an idiot" comments to his "Jeff Fisher is an idiot" comments.)
But the Texans won the game. And I was wrong about that. I just don't think this was the biggest win in team history. I don't think wins in December when the team is out of it can count as big wins. You can put me in the camp of the national observers when it comes to that view which I have seen best expressed by SI.com's Don Banks: "My growing sense is Houston is the kind of team that truly only plays up to expectations after it has systematically lowered those expectations with disappointing early season losses. In other words, the Texans are only dangerous after they've played their way out of things."
But still, great games on a national stage from Steve Slaton and Andre Johnson. And I hope the rest of the football public is beginning to recognize just how good Johnson really is.
SOME MISCELLANEOUS FOOTBALL NOTES:
The Arena Football League isn't the NFL, though it had NFL affiliations. But none of that matters because after yesterday, the league is probably out of existence. Sure, they just said that they're tabling the league for 2009, but come this time next year, I'm sure they'll cancel the entire league, not just a season.
I should feel bad about this, I suppose, as the Arena League was supposed to be a way that players could showcase their abilities for the NFL, but besides Kurt Warner, has any Arena League player really made it big in the NFL?
And at about the same time on Sunday that Jeff Fisher was pulling a Gary Kubiak and going for it on fourth-and-three instead of trying the field goal to get the win, the Buffalo Bills were sitting on the 27-24 lead over the New York Jets. A Jets loss would've probably taken them out of the playoffs, so the team was a bit desperate. Yet the Bills were winning, and they had the ball with under two minutes on the clock. But instead of running the ball and trying to milk the clock, Bills head coach Dick Jauron overruled his offensive coordinator and called for a pass. Bills QB J.P. Losman dropped back to pass but was hit by the Jets' Abram Elam. Losman fumbled, the Jets' Shaun Ellis recovered the ball and lumbered into the end zone for the Jets victory.
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To reward the loss, the Bills appear to have given Jauron a contract extension.
And the Detroit Lions continued their march toward NFL history, losing to the Indianapolis Colts 31-21 on Sunday. That makes the Lions 0-14 on the season. Two more losses and they become the only team in NFL history to go 0-16 for a season. Their next two games are in Detroit against the Saints, then they travel to Green Bay to close out the season.
-- John Royal