For months, it seemed as though the Texans were the average Houstonian's sports salvation.
Never mind the Astros' status as the worst organization in baseball and a Bud Selig-forced move to the American League after 50 years.
Never mind that the Rockets, after cleverly orchestrating a trade and subsequent scheme to pair Pau Gasol and Nene up front, had an entire offseason blueprint and return to contention decimated at the whim of NBA commissioner David Stern.
These were the Texans. Things were supposed to be finally different, especially after a dramatic division-clinching win in Cincinnati that made believers out of us all.
In the end, it was a setup for even greater disappointment.
Yes, the Texans are limping to the season's finish line without Matt Schaub, Andre Johnson and Mario Williams. But the same group that was able to beat playoff contenders Atlanta and Cincinnati has now lost back-to-back games to the Panthers and Colts.
In the latter instance, it may not be fair to fully blame them.
In the second quarter, an inexplicable roughing the passer penalty against J.J. Watt flipped the field after the Texans had forced a Colts punt at roughly their own 20. The eventual result was an Adam Vinatieri field goal.
In the third quarter, Pierre Garcon grabbed the jersey of Texan cornerback Johnathan Joseph for at least three seconds on a deep throw from Dan Orlovsky, preventing an interception. Again, the eventual result was a Vinatieri field goal and three points.
On the game-winning drive in the fourth quarter, three different penalties were called against the Texans -- all inside the Indianapolis 20-yard line. On one, J.J. Watt was called for roughing the passer after a Colts offensive lineman tossed Connor Barwin into him, causing a chain reaction.
On another, Glover Quin was flagged for pass interference at the 1-yard-line when a penalty came in a full two seconds after the play -- after Colts receivers and the Indianapolis crowd had time to throw a temper tantrum.
Thirteen of the Colts' 19 points came from drives that included highly suspect penalties to keep them alive. In all, the Texans were whistled 11 times and surrendered 84 yards on flags -- compared to just four calls for 35 yards on the Colts.
But as bad as it was, it can't ALL be blamed on the officials. It wouldn't be the Texans without several self-inflicted wounds as well.
Leading by one and facing a 3rd-and-5 at the Indianapolis 16 with 2:30 left and the Colts having no timeouts, the Texans knew that a first down would effectively end the game.
Head coach Gary Kubiak, however, didn't trust T.J. Yates enough to give him a realistic chance. Instead, he kept the ball on the ground with Arian Foster, settling for a Neil Rackers field goal to take a 16-12 lead.
On the ensuing Indianapolis drive, the Texans drove in the final dagger when they opted to let Kareem Jackson play man coverage against Reggie Wayne.
Though Wayne has lost a step or two, he remains one of the smartest receivers in football. That's a dangerous matchup against a second-year corner who struggles each week to turn and locate the ball while in the air.
The results, of course, were a 34-yard strike to Wayne that put the Colts in the red zone, and the eventual 1-yard touchdown pass to win it.
In the end, the result is all that matters. Whether the officials or Kubiak receive the brunt of the blame will be debated for the next nine days.
The reality is that a win would've put the Texans one New England loss away from the No. 1 seed, a bye and home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs.
Instead, they found a way to lose to a 1-13 opponent after leading the entire game and blow any reasonable opportunity at playoff success. A team led by Dan Orlovsky went 78 yards in 12 plays in 1 minute and 37 seconds, needing no timeouts against the league's No. 2 defense.
Yes, these are the Houston Texans. This is life as a Houston sports fan.
Welcome back to reality.
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