In the long train of abuses and usurpations -- to borrow a phrase -- that is pro football in Houston, Texas, Sunday night's loss to the Colts probably isn't in the top 10, but it did have one thing in common with all the others: It was seriously heartbreaking.
Fortunately, one of the hearts that wasn't broken was that of head coach Gary Kubiak, who collapsed at the end of the first half but did not have a heart attack. Rumors were swirling online that the dizziness Rick Smith told NBC Kubiak suffered from may have been caused, at least in part, by dehydration, but no doubt we'll know more later today.
Unfortunately, it was the team on the field that shriveled in the second half under a combination of poor defense, oddball offensive play calling (we're going to assume Rick Dennison, the offensive coordinator, is to blame here) and God-awful special teams play, particularly from a certain former Aggie kicker. More on that in a moment.
While this may not rank up there with Mike Barber in Pittsburgh or losing to Buffalo, it still hurts despite some magnificent play from young Case Keenum.
What went right: The Deep Ball Holy crap, y'all, the Texans have a vertical passing attack again...or for once. Case Keenum came out firing completing long touchdown passes of 62 and 41 yards to Andre Johnson in the first half. He hit Johnson again for another short touchdown to set a team record of three touchdowns in a single game for the veteran wideout. The fact that no one has ever caught three TDs in a single game is telling, but Keenum was fantastic throughout the game, and made a name for himself under the national spotlight.
Runner up: For one half of football, we saw what the Texans could be on offense and defense. Unfortunately, there was a second half and they are required to play special teams some of the time.
What went wrong: Kicking Randy Bullock has not made a kick over 50 yards all year. He missed three field goals on Sunday, including one that could have been the game-tying kick as time expired in the fourth quarter. After a rocky start, Bullock started to look better, but he has regressed. His final kick on Sunday was not even remotely close. I actually laughed when I saw it because it was so awful. Unfortunately, there isn't much that can be done to turn the Texans into a good special teams team, but getting rid of Bullock is something that must be considered at this point.
Runner up: The entire second half was an unmitigated disaster. From up 18 to down 3 on your home turf is inexcusable. Perhaps the team was worried about their fallen coach, but I doubt it. More likely, they just started playing poorly and got rolled by a better team.
What must improve: Special Teams It's like a broken record. From Bullock to the return game, the Texans are abysmal on special teams. Even Shane Lechler got into the act with a brutal kick in the fourth quarter setting up the Colts with a short field down 5. Coach Joe Marciano must be fired at the end of the season if not sooner and the team needs to start over.
What should stay the same: The Vertical Passing Game Into his second game, Keenum figured out, at least for a half, how to exploit a defense thanks to stellar preparation by the offense. His ability to extend plays with his legs and still keep his head looking up field is not something normally seen from an almost-rookie. He even set them up with field position to tie the game in the fourth quarter. He was outstanding in all facets. What did we learn from the game? Andre Johnson can still catch the deep ball...when they make those kinds of plays. Sure, teams will often play two-deep on the Texans and force them to throw underneath, but Keenum forced it at times and Johnson was the main beneficiary.
What do we never want to see/hear again? Seriously, it is time for the Randy "Fat Kicker" Bullock experiment to end. I never want to see one of his lame-duck 40-plus yarders flop towards the goal posts ever again.
Key Moment of the Game With the Texans down 3 and driving, one of the more bizarre sequences of plays you'll ever see happened. With time running down under 3 minutes to play, the Texans ran the ball for a couple yards. They then tried to run a quarterback draw, something that worked earlier but failed miserably. Finally, they ran a boot in the same direction that ended in an incompletion. That play took nearly 40 seconds off the clock. Finally, inexplicably, they PUNTED on fourth down giving the Colts the ball with 1:55 left. The crazy, trick plays, the horrid clock management and the choice to punt on fourth and 11 with two minutes to play was the Texans in a nutshell this year.
Game Balls: Case Keenum Once again, the kid was nails. He nearly led his first fourth-quarter comeback and frankly deserved the win if not for lousy kicking and one awful call on a long third down completion that was overturned on review. Keenum, as SI columnist Peter King put it last night on Twitter:
Five-quarter judgment: Case Keenum looks like an NFL starter to me, and not a marginal one.
— Peter King (@SI_PeterKing) November 4, 2013
Andre Johnson Old Man Johnson just keeps getting open. I don't know how in the hell he does it. In the first half Sunday, he was a man possessed setting a franchise record with three touchdown catches.
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Goat of the Week: Randy Bullock I'm never one to call for the head of anyone mid-season, but with Bullock, I could make an exception. He accounted for -9 points in a game that was decided by a field goal. Enough said.
Random thought of the week: Gary Kubiak, despite how many feel about him as a coach, is a very good guy. Let's hope he just suffered some dehydration issues. Last time Houston got a scare like that, it was Larry Dierker collapsing in the dugout from a neurological condition that was, thankfully, caught and cured. Thoughts and prayers with Kubes.
Next Up: at Arizona Cardinals The Cardinals are 4-4 and coming off a win over the now hapless Atlanta Falcons. This Cards match-up was supposed to be a gimme game for the Texans, but they are playing awfully and couldn't beat the other bad NFC West team, the Rams, either. At this point, they might ought to think about getting into full-on tank mode.