Until eight days ago, it still felt different.
Sure, the Texans were 4-3 and coming off a rough loss to the Colts. But until then, when the Texans had been beaten, they were clearly the lesser team -- losing by at least 13 points to physically superior opponents on those days.
That's not the essence of Gary Kubiak's now 4-5 Texans. The essence of his group is the punch to the gut, snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. It's Chris Brown fumbling at the one-inch line and inexplicably tossing an end-zone interception, and kicker Kris Brown shanking a pair of game-tying kicks.
The Texans began 2010 in a different fashion, stealing games from Washington and Kansas City that appeared poised to be losses in the closing minutes. But when Glover Quin swatted a desperation heave from David Garrard into the arms of a Jacksonville receiver on Sunday, it did more than end a game.
It all but ended any postseason hopes, and confirmed what most of us suspicioned following Andre Johnson's incredibly unlikely and bizarre drop-turned-interception against San Diego.
Same old Texans, same old story.
Kubiak's crew is exactly who we thought they were. 2010 is simply the latest -- and hopefully final -- chapter.
"There's no excuse for that to happen," Kubiak said, speaking about the final play.
For once, he's right -- but on multiple levels. The reality is that there was also no excuse for the Hail Mary attempt to even have mattered. The Texans dominated the second half, once they decided to show up.
But for a fourth consecutive week, the Texans' vaunted offense was absent for half of the game. They scored three in the first half on Sunday, after putting up three in the second half against San Diego, three in the first half against Indianapolis and seven in the first half against Kansas City.
The struggles of the historically-bad Houston defense have been well documented. In theory, however, a loaded offense should be able to keep them in most games and push them past mediocrity like Jacksonville and San Diego.
But a consistently awful defense and an offense that only plays half a game is a recipe for disaster against almost any competition. And the latter is a similar script to what played out throughout 2009.
One first-half play summed up the usual lack of logic in the Kubiak regime. Early in the second quarter tied at 3, the Texans faced a third-and-8 on their own 13-yard line, on which Matt Schaub handed off to Arian Foster for a draw up the middle. The conservative call meant a punt from deep in their own territory, and turned the field and the early momentum decidedly in Jacksonville's favor.
The conservative call would be understandable by some coaches and in some situations. But not against a Jacksonville defense ranked 30th in the NFL against the pass. And not by Kubiak, considering he opted to run Foster just eight times in the entire first half against a porous Indianapolis run defense and only six times in the second half against San Diego -- most of that with a lead!
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It's not all on the in-game coaching, of course. It's partly the game plan, and partly a lack of talent on defense. But the latter is equally as much of an indictment on Kubiak and general manager Rick Smith, given their five seasons in Houston and the numerous high draft picks used on the unit.
I watched the Hail Mary disaster unfold at a local bar filled with Texans fans. While announcer Gus Johnson was losing his mind, most Texans fans didn't even seem fazed. Several shrugged their shoulders. Others laughed. A few rolled their eyes.
What hurt the most was how little it actually did.
Finally, the Texans have their essence back