The word du jour was “ugly.” You heard it over and over again in the Texans’ locker room after the club snuck past the winless Dolphins 22-19. Indeed, there was very little about the game or Houston’s performance which could be described as aesthetically pleasing. Time after time, the Texans killed themselves with dumb penalties (hello, Travis Johnson. We’ll get to you later), bad defense and a running game hideous enough to make Tori Spelling look like a supermodel by comparison. (Okay, that’s a bit extreme, I guess. Nobody could make Tori look like a supermodel.)
And yet, for all those mistakes, Houston was still able to ride the heroic right leg of Kris Brown to victory. The team’s record stands at a respectable 3-2 and if we’re being honest here, every Texans fan has to be thrilled with that development, since the franchise has never before been above the .500 mark in October. So it’s not all bad, right? Let’s shine the spotlight on a few of the positives, starting with…
What more can be said about this guy? I mean, that has to be the best regular season kicking performance of all time. Three field goals of 50-plus yards (including the game-winner from 57) and a halftime injection for his injured left heel??? That’s the stuff of which legends are made. He certainly earned lots of love in the locker room after the game.
Says Dunta Robinson: “I love him right now. Kris Brown is the MAN right now. If he needs food for the rest of the week, call me. I’ll bring it to him, I’ll cook for him, whatever he needs.”
He’s not flashy but, damn, he is one cool customer in crunch time. Schaub played with a bum leg as well; rather inconvenient when one considers the heavy-lifting he had to do with the running game missing in action. Still, the guy was a stalwart, making plays down the field and executing a picture perfect final drive. How long have Texan fans been waiting for a quarterback who can not only do those things, but who also has a coaching staff which believes he can do them? You think this guy has made a believer of everyone wearing steel blue and battle red? The praise ranges from effusive to borderline blasphemous:
“He’s the complete package. He’s poised. He doesn’t let the pressure get to him. He directs the offense with a sense of urgency and the guys just respect him and they respond,” says Bryan Pittman.
“It’s a new quarterback. You can’t play conservative with this guy. You gotta put the ball in his hands and that’s exactly what we expect of him: to drive us down the field and put us in position to win the football game and he did just that,” says Dunta Robinson.
“That’s playing quarterback in the NFL. You go out there and you’re not up to par, and you still win games. I watched one do that in Denver for 16 years. That’s what you’ve got to be able to do,” says Gary Kubiak.
Comparing Schaub to John Elway is probably more hyperbolic than my Spelling joke at the beginning of the column, but you get the point: The Texans’ new quarterback is making a name for himself.
No, he wasn’t great Sunday. In fact, the front four’s inability to generate pressure continues to be a chronic problem for this football team. But Mario did produce the Texans’ only sack of the game and – maligned as he is – nothing gets the crowd going like a big play from Williams: The fans just want to see him succeed so badly.
“Yeah, I noticed that,” says Williams. “Actually, before I got that sack and before we came out on to the field, we were talking about how we need something to spark the crowd. Our players were telling me: ‘Mario, if you do something, it’s going to ignite the crowd,’ and it did, so it came at the perfect time. But yeah, I notice it, man, so I just try to go out there and make something happen.”
Now, as for the negatives, there’s only one place to start:
The taunting penalty which led to the Dolphins’ first touchdown was bad. His profanity-laced postgame rant was worse. Apparently, TJ wasn’t thrilled with Trent Green’s low block (which, of course, resulted in a concussion that may end Green’s career).
"It was a malicious hit," Johnson said. "It was uncalled for. He's like the scarecrow. He wants to get courage while I wasn't looking and hit me in my knee instead of trying to hit me in my head. God don't like ugly, you know what I mean?"
Truth be told, I’m not really clear on God’s feelings toward ugly. I always felt like He wasn’t really the discriminatory type. But I am going to go out on a limb here and say Jehovah probably doesn’t approve of linemen who deem it necessary to menacingly pose above motionless, concussed quarterbacks. Because while God may or may not like ugly, He damn sure doesn’t like dumb.
His presence is sorely missed. Without him, the Texans are missing their best player and most explosive big play threat. He’s already missed three games with a knee injury. And I think that number is almost certain to be four this time next week.
“Right now, I couldn’t even tell you [when I’ll play again],” Andre Johnson says. “Every day it seems like it gets a little better, so we’re just taking it one day at a time. We haven’t set no time limit on it. You know, it has to heal on its own, so once it heals, I’ll be back out there.”
Those are not words which instill hope. More discouraging: Johnson’s voice and demeanor showed no traces of optimism either.
The Reliant Stadium Crowd
Look, I know the Texans aren’t the most exciting bunch to watch. And I also realize this franchise is not exactly steeped in history or success. But is it asking too much for people to show up on time? It’s embarrassing to see the stadium barely half-full at kick-off. This isn’t Jacksonville, folks. This is supposed to be a real football city. Apparently, Dunta is more understanding that I am:
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“You gotta win football games to put fans in the seats,” Robinson says. “We really don’t worry about that. We’ll play in the parking lot with car lights on. If you love playing football, there doesn’t have to be anybody there. You know, you wish the fans would come to any game, not just the huge games – I bet it will be full in two weeks when we play Tennessee – you just wish it would be for all your football games. But like I said, you gotta keep winning if you want to put fans in the stands.”
No, this has nothing to do with the Texans or football. But I’m sick of seeing promos for this show (they appear every commercial break during TBS’s baseball coverage) and I just wanted to prove that John Royal and I don’t necessarily disagree on everything. – Jason Friedman