The Texans: Mission Not Quite Accomplished

Perhaps it was appropriate that the former president Bushes were in attendance for yesterday's Houston Texans game. Especially Bush the Younger. Because just as the Younger stood on an aircraft carrier with a "Mission Accomplished" banner displayed proudly behind him long before the mission was actually accomplished, so to did the Texans strut off of the field after the first half with a 21-0 lead on the visiting San Francisco 49ers.

But there was just one problem. Nobody bothered to inform the 49ers that the Texans' mission had been accomplished, and the Texans found themselves needing a Eugene Wilson interception with just seconds remaining to escape Reliant Stadium with the 24-21 victory.

If not for a long-distance Kris Brown field goal midway through the fourth quarter, the Texans might well have found themselves on the losing end of the score, as the 49ers did during the half what many professional sports teams often do. They made adjustments.

The primary adjustment involved the benching of starting QB Shaun Hill and replacing him with former number-one pick Alex Smith. Another adjustment involved junking an offense heavy on running formations and going to the spread.

The final 49er adjustment involved perhaps the most revolutionary invention ever conceived in pro football: throwing the football to tight end Vernon Davis. Okay, maybe throwing the football to the tight end is not all of that revolutionary -- the Texans offense seems to do that many times a game. But to the Texans defense it was a rather revolutionary act because time after time in the second half Smith found an open Davis, including three times in the end zone, as the so-called defensive masterminds scratched their heads and wondered why 49ers head coach Mike Singletary changed the rules and started running different plays.

Many people will think that all is well. After all, the Texans not only found a way to win two games in a row, but they found a way to get something called a winning record. But all is not well because the things that have been causing problems for the Texans all season continued to cause the Texans problems yesterday.

As has been the case since the first days of the Gary Kubiak regime, the Texans found themselves unable to adjust to changes made by the opposition at halftime. It was almost as if the Texans had never before seen the spread offense and just couldn't figure out what do with a quarterback throwing a football to a tight end.

It also didn't help that, as since the earliest days of the Kubiak regime, the Texans failed to prepare for the possibility that they would have to deal with the backup quarterback.

Then there was the continuation of Steve Slaton's ball-control problems as he lost one fumble and had the replay help him out on another. And as in the Oakland game several weeks ago, Kubiak seemed to believe that scoring points and keeping the offense on the field was really no longer necessary in the second half of a football game.

The Texans are heading out to Buffalo next Sunday for their last game before the bye. And the Texans should have an easy time against the 3-4 Bills. The Bills offense is anemic, having scored only 113 points in seven games. Trent Edwards, their number-one quarterback, missed yesterday with a concussion that he suffered two weeks ago, and his backup is the not-spectacular Ryan Fitzpatrick.

However, the Texans do need to beware in that the Bills have two of the NFL's best receivers in Lee Evans and Terrell Owens -- I also think that the Bills have a tight end.

And in Marshawn Lynch and Fred Jackson, the Bills have two running backs who would start on most teams in the league. But the Bills do have a good defense, and have allowed only 138 points. They've shut down the running games of the New York Jets and Carolina Panthers the past two weeks. They intercepted Jets QB Mark Sanchez five times two weeks ago, and they intercepted Jake Delhomme three times yesterday -- true, that's about as impressive as the Texans beating up on Oakland.

The Bills game is one the Texans should win easily just as the Texans should have easily defeated San Francisco yesterday.

But as George W. Bush can tell the Texans, just saying the mission is accomplished doesn't mean the mission is accomplished. Just as having the big halftime lead doesn't mean the game is won.

And know this, the Texans game after the Bills, right after the bye, will feature a quarterback known as Peyton Manning. And if a nonentity like Alex Smith can make the Texans look bad, just think of what Manning will do.

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