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Texans – Colts: In A Nutshell

BY PAUL GALLANT, SportsRadio 610
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(Credit: Thomas B. Shea/Getty Images

(Credit: Thomas B. Shea/Getty Images

HOUSTON (CBS Houston) – Can things get any worse for the Texans? I’m really sick of asking the question. But every week, the answer seems to be yes.

The season has resembled every extremely predictable mediocre network sitcom (sorry Mothership). Each game has seen the same problematic themes, bone-headed mistakes, mixed with some bad luck and unintentional comedy. The only thing missing? A laugh track.

Sunday Night’s game was a rare dark episode of the sitcom. Case Keenum (350 passing yards 3 TDs) was lights out. Andre Johnson (9 catches 229 yards 3 TDs) was even better. And the Texans had HUGE LEADS on ONE OF THE BEST TEAMS IN THE NFL. 21-3 at halftime. 24-6 late in the 3rd quarter. But on top of the Texans some how finding a way to lose, they saw head coach Gary Kubiak rushed to the hospital after collapsing on the sideline at halftime (for more on Kubiak’s status, keep a tab on our story here). In a season chock full of disappointment, Sunday night’s loss was BY FAR the most emotionally draining of the year.

Still want to dive back into the game? Here’s what I took away:

What Went Right

Keenum-Mania
Believe it or not, there were actually quite a few positives to take away from Sunday Night’s game. Subject A? Case Keenum.

I was optimistic about the Texans chances with Keenum under center just because of how poorly Schaub had played. But NO ONE IN THEIR RIGHT MIND saw THAT performance coming. Keenum was absolutely brilliant against one of the league’s best in front of the entire country…in just his SECOND START. Extending plays. Scrambling for extra yards. Bombing long touchdown passes. NOT turning the ball over. Keenum did things we didn’t even KNOW were possible for a quarterback to do. And the fact that the Texans waited until Schaub was INJURED to give Case a shot is a major indictment on this organization.

Andre Johnson
I was happy to see Andre get the chance to dominate on a national stage. But I couldn’t help but be a bit sad too.

Why? Because Andre has dealt with mediocre to bad quarterbacks like Schaub, Sage Rosenfels, and David Carr for his entire 11 year career (and been a class act in the locker room the entire time). And last night, it finally seemed like he had a passer worthy of giving him the damn ball. If he’d worked with a Brady, Manning, Brees, or Rodgers (and on a winning team) during his long career…would he be considered one of the best receivers to ever play the game? Performances like last night at age 32 can only make you wonder.

Tough Guy Tate
Lost after the scary moment with Kubiak and the Texans eventual collapse was a gutty, ballsy performance by Ben Tate. Tate rushed for a hard earned 81 yards on 22 carries…despite 4 CRACKED RIBS. And he HAD to carry the load, especially after Arian Foster left the game one play in with a back injury. If the Texans had found a way to win, he’d have gotten the game ball…no matter how well the two above him played.

The Pass Protection
Colts defensive end Robert Mathis led the NFL with 11.5 sacks going into Sunday night. And a noticeably bulkier Duane Brown rendered him irrelevant…keeping him from getting a pressure or QB hit on Keenum.

This was a big step forward for a unit that had struggled in this area most of the year, especially two weeks ago against Kansas City (5 sacks allowed). Case Keenum is great at extending plays, but he makes it difficult for his line to protect with how long he holds on the football. The O-Line did a good job allowing just one Indy sack.

The Pass Rush…For Three Quarters
I’ve never seen Andrew Luck look more uncomfortable than he did Sunday night. He was under constant pressure (4 sacks, 11 QB hits), and as a result was very erratic…completing just 18 of 40 passes. Obviously J.J. Watt caused most of that pressure (1 sack, 5 QB hits), but Antonio Smith (2 sacks, 2 qb hits) had a great game too.

But somehow…the pass rush vanished down the stretch. Andrew Luck had all the time in the world for those three third and long conversions…just as he did on that touchdown bomb to T.Y. Hilton.

What Went Wrong

Not to go all Bill Worrell On You…But…
…The referees were consistently bad (though they weren’t out TO GET a Houston team, like Bill always believes). Between the shaky pass interference call on Kareem Jackson (46 yards, setting up a Colts field goal), targeting penalty on Ed Reed (15 yards on third down at the Texans 32, paving the way for an easier Indy field goal), a touchy roughing the passer call on Darryl Sharpton (10 yards on third down at the Texans 20, setting up a Colts touchdown), and two inexplicably overturned calls (Keshawn Martin’s fumble on a kick return and Andre Johnson’s third down catch in the 4th…both of which were reversed despite what seemed like inconclusive evidence), it was a bad night for the Zebras.

More of the Same Dumb S%^&
But the ref crew wasn’t the reason the Texans lost…because the team consistently put itself in bad situations. The call on Jackson was touchy, but with the way he’s been getting flagged of late you’d think he’d be more careful. The targeting call on Reed looked bad on review, but on a pass that was clearly overthrown what do you gain by bumping into Griff Whalen? Stay away. And Sharpton, when any player is near the sideline and on his way out of bounds (let alone a QB who did THIS in his last game), DON’T GO ANYWHERE NEAR HIM.

The Sieve
Andrew Luck is one of the best young quarterbacks in the NFL, and is especially deadly in third and long situations. Still…the Texans’ secondary was a train wreck Sunday night.

Forget the obvious 58 yard touchdown pass from Luck to T.Y. Hilton over ZONE COVERAGE (only the third straight game Hilton has embarrassed Houston with a deep score). Just look at all these late lapses on third down starting late in the third quarter:

- 3rd and 10 at Indy 32, Luck hits T.Y. Hilton for 16 yards
– 3rd and 10 at Houston 10, Luck throws a 10 yard touchdown to T.Y. Hilton
– 3rd and 10 at Indy 48, Luck finds Griff Whalen for 17 yards

Combine those with the questionable penalties caused by Texans players putting themselves in bad situations, and you have the recipe for blowing a 21-3 lead.

Everything on Special Teams
I could give a rat’s ass about the blocked field goal and blocked punt. This team is a complete joke on special teams, and every day that Special Teams Coordinator Joe Marciano still has a job is a day too long.

Keshawn Martin is a horrendous returner. Say all you want about the coverage units, but Martin is fumble prone (fumbling one kick after the Colts had finally scored a touchdown…a play that was overruled because the referees somehow saw enough evidence to rule the ball went out of bounds) and routinely makes awful decisions (taking a kick from 9 yards deep in the end zone out to his own 13 yard line).

Oh yeah..the coverage units. Down 3 points with about 50 seconds to play, you just KNEW a hold/block in the back would rear its ugly head. Lo and behold, it happened…when an Elbert Mack hold forced the Texans to start their last second desperation drive at their own 33 (as opposed to Indy’s 46).

And I’d be remiss if I didn’t discuss his bro-ness Randy Bullock, who hopefully “Finkled” his way out of a job shanking 3 of 4 field goals. He’s missed an NFL high 8 kicks. That’s completely unacceptable…even if all those misses have come from 40+ yards away.

Just last week, Peter King of Sports Illustrated and MMQB.com wrote that field goals have become TOO easy these days. Bullock is the rare exception…ironic seeing as he was an absurdly high fourth round pick just last season. It’s been eight weeks, and we’ve really seen nothing that indicates Bullock will change that problem anytime soon.

It’s time for a change. So can I get some Shayne Graham?

Get in contact with Paul Gallant on Twitter – @PaulyGRadio – or on Facebook – Paul Gallant.

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