Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Defining Moment

By J. Michael Moore, HoustonTexans.com

Never has sweat looked so nice.

With 9:25 left here Sunday the Texans took the ball and started driving.

Jonathan Wells left, Jonathan Wells right, and in just a few plays the Titans columbia blue jerseys were turning darker with perspiration. At one point, most of Tennessee’s front seven stood with hands on hips, sucking wind before the Texans offensive line set for another play.

That’s what happens when the Texans execute.

“That’s a sign of a good football team,” starting tight end Mark Bruener said of the nine-play, 65-yard drive that ended with a four-yard touchdown run by Wells.

It may not have been the ultimate defining drive every team has during the course of the season but it was exactly what the Texans needed to secure a 20-10 victory over the Titans.

But the drive that secured the Texans (3-3, 1-0) first victory over the Titans in two years of existence signified plenty about the improvement of the team.

For starters, the defense picked off Titans quarterback Steve McNair four times in the game, twice in the fourth quarter, and held Tennessee scoreless for the entire second half. Last week’s AFC Offensive Play of the Week Chris Brown was knocked out of the game in the third quarter and finished with 52 yards on 13 carries.

It all set up one of the key moments of the game for the Texans offensive line, which blew the Titans defensive line off the ball play after play. Each time they pushed a little bit harder and the Titans appeared a little more fatigued.

Wells rushed six times on the scoring drive, which ran 4:43 seconds off the clock and forced McNair into a hurry up for the rest of the game.

Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson also made two of his four receptions on the drive, both on quick passes to the outside where he beat Titans cornerback Samari Rolle in one-on-one coverage.

Wells dove into the end zone from four yards out with 4:45 remaining, following a Zach Wiegert block for his second rushing touchdown of the season.

The Titans (2-4, 0-3) got the ball back with more than four minutes remaining but McNair threw his final interception of the day to free safety Marcus Coleman on fourth-and-goal from the two.

A couple of plays later the Texans were able to take a knee.

“We have been a real football team, we just haven’t won a lot of games,” said Wells, who rushed for 73 yards after replacing an injured Domanick Davis. “We have been battling and we just have to keep going. If we keep getting better, there is no telling what we can do. We know we have a long way to go, but we are doing a lot of things well right now.”

The Texans defense has been doing well over the last month as well.

Houston has won three of its last four games. The team has a total of 10 takeaways in those three victories.

“In the games we’ve won, we’ve always won the turnover battle.” Texans cornerback Aaron Glenn said. “I think if we continue to do that, we’ll continue to have a lot more wins. We know what our keys to success are. We have to continue to do that.”

McNair threw for 210 yards, but the Titans never got into a solid rhythm against an aggressive Texans defense. Houston only had one sack to show for its efforts, but did plenty in its 27 minutes on the field.

Most importantly, the defense helped take a normally raucous Tennessee crowd out of the action.

Then it was up to the offense to make the Titans sweat.

“We knew coming in here would be a big challenge,” head coach Dom Capers said. “This is not an easy place to come in and play against a good Tennessee team. What we got to do is take this win and try to build on it.”

Monday, October 11, 2004

Heart Break City

It was a heart breaker. This past Sunday the Texans fought back from a 21 point deficit to send the game into overtime with the score 28-28. But that is where it ended, in overtime, as Cullpepper's arrant pass found it's way to the endzone for the game winning TD.

Texans QB David Carr

(On the difference between the first and second halves) “It was hard the first half because we only had 17 plays. We missed 3 rd and 1, 3 rd and 2. We get that and that’s a guaranteed six more plays at least. So that was tough – we only had 17 plays at halftime and that’s our own fault. In the second half we kind of pulled it together a little bit.”

(On the character of the team) “It’s the same for the entire team. We’re never going to give up. It’s just the strength of the character of the guys in the huddle and how they carry themselves. There was never a sign of giving up, never a sign that we can’t score 21 or whatever we need to score to come back in the game.”

(On the importance of finishing games like this one) “It was tough. Once we got into overtime we thought we had a chance. We finally got it tied up at 28, and they did a good job of covering us up on the series that we had and we didn’t get much done. We couldn’t finish it off. That’s something we’re going to have to focus on. I was kind of happy to be in that situation, but we have to get the killer mentality to take it away, kind of like the Vikings do.”

(On Andre Johnson’s presence and performance) “When number 80’s out there and we make eye contact, there’s a good chance that I’ll throw him the football. It instills confidence when you throw a ball up to a guy and he goes and jumps 15 feet in the air and pulls it down. You’d probably throw it to him. He’s playing with a lot of confidence and it’s something everyone else feeds off of. The other wide receivers made big plays – they all feed off of that. They see him make some plays and they go and make plays, and the whole offense gets some energy. That’s kind of what enabled us to g et back in the game and tie it up.”

(On Andre Johnson’s acrobatic touchdown catch) “It was a play that we’d seen on tape and that we thought we’d take advantage of. We played it similar to what they did on tape and just had to wait a little longer. We had Domanick [Davis] out in the flat trying to entice the corner to step up a little bit, and he stepped up just enough to where I could put it on the top shelf. We practiced it during the week. I just didn’t practice with him doing a flip.”