April 20, 2014

The Devastating Dozen: Most Soul Crushing Losses In Texans History

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The Houston Texans snatched defeat from the jaws of victory on Sunday night when they gave away a 24-6 late third quarter lead to the Indianapolis Colts. For fans that have lived and died with the results of Texans games during their short franchise history, the sick feeling they had in the pit of their stomach Sunday night was unfortunately all too familiar. The coaches on the sideline and the players on the field have changed over the past 12 seasons, but their tendency to deliver several soul crushing losses to their fans per season has remained consistent.

Maybe it’s schadenfreude, but to help cope with their latest collapse, I’ve put together a list of their top 12 most crushing defeats in franchise history. To clarify, this isn’t necessarily their most lopsided losses ever, but as many fans describe them, the most “that’s so Texans” losses in franchise history. Games like Sunday night when they blew a big lead or lost in spectacular fashion will be the games you see on this list. You will also see games they were favored to win but ended up getting blown out. Games like their playoff loss to the Patriots last season will not be because most reasonable Texans fans expected them to lose and they were simply outplayed by the better team.

I chose twelve games instead of ten mostly because I couldn’t narrow down my list any further, but the number also fits nicely because this is the twelfth season in franchise history.

 

12. Chad Johnson guarantees victory, win-less Bengals blow out Texans (2002)

This game marked the first time in franchise history that the Texans were favored to win a game (-2.5). The Bengals were 0-7 coming into the game against the expansion Texans, but receiver Chad Johnson guaranteed a Cincinnati road victory. The Bengals didn’t just win, they blew out the favored Texans 38-3.

Bengals quarterback Jon Kitna completed 22/27 pass attempts and threw four touchdown passes in the game, while 1st overall pick David Carr was held under 200 yards passing with no touchdowns and two interceptions; one of which was returned for a touchdown by Artrell Hawkins. The Texans scored first on a 23 yard field goal from Kris Brown but things went down hill quickly after their opening drive. Their remaining possessions went as follows: punt, blocked field goal, missed field goal, punt, punt, interception, punt, end of game.

The Bengals finished the season with a 2-12 record. Their quarterback Jon Kitna, who threw four touchdowns and no interceptions against the Texans, finished the year with 16 touchdowns/16 interceptions. The Texans were a get well game for many struggling teams and players during their early years.

 

11. Jets drive 75 yards in 45 seconds with no timeouts (2010)

The Texans were in the midst of a season ending slide when they traveled to the east coast to take on a 7-2 Jets team that had crushed them the season before and would go on to reach the AFC Championship game for the second consecutive season. Not surprisingly, the Texans were 6 1/2 point underdogs.

Going into the fourth quarter, the game had played out rather predictably with the Texans trailing 23-7 after a Nick Folk field goal on the second play of the fourth quarter. Out of nowhere, the Texans rallied and eventually took the lead on a 1 yard touchdown run from Arian Foster. After a Mark Sanchez interception on the next possession, the Texans added on three points with a 22 yard Neil Rackers field goal and led 27-23 with 59 seconds remaining.

The 2010 Texans pass defense was historically awful. No better example than when they allowed the Jets to go 75 yards in 45 seconds with no timeouts to win the game. With 24 seconds remaining, no timeouts left, the ball at the Texans 48 yard line, and a field goal not an option because they trailed by four; the Jets didn’t have time to throw the ball over the middle of the field unless it went to the end zone. Yet, the Texans for whatever reason didn’t shade their defense towards the sideline and gave up a 42 yard pass to Braylon Edwards that advanced the ball to the Texans six yard line. The Jets scored on the next play on a pass from Sanchez to Santonio Holmes.

The collapse clinched the Texans fourth straight loss after starting the season with a 4-2 record. The Texans would go on to finish the 2010 season with a 6-10 record.

 

10. The three win Browns spoil Texans first chance at a non-losing season (2004)

The Texans were a team on the rise in 2004 while the Browns were, well the Browns. With seven wins coming into the last game of the season, the Texans had a chance to clinch their first non-losing season in franchise history, meaningful for a very young franchise, and they were favored (-10) to easily beat Cleveland. The Browns ranked 26th in takeaway/giveaway differential and 30th in point differential that season, had lost nine games in a row and were 0-7 on the road coming into their game at Houston.

Texans quarterback David Carr threw for just 114 yards on 25 pass attempts in the 22-14 loss to Cleveland. Browns running back Lee Suggs rushed for 131 yards on 5.03 yards per carry during the game; Suggs averaged 74 yards on 3.7 yards per carry during the 2004 season. The Texans had a habit of making mediocre players look great in the early years.

This loss certainly didn’t cause the Texans to go 2-14 the following season, but going into the off-season with some momentum and confidence could have helped.

 

9. One win Colts beat Texans, ending their chance at a playoff bye (2011)

Coming off a lackluster performance in a home loss to the Carolina Panthers the week before, the already playoff bound Texans needed a win to stay in the race for a first round playoff bye. On paper they looked like a lock to get that win with a game against the 1-13 Colts up next on the schedule, despite having never won at Indianapolis in franchise history. Rookie third string quarterback T.J. Yates was forced into starting action several weeks before after Matt Schaub was lost for the season, but almost everyone believed they still had enough to beat the Colts (without Peyton Manning) who they had defeated 34-7 earlier in the season.

The Texans offense scored just one touchdown in the game and it came after they got the ball on a turnover (Brian Cushing forced a Dan Orlovsky fumble) at the Colts 17 yard line. Houston did nothing on offense during the rest of the first half with the exception of one field goal. Their other five first half drives went like this: fumble, three plays/punt, 4 plays/punt, 3 plays/punt, 3 plays/punt.

The Colts scored their only touchdown and took their only lead of the game with 24 seconds remaining on a pass to Reggie Wayne. The game winning drive from the Colts was aided by a couple of questionable penalties, including a bogus roughing the passer call against J.J. Watt.

The 19-16 loss ended any chance the Texans had at getting a first round playoff bye.

 

8. Richard Sherman has followers, and not just on Twitter (2013)

The Texans came into the game needing a bounce back win after a blowout loss the week before to the Ravens. Most fans didn’t predict that to happen with the Seahawks coming to town, who were considered to be one of the best teams in the league. Shockingly, the Texans jumped all over the favored (-2) Seahawks and led 20-3 by halftime.

The predictable Texans offense was flat in the second half and gave Seattle a chance to get back into the game. The Texans six possessions in the second half (not including overtime) ended with four punts, a fumble, and an interception by Richard Sherman that was returned for a game tying touchdown. The pick six obviously gets the most attention, but losing Brian Cushing in the third quarter due to a concussion started the collapse. Before Cushing went out, the Seahawks offense struggled to gain a first down much less move the ball into scoring range. The Seahawks one offensive touchdown came after Cushing left the game, with Russell Wilson making several big plays with his legs; something Cushing would have likely prevented.

Back to the pick six, there were so many things about the play that made it more frustrating than the normal interception return for a touchdown. On that 3rd and 4 to go play, if they had run the ball and punted, the Texans likely would have won the game considering the time remaining. However, I was in favor of the idea to pass because it was unlikely that they would pick up the yards needed for a first with a run, they were out of field goal range (pretty much anywhere on the field with Bullock) so kicking to make it a two score lead wasn’t an option, and had they converted with a pass the game would be over. What I hated there was the decision to run a play action pass because the defense also knew they would have to pass to pick up the first down so of course they didn’t bite on the fake. That’s no excuse for the blind, floating pass that Schaub made towards the flat, but why have Schaub turn his back? Put him in the shotgun, give him a quick two route read with a slant and a short curl, and if it’s not there have him throw it away or better yet just fall down for the sack so the Seahawks would have to burn another timeout.

During overtime, the Texans punted on both of their possessions before Seattle kicked a game winning 45 yard field goal. The defeat was the second loss of a losing streak that would end their playoff chances for the 2013 season.

 

7. Schaub pick six helps Colts overcome 17-0 deficit (2009)

Losing to the Colts when they had Peyton Manning wasn’t surprising and normally not even something you would be mad about, but blowing a 17-0 lead at home is how you end up on this list. The 35-27 loss was the Texans third of four straight losses, all to divisional opponents, after starting the season with a 5-3 record. The Texans finished the season with a 9-7 record and missed the playoffs on a tiebreaker with the Jets.

In the game, besides a garbage time touchdown pass to Jacoby Jones, the Texans were awful in the second half. Their second half possessions ended as follows: interception, 3 plays/punt, 4 plays punt, Schaub pick six with the Texans down 21-20, Schaub sacked/fumble.

 

6. Ryan Fitzpatrick leads a 21 point comeback (2005)

For one loss to stand out during a 2-14 season, that loss had to be spectacularly awful. Coming into the game with a 1-9 record, the Texans obviously weren’t favored to win, but dominated the Rams through most of the game. The Texans jumped out to a 17-0 lead and were ahead 24-3 at halftime. The Rams cut into the lead with a touchdown pass to Torry Holt, but the Texans still led by 14 going into the final quarter.

The Texans fell apart in the fourth quarter. Early in the quarter, the Texans had the ball at the Rams 15 yard line looking to extend the lead to a three score game. On 3rd and 10, a pass from David Carr intended for Domanick Davis was picked off by Pisa Tinoisamoa of the Rams, taking three points off the board for the Texans. One play rarely decides a whole game, the Texans could have stopped the Rams later, but that play gave the Rams a huge momentum swing. The Rams capitalized on the turnover and cut the lead to one score with 6:41 remaining on a Steven Jackson 1 yard run.

The Texans were able to take about four minutes off the clock on their next drive and extend the lead to 10 points with 2:52 remaining on a 35 yard field goal from Kris Brown. The outcome looked like it had been decided. Not so fast my friend! On 4th and 6 with 34 seconds remaining, Ryan Fitzpatrick connected on a 43 yard touchdown pass to Isaac Bruce. A big play, but as long as the Texans recovered the onside kick, the game would still be over. Well, since the game is on this list, you already know that the Rams recovered the onside kick. Three plays later Jeff Wilkins hit a 47 yard field goal to tie the score and send the game to overtime.

The Texans received the first possession in overtime and were off to a nice start after advancing the ball past midfield to the Rams 47, but after Carr was sacked on 3rd and five, they were forced to punt. In a play befitting of the Texans collapse, the Rams won the game on their first possession of overtime on a 56 yard touchdown pass to Kevin Curtis. Ryan Fitzpatrick to Kevin Curtis; not exactly Montana to Rice.

The Texans didn’t just collapse, they collapsed against a team playing a rookie 7th round pick from Harvard at quarterback. Dom Capers probably got his resume ready before looking at the game film that week.

 

5. Schaub throws walk off pick six on Monday Night Football (2010)

The Texans fate in the 2010 season was already sealed by the time they took on the Baltimore Ravens on Monday Night Football as three point underdogs. After losing five of their previous six games, even running the table to reach 9-7 likely wouldn’t be enough for the Texans to make the playoffs and save the season from becoming the most disappointing in franchise history to that point.

The Texans looked like a defeated team early on as the Ravens took a 21-7 lead into halftime and returned the second half kickoff 103 yards to increase the lead to three touchdowns. The building was dead at that point; any hope the fans were holding on to had vanished. The Texans managed to cut the lead by six points with two field goal drives, but the 15 point lead the Ravens held going into the fourth quarter still looked secure.

By the fourth quarter, the Ravens defense began to look gassed. The Texans capitalized with touchdown drives that went 99 and 95 yards, respectively, to bring the score within two. With just 29 seconds remaining, Schaub found Jacoby Jones in the end zone to convert the two point conversion and tie the game. The Texans had officially gotten the hopes up of their fans.

The Ravens received the ball first in overtime but were forced to punt when Mark Anderson sacked Flacco. Ravens punter Sam Koch pinned the Texans deep with a 58 yard punt, helped by Jacoby Jones managing to lose three yards on the return for a net total of 61 yards. On second and 10 from their own 9 yard line, Schaub was pressured, back peddled, and threw a floating pass off his back foot into the arms of Ravens defensive back Josh Wilson who returned the interception 12 yards for a game winning touchdown. That’s so Texans.

 

4. Jaguars Hail Mary (2010)

Coming off back to back losses, the Texans desperately needed a win at Jacksonville to avoid falling under .500 after starting the season at 4-2. With a win, the Texans would move one game ahead of the Jaguars with the tiebreaker; with a loss, they would fall into last place in the division.

The Texans fell behind early and trailed 17-3 at halftime, but tied the game at 17-17 going into the fourth quarter. Later in the fourth with the game tied at 24-24, Jaguars kicker Josh Scobee missed a 43 yard field goal with 1:39 remaining, giving the Texans a chance to win the game or, worst case, go to overtime. Matt Schaub completed a pass to Joel Dreessen to put them in field goal range with 16 seconds remaining, but Dreessen fumbled and it was recovered by Justin Durant of the Jaguars.

When the Jaguars took over they were on their own 34 yard line with only 8 seconds remaining so overtime was still the most likely outcome during regulation. After a quick 11 yard pass to Marcedes Lewis and an offsides penalty against Antonio Smith, the Jaguars were in position to attempt a Hail Mary pass on the last play of regulation with 3 seconds remaining. Garrard bought time for his receivers to get down field, stepped up in the pocket, and lofted the ball towards the end zone in what looked to be intended for Mike Sims-Walker. As the pass was coming down about two yards deep in the end zone, Texans defensive back Glover Quin tried to bat the pass down, but didn’t bat it straight down and instead gave it a volleyball style bump straight forward and into the arms of Jaguars receiver Mike Thomas who was trailing the play.

There are very few other plays that describe the phrase “that’s so Texans” better than the game winning Hail Mary play against the Jaguars. I probably could have made this list entirely with games from the 2010 season.

 

3. Rosencopter (2008)

The Hurricane Ike season. They wouldn’t have been a Super Bowl team if the hurricane hadn’t hit Houston, but there’s no doubt that the storm caused problems that were difficult to overcome. The Texans were forced to have their bye in week two and didn’t play a home game until October.  That first home game was against the Indianapolis Colts who had struggled out of the gate, getting off to a 1-2 start coming into the game against the Texans. Despite struggling as well with an 0-3 record, a win over the Colts, who had dominated the division for a decade, would have given the Texans a chance to get back in the playoff race.

The Colts jumped out to a 10-0 lead in the first quarter but the Texans fought back and took a 17-10 lead into halftime. The Texans extended the lead to 17 points when Steve Slaton scored on a 1 yard run with 8:22 remaining in the fourth quarter. A 17 point lead with eight minutes remaining should be extremely safe and impossible to choke away, but this is the Texans we’re talking about.

The Colts scored on a Manning touchdown pass to cut the lead to 10 points with 4:10 remaining; a two possession lead that late should still be safe, no reason to panic. The Texans recovered an onside kick attempt from the Colts and looked to be in great shape; two first downs or a field goal after getting the ball with a short field would clinch the victory.

Cue the meltdown. After running the ball with Ahman Green on first and second downs and forcing the Colts to burn their first two timeouts, the Texans were faced with a decision on 3rd and 8; run the ball and burn clock, or go for the first down to end the game. After the snap, Rosenfels rolled out left on a playaction bootleg and when he was faced with three defenders between him and the first down marker, instead of just sliding to protect the ball and forcing the Colts to use their final timeout, he instead tried an awkward dive over the first defender. While in the air, Rosenfels got hit and spun around by the second defender, and after Rosenfels dropped the ball, the third defender (Gary Brackett) picked up the football and returned it for a touchdown.

On the next possession, still nursing a three point lead with just under three minutes remaining, the Texans attempted to pass on 3rd and 9 but Rosenfels was sacked and stripped of the football by Robert Mathis. Two plays later the Colts scored on a five yard touchdown pass with an incredible catch made by Reggie Wayne.

Now trailing 31-27 with under two minutes remaining, Rosenfels was tasked with putting the last two turnovers behind him and leading a game winning drive. After picking up two first downs, Rosenfels was picked off by Melvin Bullitt on a pass intended for Andre Johnson. As a stunned crowd watched on, Peyton Manning took a knee three times to finish off a come from behind victory for the Colts. Unfortunately, collapsing in the fourth quarter is not a trait unique to just Matt Schaub.

 

2. Vince Young walk off touchdown in overtime (2006)

This loss wasn’t crushing because they gave up a late lead; the biggest lead either way was eight points. This loss wasn’t crushing because of a turnover late in the game; the Texans won the turnover battle 2-0. This loss was crushing to Texans fans because a majority of them wanted Houston native Vince Young to be their quarterback instead of David Carr. Vince Young had just come off a season in which he led the Texas Longhorns to a National Championship, while Carr and the Texans won just two games. The fact that he was drafted by the city’s former team made that pain excruciating.

The game went back and forth with the Titans turnovers keeping the Texans in the game (Titans out gained them 418-240). When the game went to overtime, every fan in the stands and every fan watching at home knew exactly what was about to happen. At the University of Texas, Young had a habit of making the spectacular clutch play to win big games, and Texans fans knew he was about to do it again. The Titans received the ball first and after a nice return from Pacman Jones and a big run from Chris Brown, the Titans had the ball at the Texans 39 yard line. On third and 14, the Texans blitzed but couldn’t bring Young down as he escaped the pocket and out ran the remaining defenders to the end zone for a game winning touchdown.

To have the hometown boy that the Texans passed on come to town for the first time with the city’s former team and beat the Texans in spectacular fashion was just soul crushing. It was one of those losses that made you question a little bit if you really wanted to be a Texans fan. Heartbreaking.

 

1. Divisional round playoff loss at the Ravens (2011)

The Texans have lost probably a dozen games in a more heartbreaking fashion, but I put this game number one because of its importance and what the season could have been. The 2011 Texans were, without a doubt in my mind, the best team they’ve ever had. Unfortunately, the injury bug hit them big time and cut their potential short.

The defense that season was ferocious and capable of carrying the team on it’s back in most games. When Matt Schaub went down, they were forced to do just that. Schaub never was and will never be elite, but he was playing very well that season before the injury and the Texans had won their four games before his injury by an average of 22.5 points per game.

Despite the injuries, the Texans blew out the Bengals in their first round game and dominated the Ravens in every area of their divisional round matchup except for the scoreboard. The Texans defense sacked Flacco 5 times while their offense didn’t allow a single sack. They also gained 88 more yards than the Ravens but gave the game way on a Jacoby Jones fumble that gave Baltimore an easy two yard touchdown drive, and three gift interceptions from rookie quarterback T.J. Yates. The Texans ended up losing the game 20-13.

Many fans, including myself, believe they would have beaten the Ravens with a healthy Matt Schaub. I also believe they would have beaten the Patriots the next week to advance to the Super Bowl. However, I do not believe they were capable of beating the Giants. This loss was their most crushing in franchise history because of what could have been and what was taken away. That feeling of having something stolen away has only gotten worse over the last two years as they’ve slipped further and further away from a Super Bowl caliber team.

 

Dishonorable Mentions:

2010 Dallas – Texans favored to win, but got dominated 27-13
2009 Titans (home) – Monday Night Football. VY leads late game winning drive, Kris Brown misses game winning field goal
2007 Titans (home) – Texans overcame a 32-7 second half deficit to take the lead in the final minute. Lost when a 46 yard pass from Kerry Collins to Roydell Willliams set up a Bironas field goal as time expired.

Disagree? Tell me on Twitter. @sackedbybmac

 

  • cartooner

    Interesting that nine–and all of the honorable mentions– were under the Kubiak regime.

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