View from Houston: Suffering fans get a fine finish
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Another game was slipping away. You just knew it. You figured the Texans and Steelers knew it, too.
The Texans have lost so many of these games the last few years. That's the thing that'll drive you crazy about this team.
It's one thing to lose to the Jets or Saints. It's another to have the game within reach and then to find a way to give it away.
On the first night of training camp, Texans coach Gary Kubiak showed his players a video of last season's 2-8 finish.
"We gave five games away," he said.
This summer was about learning to finish. And this season, just when you'd allowed yourself to wonder if this team really might be different, the Texans let another one slip away in New Orleans last weekend.
So on Sunday afternoon at Reliant Stadium, when a 10-point lead slipped away and the Texans found themselves in a tie game early in the fourth quarter, it seemed to be heading toward an inevitable conclusion.
Hopefully, we'll look back after this season and see all those painful losses the last two years as part of a growth process. The Texans were running seven and eight 25-and-under defensive starters onto the field last season and in a league in which games are won by one team imposing its will on the other in the fourth quarter, experience can be a deciding factor.
There are things in the NFL that can't be taught, and the learning curve is sometimes excruciating.
Anyway, just when you saw another loss coming over the horizon, when you were ready to throw up your hands and wonder if anything would ever change, the Texans did something spectacular.
Down the stretch, they made winning play after winning play. They were the tougher team, the better team, the team with more poise and more resolve.
"That's part of the maturation process," Texans owner Bob McNair said.
With the game there to be won, the Texans won it, 17-10. First, they won it with a beauty of an 85-yard touchdown drive.
With receiver Andre Johnson injured, quarterback Matt Schaub didn't complete a single pass to a wide receiver in the second half. At winning time, though, he tossed a 30-yard strike to Owen Daniels. At winning time, Arian Foster broke a 42-yard touchdown run.
When you begin passing out praise for this one, you can start right there. If the Texans had ever forgotten why Foster is so special, they were reminded of it on Sunday afternoon.
Coaches figured he might touch the ball 15 times, maybe 20 in just his second game of the season. Only they didn't figure on his backup, Ben Tate, getting hurt and then Johnson getting hurt, and they didn't figure the offensive game plan would be placed squarely on his shoulders.
He was spectacular, carrying 30 times for 155 yards, and when it counted the most, he made a game-winning play.
And then the defense took over. Wade Phillips seemed exasperated last week by questions about the meltdown in New Orleans.
He pointed out again and again that his defense had played poorly in just one small slice of one game. Otherwise, it had performed as well as any in the league.
In the final 10 minutes Sunday afternoon, the Texans played possibly the best defense they've ever played.
In the end, all this 3-1 start has gotten them is a share of first place in the AFC South and a growing sense of confidence at the one-quarter mark of the season.
"We showed some toughness as a group," Kubiak said. "We played all day long and it's a great win, great team win."
This day amounted to a step in the right direction, and even though it only counts as one, it was impossibly sweet.
First Published October 3, 2011 12:00 am