Texans-Colts: 4 Winners, 4 Losers, "Playoff Apocalypse" Version
Well, I have good news and bad news.
The bad news is that any plans you had to take a week off from Texans' football in order to get some early spring cleaning done or go visit relatives, well, you best change them. After losing 28-16 to the Colts on Sunday in Indianapolis (Texans are 0-11 lifetime in Indy now!), the Texans managed to take a scenario in which they needed one win over the last two weeks of the season to clinch home field throughout the playoffs and parlay it into a three seed, and a near impossible road to paydirt.
For all of those weeks spent as the favorite to win the Super Bowl, for all the Pro Bowlers on this roster (eight in all), for all the equity piled up during their 11-1 start, here are your Texans, right back where they were this time a year ago -- at home, the third seed, readying themselves for the wildcard Bengals.
And instead of all roads to New Orleans traveling through Houston, now the Texans will have to travel to New England and Denver to get there themselves. That is if they beat the Bengals, who very inconveniently are 7-1 in the second half of the season. I mean, yeesh.
Oh, what's the good news, you say? Well, if the Texans keep playing as shitty as they did on Sunday, you won't need any money for playoff road trips.
Let's talk winners and losers:
4. Colts opening act
The Colts won the time of possession battle 31:09 to 28:51. Not a huge advantage, but it was when they possessed the ball that was so critical to their success. It started with the opening drive, 13 play, 75 yard gem that lasted 7:09 and ended with Andrew Luck (5 for 7, 59 yards on the drive) running a perfect play action pass to Coby Fleener from the one yard line. As "Welcome Back" gifts go for returning Colts head coach Chuck Pagano (back from a bout with treatable cancer), this drive was a fruit basket, an ice cream cake and a strippergram all rolled into one.
Then there was....
3. Colts grand finale
After Schaub's second interception of the afternoon, an overthrown deep ball to Andre Johnson in the end zone (a Schaub overthrow, the Halley's Comet of NFL passes) which was picked off by Vontae Davis, the Colts took over at their own 20 yard line with 9:46 remaining in the game and the Texans' chances of winning on life support. Over the next several minutes, the Colts would excruciatingly and torturously pull out the plug. 16 plays, 63 yards, all runs, and the game ended with Luck taking three knees just inside the Texans 20 yard line. Yes, the Colts, the team that couldn't run the ball and at times put "too much" on Andrew Luck's plate, ran the ball right down the Texans' collective throat and the Texans were powerless to get a stop. At one time, this is what the Texans used to do teams.
2. Youth at quarterback
With Minnesota knocking off the Packers to take an NFC wildcard spot and the Redskins topping the Cowboys to take the NFC East title, did you know there will be six rookie or second year quarterbacks in the playoffs this season, an incredible number especially when you consider the three second year guys to make the postseason were the second three drafted in 2011? If you remember, the 2011 draft went like this (BOLD means team made 2012 postseason):
1. Cam Newton
8. Jake Locker
10. Blaine Gabbert
12. Christian Ponder
35. Andy Dalton
36. Colin Kaepernick
You know who is a big fan of the list above? This guy...
1. Anyone who thinks the NFL Draft is a crapshoot
Experts pontificate, mock drafters constantly revise iterations of their big board which are really glorified dart boards, and in the end, nobody really knows. Want more proof that most draft experts are really just educated guessers? The same guy that drafted Alfred Morris in the sixth round for the Redskins this season (and his 1600 yards rushing) drafted Mo Clarett (who wound up in prison a couple years later) in the third round back in 2005.
4. Joe Marciano
Midway through the third quarter, Texans had just taken a 16-14 lead and had, to a large degree, seized momentum in the game. And then the Texans kick coverage team did what they've done all year long -- they took the momentum, wrapped it up in some gorgeous wrapping paper with a neat little bow on it and gifted it right back over to the opposition, this time in the grandest fashion of suck that suck has ever seen. Watch this:
I mean, when have you ever seen a return guy run directly north-south and go completely and literally untouched EVER? I know Joe Marciano has been here a long time, and from everything that I've heard, he is a kind and decent human being. But guess what? Kind and decent human beings get fired all the time. He needs to be fired. The Texans special teams are incompetent.
3. Gary Kubiak
Hasn't been a very good month for the ol' IHOP menu, has it? Putting aside the painfully predictable play calling (screens and draws on 3rd and long, anyone?), putting aside the return of Evil Kubiak the Replay Challenger (seriously, who challenges 12 men on the field, a challenge that involves counting and that's it, and then gets it wrong??), those are tactical issues which are byproducts of the bigger issue -- when it comes to having the leadership, creativity,and balls to pull this team out of its nosedive, does anyone think that Kubiak is that guy? When the world is crumbling around him, when his team needs a kick in the ass, when his quarterback is pissing the season down the tubes, his solution is always the same -- "Gotta go back, gotta look at the film, gotta correct things, that's this league, it's tough sledding." Seriously, Kubiak's is still regurgitating the same tired crap after losses that he did in 2008, he's just doing it with better players and, therefore, having to do it less frequently. I said this about Kubiak two years ago as the 2010 season was going up in smoke:
He is a decent offensive coordinator disguised as a head coach. He is a linear thinker with a roster that begs for someone who thinks spatially.
I stand by that today. Kubiak is who he is. (And yes, I just blockquoted an excerpt of my own. Suck on that, readers.)
2. Matt Schaub
Inextricably linked to Kubiak -- through demeanor, through performance, through the same dopey look on their faces when the season is going off the cliff -- is his quarterback (and for the next four years, Texan Fan, your quarterback, so get used it), Matt Schaub. In the last four weeks, Schaub has not only fed the mob that's been saying he's unequipped to succeed against good teams when it matters, he's given them enough to gorge upon to the point where they collectively look like the dude from that Monty Python bit that eats so much he explodes. Somewhere between the Thanksgiving Day game against the Lions and the last four weeks, Schaub became (even more) jittery, nervous, and indecisive. When he finally did make decisions on where to deliver the ball, too often they were wrong decisions (Did you know that in the three December losses, of Schaub's 13 completions on third down that seven of them were completed well short of the first down marker?). Schaub himself has gone from relative cool customer in the pocket earlier in the season to a statuesque jumble of nerves who inspires about as much confidence right now as the moil from Seinfeld. Schaub's arm strength has always been an issue, and on Sunday it was quite evident on his deep ball to James Casey how big a problem that flaw in his game is when Andre Johnson isn't the one there to bail out his 40 yard dying quails. It's so painful to watch these young quarterbacks, the new breed of passer, who can extend plays, move around the pocket, and improvise, knowing that our guy can do none of that. If a play doesn't unfold almost exactly how it's designed to, then you can forget about any ad libbing from number 8. He's either getting sacked or he's waddling outside the tackle box so he can launch the ball into the third row.
And finally, we will get to see how Schaub handles the postseason, and sooner than we thought we would a couple weeks ago, when all the goals for this season were still intact. And now? Well.....
1. People with plans for this Saturday
You better break 'em! It's playoff time in Houston, a week too early. See you at Reliant on Saturday, people. 3:30 p.m. kickoff.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on 1560 The Game from 6 a.m. to 11 a.m. weekdays, and watch the simulcast on Comcast 129 from 6 a.m. to 8 a.m. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.
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