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Houston Texans Week 13 Recap: Texans Tease Victory, but Matt Schaub and Defense Collapse Late Against Michael Vick and the Philadelphia Eagles

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The Houston Texans were poised to pull off the impossible – an upset road victory against Michael Vick and the Philadelphia Eagles – but the their defense teased a victory before predictably collapsing and allowing Vick to have his way with them. However, while the Texans’ defense is usually the reason behind every Houston loss, quarterback Matt Schaub was equally unimpressive and choked on the Texans’ late drives, forfeiting any chances for an upset.

What Went Right

For three quarters, the Texans’ defense did about as well as could be expected against the explosive Michael Vick. Vick was still able to make plays, but the Texans pressured him and put him on the grass several times, with Vick obviously shaken and limping on multiple occasions. Jason Allen even pulled down an interception – only the second Vick has thrown all season. Then the fourth quarter started (see “What Went Wrong” section).

Andre Johnson also proved why a suspension would be detrimental to the Texans. Johnson avoided the long arm of the league after beating down the Titans’ Cortland Finnegan on Sunday and made up for his brawl by racking up 149 receiving yards against the Eagles. Johnson caught two deep passes that set up eventual Texans touchdowns. While there was a Jacoby Jones sighting tonight, Johnson is the only dependable Texans receiver.

What Went Wrong

As foreshadowed, the Texans’ defense – after shutting out the Titans on Sunday – returned to their normal ways Thursday night and gave up late fourth quarter drives to forfeit a lead. Same old story, same old song and dance.

In previous recaps, I haven’t exactly been kind to struggling quarterback, Matt Schaub. Something hasn’t been right with him all season. After putting up monster numbers last year with an aerial assault rivaling Kurt Warner and the Rams’ “Greatest Show on Turf,” Schaub has been a mediocre passer, routinely missing receivers and hesitating to throw down field.

Tonight, the blame falls on his shoulders. Schaub put up decent stats, but his play was absolutely terrible. For the second time this season, Schaub cost Andre Johnson a breakaway touchdown by under throwing him, causing him to come back for the ball, letting defenders catch up and tackle him. Then, Schaub threw the worst pass of his career – an interception right into the arms of an Eagles defensive lineman who was two feet in front of him. To cap it all off, on fourth quarter drives with the game on the line, Schaub threw behind Kevin Walter on fourth down to give the ball back to the Eagles and fumbled on the ensuing possession to kill any comeback chances.

Shortly before halftime, Shaub was tackled hard and his head bounced on the field like a basketball. When he was slow to get up, I wasn’t really upset. Schaub eventually returned to the game and thankfully wasn’t seriously injured, but any time a team’s star quarterback goes down and stays down, fans should be worried. Yet, with Schaub’s disappointing 2010 contributing to an all-around disappointing team, the prospect of a benched Schaub is no longer terrifying for Texans fans (though no one’s chanting: Or-lov-sky! Or-lov-sky!).

Still, with Schaub struggling, head coach Gary Kubiak continues calling passing plays, despite having the league’s leading rusher in Arian Foster. The Texans ran 14 more passing plays than running plays instead of pounding the ball with Foster, eating up the clock and keeping Vick on the sidelines. I really don’t see how another 8-8 or 9-7 season can keep Kubiak his job.

Bonus griping: Steve Slaton has done absolutely nothing as the kick returner. He rarely gets the ball past the 30-yard-line and forces the Texans’ offense to drive 80 yards every possession. Slaton, who seemed to have fallen as far from grace as possible, has still found ways to hurt the team with only three or four touches a game.

Turning Point

Trailing by three, the Texans allowed Vick to march the Eagles up the field and into scoring position. However, the defense rallied and thanks to some costly Eagles penalties, forced them to 3rd and 19. All the Texans had to do was hold the Eagles to 18 yards or less for one play to force a field goal and keep the game within one score. But, this is the Texans defense we’re talking about, so naturally, they gave up a 20-yard pass to Brent Celek for a first down (initially called short, but overruled thanks to a well-timed challenge by Andy Reid), which led to a Philadelphia touchdown and a deficit the Texans never overcame.

Work On It

At this point in the season, what else can be said? The Texans are who they are. Their flaws are glaring and there’s not much than can be done from here on out. Several commentators have noted that contenders win big games in big situations. The Texans haven’t stepped up in any big situations this season (apart from the over time victory against Washington in week 2) and have blown too many close games to be considered contenders.

Yet, the Texans are still technically in the running for the disastrous AFC South. In the next week, Texans fans will do the unthinkable and root for the Titans and Cowboys, who take on Jacksonville and Indianapolis, respectively. But even if the Colts and Jaguars collapse and the Texans win out the season, this team isn’t going anywhere if they squeak into the playoffs. The best thing the Texans can do to ensure a playoff run is sign Arian Foster to a long-term deal and focus on 2011.

Numerical Indications of Athletic Achievement

Schaub: 22/36, 337 yds, 2 TD, 1 INT
Foster: 22 rush, 83 yds, 1 TD, 2 rec, 26 yds, 1 TD
Johnson: 6 rec, 149 yds
Rackers: 1/1 FG, 3/3 XP