The Houston Texans, coming off a disappointing loss to the World Champion Baltimore Ravens, were back at Reliant Stadium in Houston Sunday afternoon taking on Russell Wilson and the undefeated 3-0 Seattle Seahawks. Both teams are mentioned among the favorites to be potential representatives of their respective conferences in the Super Bowl in February in the Meadowlands.
Though they came in 2-1, Houston had neither played up to their potential nor expectations in the first three games of 2013. They had to come from behind in each of their first two games to get their two wins. One was on the last play of the game in San Diego and the other was in overtime at home against Tennessee in an unlikely victory.
Texans fans at the game were apprehensive about their team as they entered Reliant Stadium, and with good reason. Houston won the coin toss and got the ball first, but managed only one first down before they were forced to punt the ball away.
Russell Wilson led the visitors down the field, but the Houston defense forced a 48-yard Steven Hauschka field goal with 11:11 left in the first quarter, giving Seattle an early 3-0 lead.
The Texans looked as though they would at least tie the game, but Matt Schaub kept his streak alive of throwing an interception in every game so far by erroneously throwing an interception to Earl Thomas at the Seahawk 9 giving the ball back to Wilson and his offense.
Seattle got rolling, but Houston’s defense got the job done and Schaub brought the offense back out at his 10. This time the offense got the job done, moving the 90 yards in just 2:52 and 6 plays. Schaub completed the drive with a 31-yard scoring pass to tight end Garrett Graham. Randy Bullock added the PAT and Houston grabbed a 7-3 lead.
The Texans defense shut Wilson and company down on the next drive and Houston got the ball back at their 20. Schaub and the offense got it together again, moving the ball the 80 yards into the end zone in 10 plays and taking 5:10 off the clock. The score came on a 5-yard pass from Schaub to Arian Foster, and after the extra point the lead pushed to 14-3 with 6:11 left in the first half of play.
On the first play after Bullock’s ensuing kickoff, Brian Cushing forced a Seattle fumble and Terrell McClain recovered the pigskin, setting Houston back up on offense at the visitor’s 19 yard line. Houston got down to the 4, but ran out of gas. Bullock came in and hit a 22-yard field goal with 3:51 left in the half and the lead moved to 17-3. The drive was 7 plays, 15 yards and 2:13.
Houston’s defense got the job done again, and the offense moved back down the field. On the next to last last play of the half Randy Bullock hit a 42-yard field goal to extend the lead to 20-3 at intermission. The kick ended a 12-play, 67-yard drive that took 1:12 off the clock.
Both defenses came to the forefront in the third quarter. Seattle came in ranked as the #1 defense in the NFL and Houston came in ranked #2. It looked as though neither team would do anything offensively in the third stanza until Ben Tate had the ball ripped away from him at the Houston 21 with 4:13 left in the quarter. Hauscka kicked a 39-yard field goal, bringing the score to 20-6 with 3:54 left in the quarter, capping a 4-play drive that took only 25 seconds due to three straight incomplete passes by Wilson.
The Texans were unable to sustain a drive and had to punt on their next possession. Seattle moved 98 ½ yards down the field into the end zone and cut the Houston lead to 20-13 with 7:43 left in the game. The 3-yard run by Marshawn Lynch capped a 14-play drive that consumed 7:28 off the fourth quarter clock.
Houston had to punt again on their next possession, but with Seattle driving close to midfield, Jonathan Joseph intercepted Russell Wilson and the Texans took back over at their 43. They managed one first down and then Schaub threw his third pick-six in three games. Richard Sherman intercepted him on a third down and three on a pass intended for tight end Owen Daniels and raced untouched 58 yards into the end zone. After the extra point, the game was knotted at 20 with 2:40 left in the game.
The Texans were not able to get into field goal range on their ensuing possession and were forced to punt away. Seattle ran the clock out to force overtime. Houston won the toss and got the ball to start the extra period, but they were forced into a three-and-out and Seattle started at their 20 with 12:37 left in the overtime period. Lynch caught a pass for 13 yards on the first play, and got 15 extra yards when Darryl Sharpton was called for a horse collar tackle.
Brooks Reed tackled Wilson for a loss of 10 on the next play, then Wilson threw incomplete on second down and to then ran for a gain of 15 on third down. Houston got the ball back at their 13 after a 34-yard Jon Ryan punt, but they were forced to punt away after a three-and-out. Shane Lechler punted the ball away and pinned the ‘Hawks down, but Houston was penalized 5 yards and after a re-kick, Seattle set up at their 31 with 6:46 left in OT.
Seattle got a break when the Texans were called for a personal foul. Seattle then won the game 4 plays later when Hauschka hit a 45-yard field goal with 3:19 left in OT. The score capped an 8-play, 42-yard drive. The win moved Seattle to a perfect 4-0, while Houston dropped to 2-2.
In his post-game media presser, Coach Gary Kubiak continued to defend his quarterback, despite him having thrown three pick six interceptions in the last three games. Kubiak put the blame on himself by saying he should have called a different play. “I’ll be honest with you, I take responsibility. I put him in a bad situation as a coach. Obviously we have to protect the ball. I put him in a bad situation. Probably should have run the ball there and punt and play defense. But trying to be aggressive and trying to make a play and we didn’t and it ended up killing us, hurting us. I take my responsibility. I could have obviously called a better play. He’s doing a lot of good things. (We’ve) Got to eliminate some of the mistakes; probably can say that about a lot of spots on our football team. We’ve got to get more consistent in what we’re doing. I have to help him a lot better than I’m helping him right now.”
When Schaub met with the media he was asked what happened on the pick-six play. “Yeah, they brought a blitz off the edge; we had a keeper – trying to make a play to win the ball game, ice it. We had Owen (Daniels) there and I should have just probably ditched it right at his feet or held it and just live to punt and let our defense play. I’m the quarterback of this team. I have the ball in my hands. This one hurts real bad.”
The bottom line is for whatever reason, Schaub seems to be on a downward spiral and one has to wonder if a change at quarterback, something Kubiak insisted when asked about the possibility of it on Sunday would not happen, should indeed be considered. The play at quarterback the last three games, two of which have resulted in back-to-back losses, has not been up to what is expected of an NFL quarterback. If the play at that position doesn’t improve dramatically VERY QUICKLY, the 2013 season may be in jeopardy for the back-to-back AFC South Champions.