Texans season ruined by close losses

Sluggish starts, sloppy mistakes, even technological glitches

preventing plays from getting to the quarterback.

Coach Gary Kubiak listed all of these problems Tuesday as he

acknowledged the high hopes Houston had for this season have

virtually vanished with another wrenching loss. About all that’s

left for the Texans to accomplish is winning the final three games

just to break even for the third time in four years.

Houston rallied from 21 points down against Baltimore on Monday

night, only to lose 34-28 in overtime when Josh Wilson intercepted

Matt Schaub’s pass and returned it 12 yards for a touchdown.

The Texans (5-8) play at Tennessee (5-8) on Sunday with their

hopes of making the playoffs hanging by a thread. If Jacksonville

wins just one of its last three games, Houston will be eliminated

from postseason contention for the ninth straight year of the

franchise’s existence.

”Obviously, we started this season with the hopes of being a

playoff team for the first time,” Kubiak said. ”It’s very, very

difficult right now. We need to go to Tennessee and find a way to

win a game.”

The Texans have lost six of their last seven and their inability

to make pivotal plays in the final minutes has become an almost

weekly routine.

Fans have been flooding local sports radio talk shows for weeks

with calls to fire Kubiak, whose current contract runs through the

2012 season. Owner Bob McNair extended Kubiak’s deal by two years

after Houston went 9-7 in 2009 for its first winning record.

”We’re fighting our tails off to win games, and that’s why I

came to Houston – to win games and to win a championship here – and

nothing has changed from that standpoint,” Kubiak said. ”We’ve

struggled. It’s been a rough seven weeks. It’s been tough, but it’s

not a lack of effort, it’s not a lack of work. The work will

continue to stay the same.

”Every game is very meaningful to me and this football team,

and it will continue to be that way.”

Still, Kubiak said it’s become challenging to take away good

things from any game because they’re constantly overshadowed by the

final score.

”You want to hang on to a lot of the positive things that are

going on,” he said. ”But the bottom line is that we’re all paid

to finish games, and to finish games with wins. Everybody’s got to

look at themselves very hard and say, ‘I’ve got to make all the

plays, not just some of the plays.”’

Schaub completed 31 of 62 passes for 393 yards and three

touchdowns, and his coach raved about the performance again Tuesday

despite the game-ending interception.

Schaub, it turns out, had to improvise at times because the

coaches’ headsets were cutting out during the game, hampering

communication from the sideline. Kubiak said Schaub ”handled the

situation unbelievably” well.

Kubiak said the headsets have malfunctioned at other times

during the season, and he’s talked to general manager Rick Smith

about the problem.

”Don’t get me wrong, it’s not uncommon to have some issues,”

Kubiak said. ”It is uncommon to have those issues at home and

we’ve had them, in my opinion, too much. So we’ve got to get it

corrected.”

The Texans have been outscored 194-111 in the first half this

season and trailed at the break in nine of their 13 games. Houston

has outscored its opponents 202-155 in the second half, and Kubiak

said he was encouraged that the Texans consistently fight back when

they’ve fallen behind.

Houston’s much-maligned defense played its best second half of

the season on Monday night, holding the Ravens to four first downs,

61 total yards and no offensive touchdowns.

The first half was a different story, though, and Houston was

doomed again by a slow start. Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco

completed 15 of 22 passes for 152 yards and two touchdowns and the

Ravens built a 21-0 lead.

”It was both sides of the ball,” Kubiak said. ”Defensively,

we didn’t play well in the first half. We gave up too many big

plays, we gave up too many long third-down plays, we gave up 21

points.

”Offensively, it was a little bit of the same stuff,” Kubiak

said. ”We missed a couple of third downs on the first two drives.

Then we had a couple drops and just got sloppy.”