Texans putting loss, letterman jackets in the past

HOUSTON — Ask any high school coach. You play how you look. So when the Houston Texans showed up Monday night in letterman jackets, looking like a high school team, well, they got crushed by the Patriots.

“We’re not talking about letter jackets anymore,” defensive tackle Shaun Cody said. “That was completely Connor Barwin’s idea.”

Cody was (sort of) joking, but as the Texans try to put Monday night behind them, those campy, quasi-ironic letterman’s jackets the whole team wore to New England are among the first things to go.

Maybe that’s just as well, because Monday’s 42-14 loss was an undressing in every other way, too. The Texans, once thought by some to be the best team in the NFL, now have two embarrassing prime-time performances on their record — they also lost 42-24 to Green Bay at home.

That has effectively re-branded their overtime wins over Jacksonville and Detroit. At the time, those games were seen as proof of that old “great teams find a way to win when they don’t play well” adage. Now, they look more like harbingers. Now, suddenly, you wonder why Houston gives up so many big passing plays, what can be done about its special teams, and whether quarterback Matt Schaub can perform on the big stage.

It shows, if nothing else, the fickle nature of perspective. After all, the Texans are still 11-2. That’s still the best record in the AFC.

They don’t feel like they need to really prove anything to the public this week.

“We got 11 wins, dog,” defensive end Antonio Smith said. “Whichever way you slice it. Some of those same teams they say we beat, they lost to. So football is football. Things happen in football. You can have an off day in football. You can have 11 good days in football. We can’t help what our record is.”

Smith speaks out of experience. He was on the 2008 Arizona Cardinals team that went to the Super Bowl.

“I remember that exact same thing drove me right to the Super Bowl,” he said. “I remember a statement was even said, ‘If that team goes to the Super Bowl, I’m giving my tickets away.’ Then it turned out to be one of the greatest Super Bowls ever.”

The Texans can clinch the AFC South with a win over the Colts on Sunday. Receiver Andre Johnson didn’t specifically predict that, but he came awfully close.

“I have no doubt on how we will respond on Sunday,” he said. “Period. You guys can say what you want, think what you want, just watch us on Sunday and see what happens.”