Texans turn corner in comeback win in Washington
The Houston Texans have a history of blown leads and heartbreaking losses. Coach Gary Kubiak thinks they may have finally blossomed into a team that wins those kinds of games.
The Texans (2-0) rallied from 17 points down in the second half to beat Washington 30-27 on Sunday, an improbable victory that previous Houston teams would not have pulled off.
All-Pro receiver Andre Johnson said during training camp that he sensed a more confident, determined vibe from these Texans and so far it's shown with two breakthrough wins to start the season: They snapped a six-game losing streak to Peyton Manning and the Colts in the opener and earned the franchise's first overtime win in electrifying fashion on Sunday.
Houston plays Dallas (0-2) this week, another chance for a meaningful victory. While the Cowboys are reeling, the Texans are 2-0 for the second time in nine seasons and have won six straight games dating to last year - the franchise's longest victory streak.
''We've matured, we've grown up,'' Kubiak said Monday. ''We've come to expect to play in great football games, and get in them, and be willing to make the play and be the difference maker.''
Kubiak, in his fifth season, witnessed his team's resolve again after the Texans fell behind the Redskins 20-7 at halftime. He said the players and coaches vented some frustration in the locker room, then quickly regained their focus.
''There were a lot of disappointed people,'' Kubiak said. ''But yet, once that was over, there was a calm about, 'Hey, we're 13 points down. Let's go win a half of football.'
''It wasn't like we took any frustration or panic to the field in the second half,'' he said. ''Once we got our frustrations out of the way, and the talking was done, we said, 'Let's go play a good half of football and see what happens.'''
About 10 months ago, Kubiak was answering questions about his job security after the Texans slipped to 5-7. He was criticized for signing off on a halfback pass from the 5-yard line that was intercepted late in a 23-18 loss at Jacksonville.
That followed back-to-back 20-17 losses to Tennessee and Indianapolis in which Kris Brown missed last-second field goals, and another loss to the Colts in which Houston blew a 17-0 lead.
On Sunday, it was the Texans mounting the comeback, their coach making the right call on a tough decision and their kicker booting the game winner.
Houston won the coin flip for the overtime kickoff, took the ball and drove to the Redskins' 34. Kubiak felt a stiff breeze facing kicker Neil Rackers, so he opted to punt and put the pressure on Houston's defense instead.
''I think it would've been a 53 1/2 or 54-yard field goal,'' Kubiak said. ''What I was watching, as the game goes, it was obvious that every kicker wanted to go the other way. When Neil kicked off, he put the ball in the end zone. If you watch Neil's kickoff in the fourth quarter, his kickoff hit about the 10-yard line. It just raised some red flags for me.''
Washington drove to the Houston 34, and Kubiak called time-out a second before Graham Gano kicked an apparent game-winning field goal. Gano missed wide right on his second try, the Texans drove inside the Redskins' 20 and Rackers won it with a 35-yard kick.
Kubiak found plenty to criticize when he broke down the game film. He also saw standout performances from just about all the team's emerging stars.
Defensive end Mario Williams sacked Donovan McNabb three times and Johnson came back from a sprained ankle to make a spectacular catch for the tying touchdown with about two minutes left. Matt Schaub completed 38 of 52 passes for a franchise record 497 yards, Kevin Walter caught 11 passes for 144 yards and safety Bernard Pollard, acquired last season, blocked a field-goal attempt.
''We didn't play well as a team, but we had about 4-5 guys just put the team on their shoulders and be exceptional,'' Kubiak said.
This is the Texans' ninth season, and their 19-10 win over Dallas in the franchise's inaugural game still stands as one of the team's most important victories. They've added two more significant wins this season.
''From looking at the film, golly, it was not one of our better football games,'' Kubiak said. ''But to still find a way to win, playing in a tough situation like that, that was impressive.''