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Case Keenum Setback?

Case Keenum setback? T.J. Yates gets a big boost in Texans QB battle

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Case Keenum slide
Case Keenum's best play came with his feet — when he stole a first down. Photo by Michelle Watson/CatchlightGroup
0110 Texans vs. Saints August 2013 T.J. Yates dropping back to pass
T.J. Yates finished 7 of 9 for 73 yards and a touchdown against the Saints. Photo by © Michelle Watson/CultureMapSNAP.com
Case Keenum run Texans
Case Keenum could not led the Texans to any points in the third preseason game against the Saints. Photo by © Michelle Watson/CultureMapSNAP.com
Case Keenum slide
0110 Texans vs. Saints August 2013 T.J. Yates dropping back to pass
Case Keenum run Texans

Case Keenum is convinced he left plenty of throws on the field. He certainly squandered some scoring opportunities.

Now, he just has to hope it all doesn't mean the Houston Texans backup quarterback job slipped through his fingers.

"You know, it wasn't my best," Keenum said after the Texans' 31-23 preseason loss to the New Orleans Saints, which included several chances for the former University of Houston star to play fourth-quarter hero. "We put ourselves in a chance to win the ballgame there and I missed a few throws.

"Missed one really important throw there on fourth down."

 For the first time in three preseason games, Yates did produce more points than Keenum. For the first time, Yates looked more effective running Kubiak's offense. 

Keenum's talking about a fourth-and-6 throw to Alec Lemon that came in much too low for the long-shot wide receiver to have a real chance at making the play. That throw — and two scoreless fourth quarter drives — does not change the fact that Keenum should have been leading the No. 2 quarterback competition coming into the game. But it could open a window for Texans coach Gary Kubiak to make the safer choice of T.J. Yates that much of a Keenum-dismissing Houston media endorses.

For the first time in three preseason games, Yates did produce more points than Keenum. For the first time, Yates looked more effective running Kubiak's offense.

"When you get the running game going like we had it going, everything else really opens up," Yates said, turning the praise away from himself as Keenum has during much of the preseason. "It's fun to play quarterback when we're clicking like that."

Yates' fun turned into a 7 for 9, 73 yard, one touchdown stat line. He's now led the Texans to three scoring drives and 21 points in this preseason. Even with those two scoreless drives on Sunday, Keenum's led the Texans on five scoring drives and 27 points.

The overall numbers are closer than close now. And there's no doubt the preseason finale in Dallas Thursday night — when first teamers like Matt Schaub will not see a single snap — is going to be the Yates and Keenum show. Their battle has been the most compelling story of a relatively quiet preseason for one of the NFL's true Super Bowl contenders — and it's even guaranteeing the ultra rare interesting fourth preseason game.

"There's no telling," Keenum said when asked who he feels has the edge in the race. "It is what it is."

"You can only control what you can control," Yates said.

Yes, this is a battle where two super competitors have to play their best while trying to never offend the other guy. Keenum and Yates may make that look easy. But that doesn't mean it is.

Yates vs. Keenum

Yates can take confidence in the fact he led the Texans on one scoring drive and another easily could-have-been scoring drive (third-string running back Deji Karim was stuffed on fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line). When Keenum took the Reliant Stadium field for the first time with 10:53 left in the fourth quarter, he moved the Texans into the Saints territory twice and did some nice things (particularly an 11-yard scramble up the middle on a third-and-10).

But his first drive ended when he threw a four-yard pass to tight end Ryan Griffin on third-and-7. And Keenum's second and last chance to impress in the game — taking over with 4:16 left and the Texans down eight — collapsed with that low throw to Lemon, who dropped some earlier passes.

 "You know, it wasn't my best. We put ourselves in a chance to win the ballgame there and I missed a few throws." 

"I'm disappointed," Keenum said. "I'm competitive and I want to win. Preseason or not, I want to go win. We had a chance to go tie it up and get into overtime."

Keenum would leave the stadium, praising the route Lemon ran on that fateful play — staring at something of an uncertain future. Kubiak plans to give Keenum the start against Dallas. And he'll clearly make the team as the No. 3 quarterback at worst. He'll have more chances. The question is: How convincingly would he have to out play Yates on Thursday to be the No. 2?

"I think T.J. has answered the challenge in a lot of ways," Kubiak said. "He has been pushed and it's made him better as a player."

Still the coach also noted how the Texans third and fourth stringers didn't make several plays for Keenum. "It continues to be a very difficult decision." Kubiak said.

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