BALTIMORE — As veteran safety Daniel Manning slowly gets dressed in a cramped visitors locker room as he's wont to do after a tough loss, Ed Reed tries to run the hurry up.
"There's a time limit on the plane," Reed barks. "Pilots can only fly so many hours."
Manning doesn't exactly shift into breakneck speed. You try and pull cowboy boots on in a rush. But Reed — who's watched his old championship team destroy his new Super Bowl scheming team 30-9 — may have a larger point.
There's no time for the Houston Texans to stew over this particular Sunday's humbling, humiliating 21-point loss to the Baltimore Ravens. Besides, who says it can't help?
That's right, help.
"To me that's inexcusable. To have three guys free (and unblocked) and not make the tackle . . ."
"This is a growing experience," Reed says moments later, speaking to the few reporters left lingering in the locker room. "When you get knocked down, it's how you get up.
"We can't push any of our faults under the rug. We've got to critique each other. Not criticize — that's what you guys do, criticize. We need to critique."
Laugh all you want — and plenty probably are after the Texans appear completely exposed in another big-time game. But if anyone knows what he's talking about, it's Reed. He's speaking from experience.
After all, the Ravens and Reed were completely annihilated by the Texans 43-13 in Week 7 of last season. And went right on . . . to win the Super Bowl.
The Texans of a surprisingly Week 3 timid Gary Kubiak have a long way to go to get on that type of path. It's hardly out of the question though. Not with the talent that Rick Smith has assembled. Not with how the NFL's gone in recent years (this is a league where all that seems to increasingly matter is if you peak late — sustained excellence is so yesteryear).
And maybe, not, with some better leadership. From guys like Ed Reed, who stood up to his coach in Baltimore after that Texans drubbing last season.
This is the worst game for the Texans since that infamous Monday Night monstrosity in New England last December. And that's saying something, considering Houston completely controlled the first quarter and a half of action.
Yet, it easily can become another stumble in the journey. Call it a lesson it Super Bowl grit. Straight from the champs themselves.
Super Bowl Realities
The Ravens are 2-1 despite being completely embarrassed in the NFL's grand season opener, despite surrendering seven touchdown passes to Peyton Manning, despite getting written off more than an easy tax deduction. The Texans are 2-1 despite putting on great offensive shows — new breakout stars included — in the first two weeks of the season.
"We definitely haven't played a complete game in three weeks," tight end Owen Daniels says. "You can get away with some things against some other teams. But if you play like that against the Super Bowl champs, that's what happens. They hand it to you. They put us on notice."
"We can't push any of our faults under the rug. We've got to critique each other."
The list of missteps is long and plentiful. Kubiak calls a much too conservative offensive gameplan, leaving the Texans settling for a 6-0 lead that could have been 14-0 or 17-0 with just a little bit of daring.
How conservative? Kubiak actually talks in the postgame about the gameplan centering on getting a bunch of "third-and-threes and third-and-fours" — to essentially grind out the game. How about getting a bunch of easy first downs and touchdowns, instead? Shouldn't that be the goal.
Kubaik's not the only surprising problem this blundered giveaway Sunday though.
The Bulls On Parade, Ed Reed-reinforced defense buckles after being dominant early. Mr. Yellow Jacket Shane Lechler can't save the Texans special teams from the embarrassment of an 82-yard punt return touchdown.
"To me that's inexcusable," embattled Texans special teams coordinator Joe Marciano says. "To have three guys free (and unblocked) and not make the tackle . . ."
It's hardly the only inexcusable moment from this penalty-filled horror show (a whopping 24 penalties are called, 14 of them on the Texans).
Kubiak actually talks about the gameplan centering on getting a bunch of "third-and-threes and third-and-fours."
Matt Schaub throws another Pick-6, tossing away all the Texans painstakingly built momentum in the process. Andre Johnson gets hit in the shin and is never the same again. Cornerback Kareem Jackson draws enough flags to make it a national holiday. Reed looks like a 35-year-old playing his first football game since last February.
Arian Foster rushes for 43 yards in the first quarter — and 11 in the last three.
The whole afternoon is summed up in the Texans' last real chance — though that's probably stretching the definition of chance — with Schaub throwing a pass way too high and behind Foster on a fourth-and-2 near the 50 and the clock ticking toward five minutes. With wide receiver DeVier Posey open on the other side of the field.
The regrets run deep. Including the Bulls' almost shocking single forced turnover — that Brian Cushing Pick-6 in San Diego — through three games.
"Offenses know our defense has players that can take away the football," Manning says. "They're running plays that protect the ball. Now it's on us to go get the football no matter what. We have to start hunting."
Manning has one cowboy boot on by now. Reed knows there's still plenty of time. Though, maybe, not to make the plane.