Sandlot to sudden death: Schaub's incredible rally ends in heartbreakinginterception, crushing Texans defeat
The player who brought the Houston Texans back, who almost pulled off a Monday Night miracle, would be the one who threw the game away in overtime.
In the shadow of his own end zone, in his first possession of overtime after a fourth-quarter comeback for the ages, Texans quarterback Matt Schaub dropped back and put the game in Baltimore Ravens' cornerback Josh Wilson's chest. Wilson pranced into the end zone as easy as could be.
"The ball and the end zone that's all I saw," Wilson said afterwards.
Ravens 34, Texans 28.
Miracles don't live in Reliant Stadium. Not for the home team. Not this season.
With Schaub throwing for 393 yards, seizing the game as it turned into a sandlot football delight — throw the damn ball, catch the damn ball — the stunned Ravens watched the Texans rip off a 99-yard touchdown drive and a 96-yard touchdown drive. Back to back in the fourth quarter. To force overtime.
Then after the Texans' defense stepped up and stopped the Ravens on their first drive of overtime, Schaub would lose it on his 62nd pass of the night. There's cruel ... and there's this.
"In the big picture, we had a chance to win the game in overtime and we didn't," Texans coach Gary Kubiak said.
The big picture is crushing Kubiak's team. One unbelievable loss after another.
The BMX bikers who wiped out (repeatedly) during the Houston Texans' Monday Night Football halftime show had nothing on the team itself for the first 31 minutes of the game.
Schaub, Arian Foster, Andre Johnson and company slipped up more often than the X-Game wanna bes crashing on the top of their noggins. Long before even halftime, several of the Texans likely wanted to hit themselves in frustration.
Still, with less than three minutes left, despite having been down 21-0 and 28-7, Schaub found himself with the football in his hands and a chance. It wasn't much of a chance. Houston needed to drive 96 yards in 2:56, score a touchdown and get the two-point conversion to force overtime — against the Baltirmore Ravens' hyped defense.
But it was a chance.
When Schaub converted a fourth-and-1 inside his own 30 with less than 95 seconds left, whipping a pass to Jacoby Jones, the chance was still bleak. But still alive. When he found Jones again instead the Ravens 20-yard-line with under a minute left, the chance was suddenly greater. Then, Schaub — who went sandlot the entire second half — rolled left, just stepping out of the fingertips of a diving Ravens defender and flung the ball as high as he could into the left end of the end zone. Johnson went up and got it with an NBA-worthy-leap and suddenly, a stadium that had been lifeless for the first two hours of this Monday night couldn't stop screaming.
The Texans still needed the two-point conversion to force overtime though. And this is where any Texan fan who watched all the agony of this season — from Jacksonville's 50-yard Hail Mary miracle on the final play of the game, to the Jets 72-yard drive in 42 seconds — expected it to end. Just close enough ... to scream.
Schaub was writing his own script though. He calmly waited, waited, waited for an opening and found Jones open again for the tying two-pointer.
Texans 28, Ravens 28.
Do you believe in utter craziness?
"Those were two of the best catches I've ever seen," Texans tight end Owen Daniels said of Johnson's Dwight Clark-worthy touchdown leap and Jones' pluck of the two-point conversion, a pass that appeared like it might have been originally intended for Johnson (nine catches for 140 yards and two touchdowns). "How do you lose after two catches like that ... It's unbelievable."
It's Texans football in 2010.
Under the bright lights and the big stage of a Monday Night Football home game, one that brought out a near packed stadium of dutifully red-clad fans despite the team's misfortunes in 2010, the Texans found themselves turned upside down by the Baltimore Ravens. Jim Harbaugh's team — a true AFC contender unlike Kubiak's Texans — built 21-0 and 28-7 leads.
Oh, the Texans made things interesting. As they always do. They pulled within 28-13 late in the third quarter — and for several moments, it looked like it'd be as close as 28-17, before the officials failed to overturn a Kevin Walter touchdown catch that was ruled incomplete by the slimmest of margins (Walters left knee was declared down, though replays indicated it was at best a 50-50 call).
That was wasn't enough to stop Schaub though. Pinned down at his own 1-yard-line, still down 28-13, he drove the Texans 99 yards in 15 plays, completed a fourth down pass to Jones for a touchdown when an incomplete would have ended the game.
Schaub would throw for almost 400 yards on a night when he started 2 for 8. Johnson and Daniels would both have more 90 yards receiving against Baltimore's vaunted D. Foster ran for 100 yards, averaged five yards per carry against Ray Lewis and Co.
But the Texans are simply the most interesting 5-8 team in football, now assured of finishing worse than the 9-7 record that wasn't good enough last year, out of the playoffs for another year. Baltimore (9-4) solidifies its playoff positioning, scoring more points on this night than it had in its previous two games combined.
Things got so bad for the Texans at one point that the fans (rightly) booed a made field goal. Still, Schaub kept flinging the football, kept trying to give the Texans a sandlot chance as the game broke down in the second half. For stretches, the Texans quarterback managed to turn the field into happy chaos for the Texans, hitting Johnson, Daniels and even Walter (five catches for 57 yards) for large chunks of yardage, handing off to Foster for a few gashing runs.
That's how the game started.
When Foster ripped off a 16-yard run, right through the heart of Baltimore's defense on the first play from scrimmage and Schaub followed that with a deep bomb for Johnson moments later that missed connecting by the slimmest of margins, it looked like the Texans' offense was more than primed for prime time. Twenty eight minutes of football later, Houston still didn't have any points on the board.
At one point, Kubiak became so discouraged by his team's ability to move the ball that he sent Neil Rackers out to try a 52-yard field goal. The kick predictably came up short and the Ravens soon upped their 7-0 advantage to 14-0.
The Ravens — nobody's definition of an offensive superpower — didn't exactly push around Houston's defense early. But they kept taking advantage of good-field position, kept converting on third downs, kept more than enough pressure on. When Baltimore quarterback Joe Flaco (22-for-33 for 235 yards and two touchdowns, no points in the second half) turned a third-and-14 into a long touchdown pass to Derrick Mason to make it 21-0 with less than two minutes left in the first half, the game and any red Texans party appeared already all but over.
Mason had two touchdowns in the game's first 28 minutes after scoring four times in the first 12 games of the season. The 14-year veteran receiver who's flirted with retirement many times probably waited 14 years to see a defense as fun to play against as the Texans'.
As Mason rejoiced in touchdown two and the boos spread like a wave throughout Reliant, the Texans couldn't have been more dead. But facing a third-and-down deep in his own territory, Schaub produced temporary life.
He hit Johnson for 16 yards and a first down. On another third-and-10, Schaub found Walter for 18 yards. Then, rolling left and buying time — just enough time for Johnson to make the Ravens' all-everything safety Ed Reed look foolish — Schaub laced a 46-yard touchdown pass to his lifeline receiver.
It would be 21-7 not 21-0 at halftime. Then, Reed struck back.
Turns out it's not a good idea to embarrass this proud man. For Reed caught the opening kickoff of the second half several strides into his own end zone — and returned it 103 yards for a touchdown.
There's your franchise record. But not your Monday Night Football game.
Not with Schaub going sandlot. The misery would be delayed, until it almost seemed kicked out the door. But remember .... these are the 2010 Texans.
"It's a surreal feeling," Texans left guard Duane Brown said. "You can't understand it."