There is a lot to analyze and debate as a once promising season ended with a crushing defeat with the Texans falling to the Patriots 41-28 in Foxborough. The Texans beat the rest of the playoff field in the AFC with wins over Baltimore, Denver, Cincinnati and Indianapolis. But not the Patriots. And New England took it to them, scoring over 40 points in both match ups.
In the end, we’ll never know what difference clinching home field in the AFC would have made. But it certainly would have been better than playing Tom Brady in his back yard. Brady threw seven touchdown passes in two games against Houston. At Reliant, he probably would not be quite as prolific.
The Texans never really recovered from their late season funk, which saw them lose three out of four games and their grip on the number one seed. Red Zone issues plagued them and they struggled on third down on both sides of the ball. A healthy self-scout should reveal plenty of off season work for this organization.
The loss is especially tough to swallow because the Texans made it their goal to play at home in the playoffs and they failed to do that despite multiple chances. To their credit, they created the opportunity by blasting out of the gate 11-1. But they finished with a 2-4 run that cost them their best shot at getting to the Super Bowl.
There was so much to cheer about. Watt led the league in sacks. Arian Foster was terrific again. Andre Johnson looked as good as ever. Matt Schaub stayed healthy and put up a third 4,000 yard season. The team won their first road prime time game with a Monday Night victory over the Jets. They steamrolled the Ravens by 30, beat Manning on the road and prevailed in a showdown on a sloppy field in Chicago that showed their grit. They stung Jacksonville in overtime with Schaub throwing for 527 yards, tied for second best in NFL history. That win was followed by an epic overtime Thanksgiving day victory in Detroit. They eventually stonewalled the Bengals for their second-ever playoff win.
If the joy is in the journey, then it’s been a fun ride. Unfortunately, the finish will still lead the epitaph. A team that looked almost invincible became way too vulnerable at the worst time of the year. When the Texans were rolling early, Gary Kubiak was asked about the hot start. He said “you want to be real good at the end.” They weren’t good enough.
In 2011, it was all about getting to the post season. In 2012, it was about getting home field advantage and getting to the Super Bowl. The focus has changed. The expectations are higher. In previous years you heard debates about what the team needed to do to make the playoffs. Now, they’re about what’s needed to get to the Super Bowl.
The Texans should not hang their heads. They lost five games, all to playoff teams, and have become a franchise with high expectations through back-to-back years of winning at least one playoff game. They have come a long way from a team that had difficulty putting together winning seasons.
But no one at Reliant Stadium is happy about losing earlier than hoped or expected. There’s plenty of room for improvement. The 2013 season starts now.
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