Monday, October 13, 2008

More NFL Single Wing

Johnson helps drag Texans from malaise
Receiver has career day along with clutch catch
By DALE ROBERTSON Copyright 2008 Houston Chronicle
Oct. 13, 2008, 1:06AM

• Game statistics

In their minds, the winless Texans had given away their past two games against Jacksonville and Indianapolis. So it was time, past time really, to steal one back.

Still grumbling to himself and grinding his teeth over an early fumble on a play he knew should have ended with a touchdown, Andre Johnson took it upon his broad shoulders to do just that.

A replay overrule had erased what the officials on the field called a Miami interception, giving the desperate Texans a last-gasp fourth-and-10 at their 36 with 52 seconds left, trailing 28-23. When quarterback Matt Schaub went to Johnson in the left flat, Yeremiah Bell seemed to arrive there first, but over his dead body was Johnson going to be denied that football.

With muscle and grit, Johnson bested Bell in a desperate tug-o’-war that at least made the Texans’ season salvageable.

Not to be denied
“Matt gave me a chance, and I was able to make a play,” Johnson said. “I don’t know how, but I did. I just stuck my hands up, he put his hands up and the ball kind of bounced around. It was both of us competing for the ball, and I wound up with it.”

Asked if he had immediately grasped the significance of that catch, one of 10 on the afternoon for a career-high 178 yards, Johnson smiled weakly.

“To be honest,” he said, “I didn’t even know what down it was. We were in the two-minute drill and that means you’re throwing the ball on almost every play. Most of us (receivers) out there were gassed.”

Their mental exhaustion, after 2½ months of practices and games with nothing positive to show for their efforts, was probably equal to the fatigue their bodies felt.

But, six plays later, Schaub fooled the Dolphins and almost everybody else in Reliant Stadium by scoring on a quarterback keeper up the middle from the shotgun formation. When the two-point conversion failed and the Dolphins couldn’t counter in the few seconds they had left, the Texans were in the win column 29-28.

Never mind how they had followed a script only a masochist would embrace. As owner Bob McNair noted later, you don’t expect to come out on top too often after committing four turnovers.

“Our guys battled their hearts out, and that’s the reason we prevailed,” McNair said. “They just wouldn’t quit. I’m really proud of them.”

Still, he also said: “It’s hard on an old-timer like me.”

It has been hard on everybody.

“We owed ourselves one, the fans one and the whole city of Houston one,” said Kevin Walter, whose markedly less dramatic if no less important grab for a 30-yard gain followed Johnson’s and moved the Texans to the Miami 11.

Overcoming obstacles
Johnson spoke of the palpable frustration on the Texans’ sideline as things kept going wrong, from Schaub’s interceptions of the first two possessions, to the shaky pass protection to repeated glaring defensive breakdowns. Even what should have been a game-clinching play by nickel back Eugene Wilson ended badly with Wilson snaring an interception off a deflection, only to fumble the ball back to the Dolphins, who promptly went 73 yards to reclaim the lead with 1:45 left.

The Texans had been embarrassed early by Patrick Cobbs, who caught touchdown passes of 53 and 80 yards, the first off yet another new wrinkle by Miami’s single-wing wildcat formation. This after they had insisted all week they were prepared for anything.

But, somehow, all that would be overcome this day.

“I think the two-minute drive (at the end of the game) was a big test for us,” Johnson said. “That was the first time we’ve been in that situation, and we answered. It showed what we can do.”

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