The Houston Texans found out on Sunday night why having a good kicker is equally as important as having a good quarterback on the field.
Randy Bullock is in his second year with the Texans, and has already missed eight field goals this season. None was more important than Sunday's 55-yard attempt against the Indianapolis Colts, one that would have sent the game into overtime and possibly given the Texans the win that they deserved.
Unfortunately, Bullock missed his shot at playing the hero against the Colts, and will now spend all of this week replaying that moment over and over in his head. If he gets tired of that, he can replay the 43-yarder he missed 10 minutes before in the same quarter that probably would have won the game in less intense circumstances.
Either way, though, the Texans have some serious special team issues now, and after the problem has slowly escalated to Bullock's job being on the line, it's time for head coach Gary Kubiak to solve them.
Among the options are demoting Bullock to the practice squad to work on his skills, signing another free-agent kicker or doing away with his talents entirely and releasing him.
If the Texans choose the first option of looking around the league for another kicker, their options are pretty slim. Guys like Dan Carpenter are no longer available, leaving mystery players like Havard Rugland (a.k.a. kickalicious) on the cards.
The problem with Bullock seems to be confidence-related, and since he hasn't hit a field goal over 50-yards, placing him in a situation like Sunday night with the game on the line was always destined for failure.
Still, he feels like he can salvage some kind of rebound in the coming weeks.
“Tonight was a rough night for me,” Bullock told the Houston Chronicle “I’m very disappointed. It’s very upsetting, very frustrating. I have to forget everything that happened before and move on to the next one.”
The likely outcome is that the Texans will stick with Bullock, mainly since there is no one else to fall back on. Since Bullock is a second-year player, Gary Kubiak's positive attitude toward change may give him another shot, but even so, there are still other problems here on special teams.
Generally speaking, special teams coach Joe Marciano should feel a lot of the blame for this one. Short of firing people, though, the Texans didn't see a great game from the usually reliable Shane Lechler either on Sunday night, and a wobbly punt that landed close to the 50-yard line set up the Colts for their game-winning drive.
Other problem areas also pop up in the return game. Keshawn Martin was lucky to have gotten away with a fumble late in the first half thanks to a controversial ruling by the referees. That one came just a few weeks after a special-teams blunder against St. Louis, as well.
If the Texans were in the midst of a playoff-type year, these kind of kicking issues would be magnified tenfold. It's scary to think that Houston may have an extra win or two, however, if it weren't for missed field goals.
The only good to come of Sunday's game was J.J. Watt's blocked field goal and the pressure on Colts punter Pat McAfee—which also could have been ruled roughing the kicker. Luckily the offense is now finding some kind of rhythm, and the battle for field position isn't quite as dire as it was when Matt Schaub was in charge.
So is releasing Bullock still an option?
“Coach Marciano came by and told me to keep my head up and that I was going to be playing in this league for a long time,” Bullock told the Chronicle. “I think I’ll be fine. I can rebound.”
It definitely seems like it isn't.