The recipe was familiar. Play one good half and one bad half. Mix in a few questionable throws from Matt Schaub, plus a heartbreaking fourth-quarter performance, and stir.
When finished, garnish with a handful of reasons why this team can beat anyone, and you have the Houston Texans' 2009 season.
Yes, the Texans once again found ways not only to lose a football game, but also to embarrass themselves and their fans.
There was much less talk, however, of the Texans' streak of having been either tied or leading in the fourth quarter of 10 consecutive games—probably because the team has failed to prevail in half of those contests.
No, the majority of the talk regarding the Texans revolved around whether this is the final straw that broke the back of Gary Kubiak's employment as the Texans' head coach.
It's a rather intriguing question that has been fueled by the Texans' recent streak of inconsistent play and the rumor that the team is on Bill Cowher's short list.
Whatever happens to Kubiak, I will always have a soft spot for the fact that he is greatly responsible for taking the Texans from "bottom-feeding joke" to "relevant."
Still, after what is now three straight seasons of mediocrity, despite a continuous improvement in the talent base, one has to wonder whether the problem lies in leadership.
Furthermore, the team has yet to finish with a winning record within the division, and is a pathetic 1-15 against the Colts.
In the team's short seven-year history, they have yet to play a meaningful game in December. That streak may end this year, as the Texans are still technically alive for a playoff spot, but the excitement that should accompany such games is noticeably lacking.
During the bye week, I wrote that the Texans had a legitimate shot to reach the playoffs but would likely need a 10-6 record. To accomplish this, they would need to go 1-1 against the Colts/Pats, 2-1 against the Titans/Jags/Dolphins, and 2-0 against the Seahawks/Rams.
Technically, it is still possible, but the team is hardly playing with the momentum and energy needed to make a playoff run.
The players seem to be lacking the confidence to either sustain a lead or cap a comeback—attributes essential to kicking off the requisite five-game winning streak to finish the season.
The games are, in fact, all winnable. The only game against a top-tier opponent is the final one against New England, and it is possible that the Patriots will have nothing to play for that weekend.
Still, one has to wonder whether they can rebound from five fourth-quarter collapses.
If they can't close out a game, what would make us think that they can close out a season?
Football coaches like to look at a season in quarters—like a football game.
Despite the myriad of mistakes this season, if the Texans can win next week in Jacksonville, they will enter the fourth quarter needing a strong performance to be victorious.
The similarities are frightening.
If the rest of the season continues to mirror the on-field performance, however, we will once again be looking at an early offseason, and possibly a new coach.
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