Texans Fade Away Late, Lose To Eagles, 34-24

SB Nation Houston's coverage of the Texans-Eagles game on December 2nd, 2010.

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Texans Sign S Quintin Demps, Place DE Nading On IR

The Texans signed safety Quintin Demps, who had been working with the UFL’s Hartford Colonials, and placed defensive end Jesse Nading on IR, according to Nick Scurfield of HoustonTexans.com. Scurfield also noted that the club brought back DT Malcolm Sheppard to the active roster from the practice squad.

Demps, 25, had played for the Eagles the last two seasons. He bumps the number of safeties on the Texans roster from 3 to 4. He’d lost his job in 2009 to Macho Harris. All of those things make him every bit the reclamation project that every other Texans safety in franchise history has been.

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Bernard Pollard Inexplicably Fined More Than Andre Johnson

There aren’t many times that I sit down and readily agree with Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk, but this issue is definitely one of them.

Texans safety Bernard Pollard was fined $40,000 today for a hit on a defenseless receiver against the Titans in Week 12’s 23-0 win. The NFL continues to be really poor with consistently applying it’s fines to players. It occurred on the Titans final drive of the game, and looked like a questionable unnecessary roughness call. Pollard appeared, to my eyes, to be leading with the shoulder rather than the helmet. You can decide for yourself by watching this .gif of the incident. It’s one thing for the NFL’s referees to blow a call on the field. It hurts the game on the field, but at least it’s an honest mistake. But if, after extensive tape review, the league determined that THIS hit was worth $40,000 of Pollard’s game check, then they need to go back to the drawing board and figure out where they went wrong.

It gets even worse when you compare it side-by-side to Andre Johnson and Cortland Finnegan’s fight in the game. Pollard was playing the game and landed a shoulder into a receiver’s helmet. Johnson and Finnegan yanked each others helmets’ off, then Johnson laid waste to Finnegan’s head with his fists. Intentionally. They were both ejected for the play. Yet they were both fined just $25,000.

Pollard might be a repeat offender of the rules, but this is a ridiculous fine in comparison to the events that transpired on the field. On the bright side, if the NFL continues to be this ridiculous when it comes to defensive hits, this Texans defense might actually look good in a few years when the league completes it’s transformation into the Arena Football League.

Read more at Battle Red Blog.

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Thursday Night Football Interview Aftermath: As Usual, Finishing Games At The Forefront

Following the Texans soul-shattering defensive collapse (the most recent one) some players and coach Kubiak chimed in with their thoughts on Sports Radio 610’s post-game show.

Gary Kubiak

(On what’s most disappointing about this loss) “I just think how well we actually had played in a three quarter football game. We played a great team tonight at their place. Had some tough sledding early so to speak, but had total control of the football game after three quarters.”

(On the big picture) “I dunno what’s gonna happen Rich. Nine wins might win this division, cause we’re all playing each other. But we’ve got to concentrate on the sixth one….our guys will play hard, but we’ve got to find a way to play better at crunch time.”

Arian Foster (listen)

(on how hard it is to remain optimistic) “It’s not hard at all man. That’s what we get paid to do. Play good solid football. So we just gotta get up, do what we know how to do.”

(what it was like playing against that defense) “They didn’t do anything that we haven’t seen on film. They’re a good defense, I don’t want to take anything away from them, but we put up 24 on them. And we probably should’ve put up a little more.”

Brian Cushing (listen)

(on finding positives) “Of course. We’re dealing with life here, this is more than just a game right now. We have to keep our head up. Before tonight we were just one game back. You just have to stay positive, and feel the situation is going to work itself out.”

(on if the defense is making progress) “(audible disgust) You know, I’m not going to say yes, but at the same time, we didn’t win the game. That’s really what it comes down to, that’s how close it is. We have to find a way to finish and win the game, then that will be progress.”

Antonio Smith (listen)

(how frustrating it is not to be able to finish) “It’s very frustrating. Especially when you can feel it out there on the field. When you’ve got what it takes to win the game, and you know you can pull it out. But you’re just misfiring on some pistons. Everybody’s not firing on the same accord. A messup here, A panic here, and not getting set, it kind of catches up with you at the end.”

(would you say it’s a desperate situation now) “I’ve said it in weeks past. It’s already been a desperate situation. Not as far as the playoffs, but it was a desperate situation in far as getting wins. A positive spark. Which happened last week, and I thought we could build off of it. And I think the team desperately needs it.”

How about that second Cushing quote? I know he meant to say that the defense was making progress, but that was a noteworthy Freudian slip. As usual, the standard accountability quotes go through the interviews (“we’ve got to play better,” is a favorite) but little about actually making changes or rectifying mistakes. Like this year’s Texans squad, it’s all about buzz words, and not about actually fixing anything.

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Texans Fade Away Late, Lose To Eagles 34-24

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Michael Vick rushed for a go-ahead score early in the fourth quarter and extended the lead with his second touchdown pass a little later, as the Philadelphia Eagles pulled out a 34-24 victory over the Houston Texans at Lincoln Financial Field.

The Texans erased a 10-point halftime deficit and led, 24-20, heading to the fourth, but Philadelphia answered behind Vick, who connected on 22-of-33 passes for 302 yards with an interception while adding 51 yards on the ground.

LeSean McCoy amassed 130 yards from scrimmage and scored twice for the Eagles (8-4), who had a short week to recover from a loss at Chicago that dropped them in a tie for first place in the NFC East with the New York Giants.

Houston (5-7) lost for the fifth time in the last six weeks, failing to gain ground on the AFC South-leading Jaguars and Colts.

Arian Foster carried the load for the Texans with 109 total yards and two scores, while Matt Schaub completed 22-of-36 passes for 337 with two touchdowns, an interception and a lost fumble in defeat.

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Thursday Night Football Matches Up Two Great Offenses

(Sports Network) - The Houston Texans are showing they're still willing to fight, both literally and figuratively, for a chance at an elusive first-ever playoff berth in franchise history. The AFC South contenders continue that quest with Thursday's visit to Lincoln Financial Field, where a Philadelphia Eagles team attempting to cement its own postseason hopes lies in wait for a Week 13 interconference bout between two high-powered opponents.

The Texans had just about fallen out of contention in the division race after losing four straight games to begin November, but bounced back with a highly- charged effort to take down the spiraling Tennessee Titans last Sunday at Reliant Stadium. The resounding 20-0 victory, coupled with Week 12 defeats by AFC South front-runners Jacksonville and Indianapolis, moved Houston within a single game of the Jaguars and Colts for the top spot.

Houston took advantage of a depleted Tennessee offense directed by over-his- head rookie quarterback Rusty Smith to record its first shutout since 2004, but the defense's surprisingly sturdy effort was overshadowed by a nasty fourth-quarter brawl between Texans star wide receiver Andre Johnson and chippy Titans cornerback Cortland Finnegan that saw both players tossed from the contest.

Neither Johnson nor Finnegan were suspended for the ugly incident, with each receiving $25,000 fines from the NFL office. The verdict brought a sigh of relief to the Texans, who'll have one of their best weapons on the field for a pivotal game against the NFC East co-leading Eagles.

Lost in the Johnson/Finnegan scuffle was the performance of a maligned Houston defense that entered last week's tilt ranked 31st in the league in yards allowed and dead last against the pass. The unit limited the punchless Titans to a paltry 162 total yards and nine first downs while bottling up All-Pro running back Chris Johnson, who mustered a career-low five rushing yards on seven attempts.

Duplicating that display figures to be a tall task, however, against a dangerous Philadelphia contingent that's second in the NFL in both total offense and points scored. The Eagles have put up 26 points or more in all six games in which revitalized quarterback Michael Vick has started and finished this season, while posting a 5-1 record in those outings.

The lone blemish occurred this past Sunday, however, when Philadelphia was outdueled by surging Chicago in a 31-26 setback that ended the Eagles' three- game winning streak. The usually-potent offense was beset by a number of critical breakdowns in the Windy City, managing just one touchdown in five red-zone trips and Vick throwing a costly interception (his first of the season) near the goal line that led to a key touchdown for the Bears.

Philadelphia's defense also wasn't up to par, surrendering four scoring passes to Chicago signal-caller Jay Cutler and 117 rushing yards to running back Matt Forte on only 14 carries. The Eagles may be in for a tough time on that side of the ball again on Thursday, with the Texans bringing the NFL's leading ground-gainer in Arian Foster along with the league's seventh-rated offense in terms of total yardage.

Sunday's loss placed Philadelphia back into a first-place tie with the New York Giants, a 24-20 victor over Jacksonville in Week 12, in the NFC East standings.

SERIES HISTORY

The Eagles won their only two all-time meetings with the Texans, downing Houston on the road in the 2006 regular season opener (24-10) and at home (35-17) during the 2002 regular season. Houston-based NFL teams are 0-4 in Philadelphia all-time, including an 0-3 mark there by the Oilers.

Eagles head coach Andy Reid is 2-0 in his career against the Texans, while Houston's Gary Kubiak is 0-1 against both Reid and the Eagles as a head man.

WHEN THE TEXANS HAVE THE BALL

While Johnson's contributions and presence cannot be minimized, the main driving force behind a balanced Houston offense that's averaging 367.7 total yards per game has been Foster (1147 rushing yards, 48 receptions, 13 total TD), an overlooked MVP candidate who's accounted for nearly 40 percent of the team's output this season. The undrafted second-year pro is fresh off a monster day against the Titans in which he rushed for 143 yards on 30 carries and added a game-high 75 receiving yards on nine catches as one of the primary targets for steady quarterback Matt Schaub (2752 passing yards, 15 TD, 7 INT). Johnson (65 receptions, 869 yards, 5 TD) had nine grabs as well prior his premature exit, and the four-time Pro Bowl honoree's ability to stretch the field and draw added attention from the defense helps open the field for complementary pieces such as wideout Kevin Walter (31 receptions, 4 TD) and tight end Joel Dreessen (22 receptions, 4 TD), who's emerged as a reliable fill-in for the injured Owen Daniels. Schaub enters Thursday's matchups on a three-game streak without a turnover, and the Philadelphia-area native has been intercepted just twice in five road tests this season.

The Eagles head into this week's clash with one big question mark in the secondary, with top-flight cornerback Asante Samuel's (23 tackles, 7 INT, 12 PD) status likely not to be determined until game time due to a sprained left knee that caused him to sit out against Chicago. Without the NFL's interception leader, Philadelphia was burned for 247 yards and four touchdowns by Cutler, and there's no other coverman on the roster you can deem capable of go going one-on-one with Johnson with much confidence. End Juqua Parker (15 tackles, 5 sacks), the team's second-leading sacker, is also iffy with a hip flexor, though rookie replacement Brandon Graham (12 tackles, 3 sacks) took down Cutler once last week and the defense did come up with four sacks total on the day, including a pair from standout rush end Trent Cole (49 tackles, 9 sacks). The Eagles had been playing very well against the run up until last Sunday, with the midseason insertions of tackle Antonio Dixon (23 tackles, 2 sacks) and strongside linebacker Moise Fokou (28 tackles) into starting roles helping shore up an area that was a trouble spot early on. Philadelphia has yielded a scant 81.9 rushing yards per game over its past seven contests.

WHEN THE EAGLES HAVE THE BALL

Philadelphia's offense is among the most explosive in all of football, having produced a league-best 15 plays of 40 or more yards through the first 11 games, and boasts two premier home-run threats in flashy wide receiver DeSean Jackson (35 receptions, 678 yards, 5 TD) and running back LeSean McCoy (779 rushing yards, 59 receptions, 7 total TD). It's also been quite efficient, with Vick (1941 passing yards, 13 TD, 1 INT) having turned the ball over just twice thus far while completing a career-best 63.4 percent of his passes during his impressive comeback campaign. The multi-faceted quarterback is still a major threat with his legs as well, topping all NFL signal-callers in both rushing yards (419) and touchdowns (5), and his scrambling skills are part of the reason why the Eagles have compiled the third-most yards on the ground (146.6 ypg) in 2010. McCoy's done his part as well, with the versatile sophomore averaging five yards per carry in addition to leading all running backs in receptions. The speedy Jackson serves as the big-play element to Reid's diverse pass attack, with underrated wideout Jeremy Maclin (51 receptions, 752 yards, 8 TD), sure-handed slotman Jason Avant (41 tackles, 1 TD) and McCoy utilized as Vick's main options underneath. Pass protection has been an issue at times, with the front line having allowed 32 sacks on the year.

The Eagles' deep corps of receivers will be working against a young and vulnerable Houston secondary that's been routinely toasted by enemy quarterbacks this season. The Texans have permitted a league-worst 25 touchdown passes and a troubling 286.2 yards per game via the air (31st overall), and last week's shutout marked the first time in 2010 the team gave up fewer than 24 points. On the positive side, second-year cornerback Glover Quin (59 tackles, 3 INT, 11 PD) set a club single-game record with three interceptions of the Titans' Smith in Week 12, while Pro Bowl end Mario Williams (26 tackles, 8.5 sacks) is an elite pass rusher who's registered three sacks over the past two weeks. While the defense has been shoddy against the pass, Houston can be awfully tough to run on, as Tennessee found out by gaining an anemic 24 yards on the ground on 12 attempts last Sunday. Outside linebacker and 2009 NFL Defensive Rookie of the year Brian Cushing (47 tackles) and physical strong safety Bernard Pollard (85 tackles) spearhead a group that comes in ranked ninth in the league in rushing defense (100.2 ypg) and has allowed 3.9 yards per carry.

FANTASY FOCUS

Fantasy competitors will need to set their lineups early this week, as there are a wealth of appealing choices to select from in this potentially high- scoring affair. There hasn't been a single player better from a fantasy perspective than Foster this season, though McCoy's certainly held his own as well. Start both top backs without hesitation, and the same goes for Johnson and the Eagles' stellar wideout combo of Maclin and Jackson. Vick also gets a thumbs-up here in a prime opportunity against Houston's burnable secondary, but Schaub's overall numbers this year have been more in line with a good backup quarterback. Dreessen, who's caught a touchdown pass in two straight games, rates as a potential sleeper pick -- albeit one with risk -- at the tight end spot, and Texans kicker Neil Rackers isn't a bad option at his position. Start Eagles kicker David Akers, who's drilled 13 field goals over the past four weeks, but avoid either defense in a game that has the makings of a shootout.

OVERALL ANALYSIS

The shutdown ways of the Houston defense will be short-lived, as the Eagles possess far too much speed and playmaking ability for the Texans to effectively keep under wraps. Philadelphia does have a few issues that need to be sorted out on that end as well, however, and their recent red-zone problems combined with Houston's aptitude for putting up points could ensure a competitive and entertaining contest. A short week often favors the home team, though, and the Eagles' edge in consistency and overall talent should also be enough to throw a wrench into the Texans' playoff plans.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Eagles 30, Texans 24

Follow along with fellow Texans fans at Battle Red Blog.

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