Texans Fight Through Adversity, Win First Division Title
Yates captivates Houston fan base
By Barrett Walton, 11:29AM, Tue. Dec. 13, 2011
What did I tell you back in August? What have I been telling you all season long? These are not the same 'ol Texans.
DeMeco Ryans put it best on Sunday night after the Texans beat the Bengals, “Google the word 'team' and you'll get the Houston Texans.” The Texans are the AFC South Division Champions for the first time in the franchise's 10-year history. How appropriate it was when early this year Texans owner Bob McNair was asked why he's not celebrating the 10th year for the Texans, he responded, “I don't feel like we've had much to celebrate.” Well Mr. McNair, we do now.
If you haven't been following the Texans this season you've missed out on some pretty spectacular football. You've also missed out on an incredible story of triumph over adversity, the strength of unity, and the value in succeeding the right way. The season is far from over, but the Texans' story has already been written. They have found success.
The Texans are built differently than most franchises in the NFL. They are an organization that is based on integrity first. They have the same goals that other teams do. They want to win a Super Bowl. But they refused to do it the wrong way.
Many wanted Gary Kubiak's head after last year's disappointing 6-10 season. Mr. McNair stuck with him because he's an offensive genius, but he's also a great man. Never has this been more relevant than now. The Texans, as a team, are absolutely dedicated to Kubiak. The aw-shucks head coach has made it a point to draft players and sign free agents who fit a certain mold. They need to be good football players but they also need to be good human beings. One of the reasons that this team has managed to stay competitive under Kubiak is because they have always remained calm and focused week in and week out. Tough times haven't created cracks within the locker room.
The Houston Texans are a hard working football team who believe in each other. Their motto this season has been “1 and 0." The team's focus has been simply to win every week. They have refused to let adversity get them down. As the team was absolutely decimated with injuries, week after week after week, they simply suited up the next guy and went back to work. First it was Arian Foster, then it was Andre Johnson, Danieal Manning, Darryl Sharpton, Matt Schaub, Matt Leinart, and then Johnson again. This week it's Texans right guard Mike “Biscuit” Brisiel who broke his leg. But the Texans just keep on winning.
The Texans have been building resolve for six years under Kubiak's steady leadership. This team has seen some very tough times. They have suffered more heartbreaking losses than any team in recent history. But somehow they were always back out on the field the following Sunday, giving maximum effort. I can remember very few times that I've seen this team quit, and that's saying a lot considering how many opportunities they've had to just pack it in and give up.
Never, has the payoff been sweeter than it was this Sunday. After Houston lost Matt Schaub in week 10, then backup Matt Leinart in the first half of week 11, you had to start to think the Texans goose was cooked. Enter Texans rookie T.J. Yates. As I mentioned back in August, Yates was my favorite pick in the 2011 draft for Houston. He was a four-year starter at UNC and he ran Kubiak's system there. Yates is athletic and possesses an inexplicable calmness about him. That calmness was one of the intangibles that really stood out to Texans GM Rick Smith and Kubiak.
Sunday's performance was not one of his best, but it will go down in history as one of the most memorable moments in Houston Texans history.
The team as a whole came out flat after a big home win last week versus Atlanta. Yates looked uncomfortable in the pocket early and he was sailing throws high (always a tell-tale sign that a QB is uncomfortable). Yates threw a pick, backup RB Ben Tate fumbled inside the five, the top-ranked defense in the NFL looked suddenly vulnerable. Was Yates showing his true colors? Well, yes, he was. He was showing that he's a rookie who is playing on the road, running the Houston offense for only the third time in his life.
At halftime I was eager to see how the team would respond. I knew they would respond, but the question was, would it be enough to overcome the poor first-half play? This team plays with too much heart to doubt their resolve anymore. Sure enough, they came out mean and Connor Barwin, a Cincinnati native, caused a sack/fumble on the Bengals first possession of the second half and it was basically on from there. Down by 10 with 12 minutes to play, Yates led the Texans to a field goal on a drive that started from the one-yard line. With five minutes left, the defense had to get a stop and they did. (By a single yard.) On the final drive Owen Daniels made a spectacular one-handed catch to keep the drive alive. A few plays later Yates scrambled for 17 yards to convert a third and 15. With two seconds to play, Yates hit Kevin Walter in the end zone for the win.
The story in the media is going to be all about T.J. Yates and his improbable success, but he's really only a small asterisk on the Texans assent into relevancy. He's a good story, because he does play with great poise for a rookie QB, but unfortunately the real story is that this team is just that, a team. No one player is greater than the sum of the parts. (Are you listening Bill Polian?) This team's heart, this team's resolve is magnificent and inspirational to a magnificent degree.
Join me in congratulating the Houston Texans, 2011 AFC South Champions, not for winning the division, but for overcoming adversity and finding success the right way.
And the best part … this team is young. The organization is stable. The Houston Texans are going to be winners for years to come. How far this ride goes this season is simply icing on the cake. Or rather, hors d'oeuvres for the next decade.
[Barrett Walton is the managing editor for Texans Bull Blog. Visit www.texansbullblog.com for news, analysis and commentary.]