Top 20 Games of 2010  

 

No. 11: Texans don't relent, ultimately fall at Reliant

  • By Elliot Harrison NFL.com
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As the research analyst for NFL Network's NFL RedZone, Elliot Harrison watched all 267 games in the 2010 season. We asked him to rank the 20 most memorable.

Great games are not always defined by great play. A random, mistake-filled matchup between teams with no real history between them can pack the same punch as Packers-Bears or Cowboys-Niners back in the day. How a game becomes one for the long-term memory banks depends on a fan's taste.

In the case of this Monday nighter between the Ravens and Texans, you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone who said it was anything but badass.

Why? Often, even in professional football, the game is about heart. And sometimes -- granted, not as often -- a team's loss is more impressive than if they'd won.

For me, Houston won on this Monday night. Here's a team that had nothing but bad luck: rookie running back Ben Tate's season-ending injury in preseason, stud linebacker DeMeco Ryans being lost for the season, Brian Cushing's suspension, and a terrible loss to the Jaguars on the flukiest pass this side of Eli Manning.

A club that was once 4-2 had lost five of six but fought like this was its Super Bowl against a superior opponent. Still, the Texans found themselves down, 21-0, with less than two minutes to go in the first half. Bear in mind that Baltimore would be getting the ball to start the second half. How many 5-7 teams could've packed it in?

Houston didn't. Matt Schaub hit Andre Johnson on a deep ball to make it, 21-7.

Ravens at Texans: Tale of the tape*
Category
8-4
W-L
5-7
2nd, AFC North
Standings
3rd, AFC South
14th (358.0 YPG)
Off. rank
6th (387.9 YPG)
6th (318.3 YPG)
Def. rank
28th (399.7 YPG)
* Entering Week 14

No worries for Baltimore. Rookie David Reed seemingly nuked any chance of a Houston comeback when he took the second-half kickoff to the house. Even then, Gary Kubiak's guys didn't relent at Reliant.

They scratched and clawed from 28-7 to 28-10 ... then 28-13. An incredible, 99-yard drive made it 28-20. Following that Old Testament-length possession, Schaub and AJ did their best Schaub-and-AJ impersonation to even it up at 28-all.

Knowing how complete a team Baltimore is, I thought I was seeing Houston pull off the best comeback of the 2010 season. This game went from disappointing to entertaining, then to draining. It would park at shocking.

Josh Wilson, maybe the 11th-most well-known player on the Ravens defense, did what Houston epitomized the whole second half: put your head down, and keep playin'. The nickel corner picked Schaub and walked into the end zone, guaranteeing there would be two winners on this night.

Game rewind

Can't-miss play

Down, 28-20, Schaub made it happen. Scrambling to his right, he threw across his body to a leaping AJ, who pulled a Santonio Holmes-esque, tap-the-feet-down move to save the season (until the Texans lost in OT).

Schaub's improvisation reminded me of the immortal Don Majkowski making almost the same play to Sterling Sharpe to beat the Bears in the famous "Instant Replay Game" in 1989. What made this drive even better was the cool-as-it-gets Schaub making a difficult pass to Jacoby Jones on the two-point conversion look easy.


Headscratcher

Ed Reed is a future Hall of Famer. Despite playing in only 10 games last year, he picked off eight -- eight! -- passes.

That said, how in the world does Reed let the planet's best wide receiver get behind him with less than a minute to go in the first half and a 21-point lead? That would be akin to the struggling Lakers letting J.J. Barea drive through the lane time and again. Oh, wait ...


Play of the game

Wilson's interception was the definition of clutch. Make no mistake, the Ravens' defense was on its heels. Houston had racked up 301 yards of offense in the second half alone. Wilson read the route and jumped it.

That wasn't enough. To ice the win, he knew he had one thing left to do. "I was just saying, 'Catch the ball, catch the ball, catch the ball,' and game over."


Why is this game No. 11 of 2010?

How could it not be might be the better question. One team in desperation mode, making one last-gasp toward its division race; the other trying to steal a game on the road to keep pace in its race. The latter, the Ravens, must've felt they had this game in hand, being up, 21-0, with one of the better defenses in football. Who could have predicted the feisty Texans would carve up that group?

Much like game No. 12 in our series, this intraconference battle was defined by big plays and a lot of vertical passing. Doesn't Andre Johnson (nine receptions, 140 yards and two touchdowns) going off make every game a little cooler?

Yes, but so does watching a veteran defensive unit be resilient, ultimately making the play that counted.

Why not higher?

There was not much to complain about with this one, but if I have to nitpick, I will. Houston couldn't get out of its own way in the first half, and to make matters worse, it deployed its Christmas stocking unis. At least those uniforms weren't as bad as the Cardinals' all-red look. Those complaints aside, it's not often a game ends on a walkoff pick-six -- much cooler than anything Scott Brosius and Jim Leyritz ever did.


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