Tuesday, December 7, 2010
The Houston Texans had reached the .500 mark for the first time in 2007, but were having difficulty progressing in 2008. After ten games, they were 3-7, but by the time they faced the Packers at Green Bay’s Lambeau Field on December 7, they were riding a two-game winning streak and stood at 5-7.
While Head Coach Gary Kubiak’s team had some good performers on defense, most notably DE Mario Williams and LB DeMeco Ryans, overall the unit was inconsistent. Offensively, QB Matt Schaub (pictured above) had been plagued by a knee injury and missed the four games leading up to the contest in Green Bay. Backup Sage Rosenfels had been effective in relief, but was prone to turning the ball over. With star WR Andre Johnson and productive RB Steve Slaton, the team was capable of making big plays, but had not been able to do so with regularity.
The Packers, under Head Coach Mike McCarthy, were in transition entering the season. For the first time since 1992, going back some 253 games, Brett Favre was not the starting quarterback. His departure to the New York Jets had been accompanied by plenty of offseason dramatics. Fourth-year QB Aaron Rodgers (pictured at right) was now running the offense, and while he was playing as well as could be hoped, the club, which had gone 13-3 in 2007 and advanced to the NFC Championship game, was struggling at 5-7 as it prepared to host the Texans and had lost four of the last five games.
Schaub was wearing a knee brace and the temperature at game time was just three degrees, making it the coldest contest in the franchise’s brief history to date. Neither the quarterback nor the team appeared to be hindered, however, as Schaub’s second pass went for a 58-yard touchdown to WR Kevin Walter.
The Packers didn’t complete a pass until their second possession, and both teams traded punts for the remainder of the opening period. The second quarter opened with Houston at the Green Bay 30, however, and it looked likely that the visitors would score when Schaub tossed a pass to Johnson that was good for a 19-yard gain to the 11. But TE Owen Daniels, after making a catch at the one, fumbled and CB Tramon Williams recovered for Green Bay at the three.
The Packers drove into Houston territory but, after DE Tim Bulman sacked Rodgers for a seven-yard loss on a third down play, once again had to punt. However, Schaub was intercepted by Williams at the Texans’ 28 and two plays later Green Bay tied the score as Rodgers connected with TE Donald Lee for a 20-yard TD with just over five minutes remaining in the half.
Schaub made up for the pickoff on Houston’s next play when he threw a pass to Walter for a 46-yard gain to the Green Bay 25. The drive finally stalled at the 11 and Kris Brown kicked a 30-yard field goal to put the Texans back in the lead. After an apparent 99-yard kickoff return by CB Will Blackmon was nullified by a holding penalty, Houston CB Dunta Robinson intercepted a Rodgers pass on the ensuing series, but the Texans were unable to add to their lead when Brown was wide on a 41-yard field goal attempt on the last play of the half. Houston led by 10-7 at halftime.
The Packers went three-and-out to start the third quarter and the Texans, helped by a 21-yard gain on a pass from Schaub to FB Vonta Leach, scored on a 41-yard field goal by Brown.
Following a short Green Bay possession, the Texans got the ball back on a punt and it appeared that they would have to punt again in turn, facing a fourth-and-six situation at their own 35. But veteran punter Matt Turk stunned both the Packers and his own team by taking off for an 18-yard gain and a first down. However, after driving to the Green Bay 16, Slaton fumbled and the Packers took over at their 21. On the last play of the third quarter, Rodgers passed to WR Greg Jennings for a 63-yard gain to the Houston six yard line. RB Ryan Grant ran the remaining six yards for a touchdown to start the final period, and with the successful PAT, the Packers took the lead at 14-13.
The Texans came back on a drive in which Schaub completed five passes for 55 yards, the last of which was for an 11-yard touchdown to Johnson. Following up with another pass to Johnson for a successful two-point conversion, Houston was now back in front at 21-14.
It appeared that the defense had successfully held the Packers after a short possession in which they only advanced to their own 18, but the ensuing punt was muffed by WR Jacoby Jones and recovered by long snapper Brett Goode for Green Bay. Back in possession of the ball at their own 49, the Packers took full advantage and seven plays later Rodgers threw a nine-yard scoring pass to WR Jordy Nelson. With the successful kick for the extra point, the game was tied at 21-21 with just under six minutes to play.
The Texans failed to advance on their next possession and punted. Rodgers passed to WR Donald Driver for a 59-yard gain to the Houston 25, but a holding call and sack backed the Packers to the 38 and out of field goal range. Punter Jeremy Kapinos pinned Houston down with a 35-yard kick to the three yard line.
Now with 1:49 remaining on the clock, Schaub proceeded to move the Texans downfield, completing passes to Leach for 22 yards, WR David Anderson for 17 yards, and Daniels for 27. After Slaton ran three yards to get the ball down to the Green Bay 22, Brown kicked a 40-yard field goal on the game’s final play to give Houston a 24-21 win.
The Texans accumulated a team-record 549 total yards, to 387 for the Packers, and had 25 first downs to Green Bay’s 16, although they were nearly undone by giving up four turnovers. But the Packers converted only one of 10 third downs, while Houston succeeded on 7 of 13 third down plays (and their one fourth down play).
Matt Schaub, showing no ill effects from the time off, threw for 414 yards as he completed 28 of 42 passes with two touchdowns and one intercepted. Kevin Walter (pictured below) caught 6 of those passes for 146 yards and a TD and Owen Daniels contributed another 65 yards on his 6 receptions. Steve Slaton ran for 120 yards on 26 carries.
Aaron Rodgers was successful on 19 of 30 passes for 295 yards with two TDs and an interception. Ryan Grant also reached the hundred-yard threshold with 104 on 19 attempts that included a touchdown. Donald Driver caught three passes for 75 yards.
There was much rejoicing by the Texans over what was considered one of the greatest wins in franchise history.
“Our group had every reason at some point to fold with the turnovers hurting us,” said Coach Kubiak. “But this group is made of a lot of character and it's as good a win as I've ever been around.”
Houston went on to win two of its last three contests (as part of five of the final six) to again finish at 8-8 and third in the AFC South. Green Bay lost the next two games before winning the season finale to end up at 6-10 for third place in the NFC North.
While Matt Schaub’s overall statistics of 3043 yards passing with 15 touchdowns (against 10 interceptions) were held down due to losing five games to injury, his 8.0 yards per attempt ranked second in the NFL (tied with Drew Brees of the Saints) and 276.6 yards per game ranked fourth. Schaub also ranked fourth in completion percentage (66.1) and seventh in overall passing (92.7 rating).
Andre Johnson led the NFL in both pass receptions (115) and receiving yards (1575). Kevin Walter added 60 catches for 899 yards (15.0 avg.) and eight TDs.
Rookie Steve Slaton (pictured at left) ran for 1282 yards on 268 carries for a 4.8-yard average and nine touchdowns. With 50 catches for 377 more yards, he garnered 1659 yards from scrimmage. However, the production dropped off significantly the following year.
Aaron Rodgers finished just ahead of Schaub with a 93.8 passer rating. While the team slumped, the new starting quarterback drew good reviews as he placed fourth in passing yards (4038), TD passes (28), and percentage of TD passes (5.2).