Even the most devout Texans fan had to question how far rookie quarterback TJ Yates could carry them into the playoffs. The answer? To the Baltimore 38 yard line at the two-minute warning of the AFC Divisional Championship game.
Friend of TGS Patty Hsieh of The Pigskin Arch made a bold prediction: the Houston Texans would make three bone-headed plays in this game against the Ravens. And so it came to be: (1) Jacoby Jones fumbled a punt inside his own ten yard line to set up a touchdown; (2) TJ Yates locked in on Andre Johnson and threw an interception directly to Lardarius Webb to set up another touchdown, and (3) Yates throws yet another interception at a well-bracketed Kevin Walter, setting up yet another field goal drive.
However, those three plays didn’t kill the Texans’ hopes of advancing to the AFC Conference Championship game. An inspired defense led by JJ Watt and Brooks Reed, who combined for five sacks of Joe Flacco, and the running of Arian Foster, who had 154 total yards and a touchdown on the day, had the Texans fighting back and preparing to shock the Ravens. Momentum had seemingly turned their way on a whale of a hit by Tim Dobbins to shut Ray Rice out of the end zone on a fourth and goal from the one.
Down 20-13 in the fourth quarter, Yates made a pair of excellent midrange throws to Andre Johnson, who was able to create cushion in single coverage. These brought the Texans to the Baltimore 38 yard line at the two minute warning, plenty of time with a time out left to let Foster carry the Texans back into the ballgame, and erase the deficit that those three bone-headed plays had wrought.
Instead, though, the Texans made one bone-head play more. Yates dropped back and lofted a duck toward the front corner of the end zone, where Andre Johnson was waiting — bracketed by cornerback Jimmy Smith and playoff game-changer Ed Reed. Reed was easily able to out-leap Johnson for the pass at the two yard line, ending the Texans’ drive and all but ending the game.
It was a curious decision by Gary Kubiak and offensive coordinator Rick Dennison, to say the least. But for his part, Andre Johnson refused to throw his quarterback under the bus: “I have nothing but respect for TJ. He came in and he took over the team. It was his team.”
Johnson did express disappointment, saying “We felt like we should have won the game.” But the mood in the visiting locker room in M&T Bank Stadium was anything but downcast.”The beautiful thing about this thing we have in Houston,” said Arian Foster after the game, “is that it can only go up from here.”
Postgame quotes from Texans beat reporter @NickScurfield.