Kisha's Korner: With or Without Wes, Patriots Play On
By: Kisha Tapangan
A 6:10 am flight from Providence, Rhode Island was not an easy one. Blanketed in snow and absolutely freezing, even my SUV had a tough time making it through. Six hours later, it was goodbye snowstorms, hello Houston.
Sunday's game wasn't a deciding one for the Patriots. With the division clinched, it was just a game to end the regular season and a time to prepare for their first playoff game back in Foxborough.
For the young Texans team though, this is a game that could add a positive spark to the franchise's history. Victory in this game gives Houston hope for the playoffs for the first time ever. Fan appreciation day at Reliant Stadium seemed fitting for what the home team was preparing for their fans. Tired of finishing at .500, the Houston Texans had something to prove and it didn't matter that beating the favored comeback team of the season, the New England Patriots, was necessary to do so.
In the league's first ever facility with a retractable roof, Reliant Stadium was filled with 71,029 football fans from all over the nation. Texans fans enjoyed a final shot at redemption and the Patriots fans just seemed relieved to be away from the cold, at least for a weekend. Specualation spread about whether or not the Patriots would play their starters. As Tom Brady, Randy Moss and Wes Welker charged the field in the first New England possession, the answer was clear.
Within the first Houston possession, quarterback Matt Schaub held possession of the ball for a mere 3:41 and a deep 25 yard pass down the middle to tight end Joel Dreessen for the touchdown. This was the Colorado State alum's first and only touchdown of the season.
The first offensive possession of the New England Patriots was some would call, the beginning of the end. Within the first four minutes of it, Wes Welker made a catch, planted his foot to allude Texans' strong safety Bernard Pollard, the infamous safety who was responsible for Brady's season ending injury in 2008. This time around though, Pollard had nothing to do with it. A bad slip caused Welker's knee to buckle and the infallible wide receiver was down. As all the fans waited to see number 83 bounce back up as he typically would, the former Texas Tech Raider simply didn't. In fact, he was down for quite some time.
Welker was eventually carted off the field, a towel over his head and forcing rookie Julian Edelman to play the slot receiver position that has become indispensable to the Patriots' offense.
New England tight end Ben Watson expressed what many of his teammates felt, "He means a lot to this offense. He makes a lot of plays for us, but it's a part of football. It happens on every team. We've had guys go down and come back it's part of the deal."
With or without Welker, the game went on. The game itself, was a very good one at that. Houston's Matt Schaub completed 24 of 30 passes for 303 yards. With two touchdown passes and only one interception, he recorded one of his best games of the season. Not to mention, Schaub leads the league in passing yards with 4,770. Being ignored by Pro Bowl voters, does Schaub and the Texans play with a chip on their shoulders? Maybe just a little bit.
"You play for respect and you play for that and you play to win....We're making ourselves known down here in Houston and getting that respect, I feel, across the league as a team because we're improving and we're getting better."
The fourth quarter is when the Patriots reach their playing peak. Interestingly enough, so did Houston. After wide receiver Jacoby Jones' tip toe score, the Texans trimmed the New England lead to 27-20. With 4:43 left on the clock, running back Arian Foster drives the ball for one yard to tie the score. Struggling Houston kicker Kris Brown made the extra point, something that seemed increasingly difficult throughout the game. Brown had a chance to add seven points to Bthe Texans final score, he missed two field goals and an extra point. The fans had no problem telling Kris Brown their thoughts about his kicking. Every Texans fan yelled "Two!" and covered their eyes every time he had to to do anything with the ball. Unless someone is playing a meaningless game of Madden, a two point conversion is never the answer.
"I deserved it. When you go out and miss an extra point in a game of this magnitude, I don't blame them. They have a right to express their opinion. It's pretty pathetic to be honest with you. For someone to go out and miss an extra point in a game, there's no excuse for it."
The Houston Texans beat the New England Patriots with a final score of 27-34. For the home team, they gained respect, playoff hopes and a winning record for the first time in franchise history. For the Patriots, they lose another away game, Wes Welker and momentum entering the playoffs. Tom Brady was absent for the post game press conference. When the newly crowned Comeback Player of the Year by the Associated Press finally spoke of Welker's injury to ESPNBoston.com, his comments were sparse.
"We've got to move on and we've got to go out there and play, and everyone I think in different areas has to pick it up. I have to play better, Julian [Edelman] has to play better, Randy [Moss] has to play better, the offensive line, running backs, tight ends, we all have to do more..."
The Texans playoff dreams were tarnished by a sloppy loss by Cincinnati Bengals to the New York Jets. Their season is now over. But still, a bright future is all that is spoken about in Houston as 2009 Pro Bowl wide receiver Andre Jonhson explained to USA Today, "I think it's a great achievement for the organization, our first winning season. I think that it just boosts the attitude of the team, everybody, the coaches around here. I think it'll help us out a lot going into next season."
So what's in store for the Patriots in the playoffs? Welker provided an unmatched morale boost for the entire team. New England is already in the playoff state of mind. No matter who is injured or who they're playing, it's the playoffs and a Super Bowl appearence is on the line.
Coach Belichick has already moved on, "Well we are looking forward for the playoffs right now..."
Kisha Tapangan covers the NFL and the New England Patriots for PatriotsInsider.com. To read more of her material, visit her blog at www.nrwithkisha.com . To contact Kisha, you can email her here: firstname.lastname@example.org