Under Keenum, Texans close but winless

Under Keenum, Texans close but winless
November 27, 2013, 5:15 pm
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(USA Today Images)

The Texans have been close in all five games Case Keenum has started this year.

And they’ve won exactly zero of them.

“Very surprised,” Keenum said about not having a win. “We go in each week expecting to win. That’s definitely one of the words you can use to describe not winning.”

Keenum, the University of Houston product, got his first start against the Chiefs on Oct. 20 and has started every game since. The Texans are 0-5 since Keenum became the starter, losing all five games by one score.

Is it even harder being close and not pulling it off?

“It’s always frustrating when you lose,” Andre Johnson said. “You always wonder what could you have done better to change the outcome so anytime you lose it’s frustrating.”

“Anytime you lose you’re not that encouraged,” offensive coordinator Rick Dennison said. “We’re very frustrated. We need to find a win; we need to play better so that we can win. And everybody in the building is frustrated.”

During Keenum’s stretch as a starter, the Texans have lost the five games by 19 combined points, 3.8 points per game. To put that into perspective, the Texans lost four games all of last season but lost them by an average of 18.75 points per game. Their closest game was a 12-point loss.

The Texans have been close with Keenum at the helm in 2013. But the closest they’ve come to winning a Keenum start was with Matt Schaub.

Schaub took over late in the second half against the Raiders and got the Texans down to the 2-yard line before getting backed up to the 8 and throwing an incomplete pass to Andre Johnson in the end zone on fourth down.

But missing opportunities on late drives isn’t specific to the Raiders game or to Schaub. In fact, in the four games Keenum has started and finished he’s had the ball for a late-game drive to either take the lead or tie the game and the team hasn’t come through.  

Against Kansas City, the Texans got the ball at their own 10-yard line with 1:46 but Keenum fumbled it away on the second play. Against the Colts, Keenum got the ball on the 33 with under a minute remaining and got the Texans into field-goal range before Randy Bullock missed a 55-yarder. Against the Cardinals, they got the ball back with 2:06 remaining at the 17. But they got just one first down.

And last week against the Jaguars, the Texans got the ball at the 20 with 1:50 left with a chance to tie but Keenum’s pass intended for Keshawn Martin was bobbled and intercepted.

Despite the late-drives coming up short, the Texans claim they still have confidence when they get into those situations.

“I wouldn’t say it hurts our confidence,” offensive lineman Brandon Brooks. “We just know that every time we’re down there we are trying to score and we go back to the drawing board and see what we do better and what we did wrong on that possession and basically how we correct it. It’s never discouraging because you never know when you’re going to have another opportunity. Confidence is key and goes a long way. We don’t get discouraged at all.”

“We hope we do,” Dennison said about having confidence late in games. “We’re just not getting it done. Confidence or not, we have to execute. That’s the thing that we’re missing; we’re just not executing in those situations at the end and there’s a lot of critical situations throughout the games where we’re not getting it done. But we’ll keep working at it.”

The Texans have found several different ways to lose over the last month-plus but there’s been one constant: they’ve been close without getting a win. And because of it, a team that would have had a chance to sneak into the playoffs in a weak AFC, is setting itself up for one of the first picks in the draft.

If the season ended now, the second wild card spot would go to a team with a 5-6 record. The Texans are 2-9.

“Yeah, that’s extremely frustrating, especially when you go back and look at some of the games we’ve lost and some of the situations we’ve been in,” head coach Gary Kubiak said after Sunday’s loss to the lowly Jaguars. “I don’t know if I’m right but I think for five weeks in a row, we’ve lost the game by less than a touchdown. If you flip half of those, then you’re sitting here correcting mistakes and playing for opportunities to play in the playoffs. That makes it very difficult, but it is what it is.”