• They have been belittled and beleaguered, called everything short of gutless for their inability to rise to the challenge and win their biggest games these past eight years. But you can't blast the Houston Texans' lack of backbone today. Not after they finally vanquished their nemesis, the Colts, and took a sizable first step toward fulfilling their playoff-level promise.
The Texans, of course, didn't clinch anything with their 34-24 conquest at Reliant Stadium, but they cleared a significant psychological hurdle in improving to 1-0. Indy entered the game 15-1 against division rival Houston from 2002 on; and until the Texans manned up and handled the Colts, they were going to forever seem like the expansion club that couldn't quite shed that label. In a very real sense, this
Maybe all the Texans really needed was a running back like
If Houston should go on to bigger and better things this season, the drive that may be forever remembered as getting the Texans over the hump occurred at the start of the third quarter, with Houston clinging to a slim 13-10 lead after racing to an early 13-0 advantage. You could almost hear the
But not this time. This time, the Texans crisply marched 66 yards in 15 plays, chewing up 7:57 on an absolutely essential touchdown drive. Foster did most of the damage, carrying nine times for 49 yards, including the final, toughest yard -- a 1-yard touchdown plunge on 3rd-and-goal. Though there was almost a quarter and a half still to play, it was effectively the end for the Colts, who trailed 20-10 and never again got closer than 10 points.
It's a long season, and Houston's challenges will still be many as it strives for the first playoff berth in franchise history. But Week 1 can set the tone for an entire season, especially for a team that's still learning how to win. These Texans don't have to cower anymore when someone brings up the Colts, and I do believe their long search for a franchise back has ended quite happily. That's progress aplenty for Kubiak's talented team on this particular NFL Sunday.
• Sorry, but it's a lousy, nonsensical NFL rule that removed
That's not true. I do know what a catch looks like, and Johnson made one against the Bears in the end zone, with under 30 seconds left in the game. But by the definition the NFL uses at the moment, Johnson's heroics were wiped out because he wasn't deemed to have made one of those vague "second football acts'' while in possession of the ball.
That rule needs some work, and everybody knows it now. If a receiver has the ball, with two feet down in the end zone, and then another body part down inbounds, why is that not as good as a running back who dives and barely breaks the plane of the goal with the ball before fumbling out of bounds? There should not be two vastly different ways of interpreting possession in the end zone.
All I know is that calling Johnson's play a non-catch by the letter of the law leaves me convinced the law needs to be changed. In any other NFL decade, that would have been a touchdown without much debate, if any at all. But not now. Not when we have "second football acts'' to complicate what once wasn't all that complicated.
• The Bears won, but everything I suspected about Chicago's woeful offensive line showed up on its failed goal-line possession in the fourth quarter. Chicago had a 1st-and-goal from inside the 1, and couldn't punch it in on all four downs.
All those high-profile acquisitions by the Bears the past two offseasons could be wasted by the fact Chicago didn't give its O-line much love at all. New Bears offensive line coach
• That was a very ill-advised sidearm interception thrown by Browns quarterback
The turnover-plagued Delhomme wound up throwing two interceptions in Cleveland's 17-14 loss at Tampa Bay, a game the Browns once seemed comfortably in command of, at 14-3. Not a good development for
• So much for the Bengals passing game being new and improved. Sure,
• Despite all the upheaval late in the preseason -- when Seattle seemingly turned over a third of its roster in haphazard fashion -- new Seahawks head coach
San Francisco was the consensus choice to rule the NFC West this year, and that's an assumption that might need some rethinking at this point. Seattle dominated
Let's see if the Seahawks can keep it up next week at Denver, but for now, Seattle's showing was Week 1's biggest surprise. Unless San Francisco's dismal day outdid even the Seahawks. The 49ers go home to face the defending Super Bowl champion Saints next Monday night. Far earlier than expected, the pressure is suddenly on in San Francisco.
• Can't decide if the most spectacular play of Week 1 was that diving, airborne interception by Giants safety
• I don't think Bears fans need worry any more about whether Forte, whose explosiveness has returned to 2008 levels. Forte took that little swing pass from
• If I told you Friday that
• Not all 0-1 clubs are created equal, and no team will be dealing with a more crushing Week 1 disappointment than Detroit. Not only did the Lions lose at Chicago under dubious circumstances, but also they lost promising second-year quarterback
I suppose the
• That ought to tamp down the case of playoff fever that had been building in Oakland all preseason. What an ugly showing on both sides of the ball in the Raiders' 38-13 egg-laying at Tennessee. That looked like the same old Raiders -- not the upgraded roster that I predicted would contend for an AFC wild card spot.
It's no great embarrassment to lose at Tennessee, but Oakland was a paltry 3 of 16 on third or fourth down, with 151 net yards passing; and new Raiders quarterback
• I saw both calls numerous times, live and via replay, and I still didn't see the ball break the plane of the goal on
• So when the Texans and Colts did their little pre-game show of NFLPA solidarity on Sunday, lifting one index finger in unison, the fans on hand in Houston reportedly booed. No surprise there. If the players believe the fans will side with either party in the league's looming labor standoff, they're not too swift on the uptake.
The fans just want their football without interruption, and I think any reminders of the potential trouble to come is going to elicit a building sense of wrath.
And for the record, I'll believe in the players' unity once they don't crack by August or so next year, once the owners have locked them out for five months. Until then, pregame displays such as holding up an index finger, en masse, deserve the heading of 'empty gesture.'
• They say every year is different in the NFL, and you don't have to convince anyone of that in Indianapolis, Denver or Minnesota. Last year, the Colts started 14-0, the Broncos got off to a 6-0 getaway, and the Vikings were also 6-0 before suffering their first defeat. But all three lost their openers and won't be doing the undefeated thing.
But maybe not, and that will be a blow to the Colts' plans, even though reserve safety
• Weird, weird day for my Offensive Rookie of the Year pick, Buffalo running back
• It was not terribly considerate of the Falcons to make future Hall of Fame tight end
And maybe the Krafts aren't exactly blameless in this either. Mankins reportedly issued a private apology to
• And as for you,
• Absolutely loved those Kelly-green throwback jerseys and helmets worn by the Eagles on Sunday against Green Bay. No wonder the 1960 Eagles -- who were honored Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field -- won the last NFL title in Philadelphia franchise history. They looked too good to lose.
• The Patriots' young secondary gave
• I think Wes Welker is going to be fine, so let's all stop talking about the knee at this point.
• Pretty efficient day for a quarterback who hasn't always been so accurate, Jacksonville's
So, who needs
• That Steelers offense remains a work in progress with novice
• The offensive issues that plagued Carolina all preseason haven't exactly evaporated with the arrival of the regular season. The Panthers still can't challenge a defense with their