*Visit HoustonTexans.com at 3:30 p.m. CT Tuesday to watch the live streaming video of coach Gary Kubiak's weekly press conference.
This was the cruelest close call of all.
After teasing and tantalizing their fans with late losses much of the season, surely this time, after battling back from 28-7 down to a 28-28 tie that forced overtime, the Texans would put sad endings behind them.
Quarterback Matt Schaub rallied the Texans with frantic fourth quarter touchdown drives of 99 and 95 yards and threw a two-point conversion to Jacoby Jones with 21 seconds left in regulation to force overtime.
It didn't matter…again. Josh Wilson stepped in front of a Schaub pass and returned it untouched for a touchdown and a 34-28 overtime victory for the Baltimore Ravens.
It's happened so often this season. The Texans lost last-second leads to the Jets and Jaguars. They were close against the Eagles. It's all added up to a 5-8 record and an assured step back from last year's 9-7 record.
"It's the story of this season," said safety Bernard Pollard. "I feel for every guy in this locker room. It's like we've been answering the same questions week in and week out. It's beyond old, it really is.
"It's just at times they go out there and do something and we have a mental breakdown or they flat out beat us."
The Texans have established a reputation for being slow starters and they stuck to the script against the Ravens. They were down 21-7 at halftime and it was quickly 28-7 when David Reed returned the second half kickoff 103 yards for a touchdown.
"Every time you lose, it's disappointing," coach Gary Kubiak said. "Tonight, it's a low point because it's tonight. In the National Football League, you work your tail off (and) you go out and you either win and feel good or lose and feel bad. So I feel bad right now."
It didn't appear the Texans would even make it close after being forced to settle for two third quarter field goals by Neil Rackers.
Jacoby Jones couldn't hold onto the ball on third down in the Ravens' end zone and Rackers' 24-yarder made it 28-10. Kevin Walter caught a ball out of bounds in the end zone later in the quarter and Rackers booted a 42-yarder.
"We played so sloppy in the first half," Kubiak said. "We struggled. We dropped balls, we struggled getting out of the huddle a couple of times. That has happened a great deal and we somehow find our way out of something and have our opportunity to win and we don't do it."
Schaub led the rally with fourth quarter touchdown passes of seven yards to Jones and five yards to Andre Johnson. Now they are down 28-26 and Jones' two-point conversion made it a tie.
"That's about as up and down as you can get," Foster said. "We came back, two 90-yard drives back to back. That's hard to do on a defense like that. We had a lot of momentum."
Kubiak talked to his club after the loss, which virtually eliminated the Texans from the playoffs.
"He said it was a tough one, he didn't have words for it either," cornerback Glover Quin said. "We've been in this situation a lot. As a team, we haven't handled them well.
"In this game, we had the momentum. We had to go out on defense first and we took the momentum from the fourth quarter into it and got a play. They just made a play. It's the way our season has gone. We haven't gotten the job done."
The Texans have lost six of their last seven games. Still, they aren't conceding the season.
"I wouldn't say we're close to being a good team," Jones said. "I'd say we are a good team. They just made more plays than we do. That's the NFL. The teams that make the most plays win. That's what we've got to start doing."
Left tackle Duane Brown thought the Texans were going to pull it out, especially after a pep talk from Kubiak.
"It's some of the best ball we played in the second half and before you know it, it's over," Brown said. "It's tough. We know what we're capable of. We weren't playing our best ball. They gave us their best shot and we thought we had a chance to get back in it. He (Kubiak) didn't tell us anything we didn't already know. We had to man up, grow up and that's what we did. We just didn't quite pull it off."
Linebacker Brian Cushing wanted fans to know that the players are as frustrated as they are.
"It takes everything right out of you," Cushing said. "You put so much into a game and it's so much of what you love. We are football players. That's our life, our heart, our soul. When you lose these games, it rips it right out of you.
"They are frustrated and we are, too. But we're not going to quit, I'll promise you that."
EDITOR'S NOTE: Michael A. Lutz worked for The Associated Press for 38 years covering news and sports in Louisville, Ky. Dallas and Houston. Most of that time was spent in Houston covering the Oilers, Astros, Texans and other college and pro sports.