Harris Observations: 2014 season

Sometimes when I'm looking for inspiration, I turn to Rosie Perez.

Uh, what, you say? Well, in one of the classics "White Men Can't Jump", Perez was talking to Woody Harrelson on a city bus and espoused one of her life theories.

"Sometimes when you win, you really lose."

Bingo.

Wait, wuhhhh?

The Texans walked out of NRG Stadium with a hard fought 23-17 win over the game Jacksonville Jaguars. That's the winning part. But, even though Kansas City and Chase Daniel handled San Diego to knock over one domino, Baltimore came through with 17 points in the 4th quarter to beat Cleveland and eliminate the Texans slim playoff chances. That's the...well, Rosie take it away.

"Sometimes when you win, you really lose."

See my point?

I walked around the locker room after the game, seeing guys hug, sign helmets/posters/shoes and remind others to "get at me". It was like the last day of school and everyone's about to go his separate way. Yet, I don't think many in that room wanted it to be over.

I didn't and you didn't either. That said, I'm not totally sure how much of this one I remember, it's like a fog considering the overall non-playoff outcome. I saw a win. I saw JJ Watt throw a wicked spin move on LT Luke Joeckel on a sack for a safety. I saw Andre Johnson with one of his best days as a Texan. The rest of it, most of it actually, a blur. As such, I decided to give you my behind the scenes, sideline observations from throughout the season.

When we went to Arizona for the first pre-season game, my first radio broadcast, Marc Vandermeer talked me through the process of a game broadcast extremely well. But, I misunderstood one key thing. He told me I'd be in queue throughout the game, meaning they could hear me in the booth through their headphones.

But, I thought that meant only him. So, when Marc stopped talking, I fed him personnel changes, things to look for, etc...I'm just babbling on. As soon as we get to our first break, Andre Ware says "hey, John, I'm talking here". I totally spaced on the fact that Andre could hear me too and I'm rambling in his ear as he was trying to do his game analysis. To Andre's credit, he should've ripped my idiot self but he held back. Thankfully.

This year, I had two postgame moments that I'll remember forever. The first one was in Cleveland after the win over the Browns. I planned to interview QB Ryan Mallett so I snuck into the locker room just as Bill O'Brien finished his remarks to the team.

Mallett waited four years to get a start in the NFL and put together a strong outing in his first start and win. He hugged everyone on his way into the corner of the room where I was standing. I introduced myself to him and he goes "shoot, I know who you are". He then gave me a huge bro hug and I could just feel the emotion of waiting that long to show everyone what he could do.

As I started asking questions, he handled it like a champ and smiled for two straight minutes. But, the emotion of that win was tremendous.

The second one was last week after the win over Baltimore. QB Case Keenum was as emotional as I've seen him as I interviewed him on the field after the game. I didn't help things as I asked the crowd to let Keenum "hear it" and Case just beamed from ear to ear. After I finished talking to him, I watched him walk off the field in an emotional haze, not really knowing how to react after getting his first win as a starting quarterback.

In Oakland, the locker room at the former Oakland Alameda Coliseum was on the other side of the field, so to get to the visitor side of the field, the Texans coaches, players and staff had to either walk around down by the Black Hole or walk directly across the field.

The shortest distance between two points is a straight line, right? Well, complicating matters was the fact that the Raiderettes were on the field doing their pre-game routine. About half way through their routine, I saw Bill O'Brien walking right through the middle of their formation. They didn't seem too happy about it, but at least they didn't hit him with a pom pom.

On the road, I always drove over to the stadium with Robert Henslee and Chris Jones, much earlier than the first bus from the hotel. So, we drove over to Oakland from south San Francisco and arrived around 8:30 am local time. The parking lot was jam packed with tailgaters and as we walked past, I saw a guy in a sweet Raiders apron.

Well, that's what I thought until he turned around and the front of the apron said "F--- the Chargers". I was going to point it out to Robert and Chris, but I figured anyone that wore such a statement-inducing apron could flip the switch if he thought I was making fun of him. I wasn't, but you know how NFL fans, uh Raider fans, can be.

Although the Texans lost narrowly to the Cowboys in Arlington, that's the trip I'll remember for a long time. One of the funniest things I can remember all season took place just after the Texans scored to cut the score to 17-16. As the Texans XPT team ran on to the field to apparently tie the game, P Shane Lechler motioned to O'Brien as he ran on the field with two fingers.

Lechler jokingly signaled to O'Brien to go for two and the Texans head coach didn't realize that Lechler was joking immediately. O'Brien shook one finger at him immediately, then after a split second, O'Brien noticed a huge grin on Lechler's face. It was comic relief at the perfect moment.

During that Dallas game, Arian Foster opened the third quarter with a touchdown run that charged up nearly the entire stadium. As Foster walked back to the sideline, he stopped near me, motioned to ALL of the Texans fans that were there behind me and yelled out "THIS IS OUR HOUSE!" I get chills thinking about it now as it was one of the most emotional neutral site games I've ever seen. Yeah, NEUTRAL SITE.

Monday Night Football in Pittsburgh was electric to say the least, well, minus the final three minutes of the first half. But, the enduring moment in that game was Steelers OLB Lawrence Timmons standing on the field throwing up and then playing the next play.

The Steelers were dead. They had nothing going for them. And, then one check down pass to LeVeon Bell kick started one of the most dynamic runs I've seen. The Steelers entire season changed on a dime. Some argue that it was Timmons up chucking that got the Steelers going, though.

In Denver after the Texans pre-season win, S DJ Swearinger was a go-to interview in the locker room after the game. Why? Well, Broncos HOF QB Peyton Manning got in Swearinger's face following a first half touchdown. What did he say to you, DJ? Well, it was two words. One was "you" and the other was something I can't put in print. I think Swearinger was equal parts proud that he got under Manning's skin and a little shocked that he actually got under Manning's skin so easily.

In Tennessee, Swearinger made one of the best plays he made all year long. He jumped in front of a Zach Mettenberger throw to Delanie Walker for an interception. In typical Swaggg fashion, he didn't just intercept it; he caught it and as he started to run upfield, he turned to stare at Walker before continuing upfield.

I asked him after the game what he told Walker and he said "I told you". Apparently and not shockingly, DJ told Walker during a short break in the action prior to his interception that he was going to pick off the next pass intended for him. Well, 36 called his shot and then told Walker all about it...AS HE WAS RUNNING BACK THE PICK!

No one mentioned it after last week's win over Baltimore, as perhaps it was difficult to see from the press box or on the field. ILB Brian Cushing paid homage to the New York Police Department as he wore a pair of red, white and blue shoes with NYPD emblazoned into his game cleats. The Ravens game took place one day after two NYPD officers were killed in cold blood and Cushing paid his respects last Sunday.

After Keenum hit Andre Johnson for the go-ahead touchdown v. the Jaguars, NRG Stadium erupted as expected. But, it got me wondering what was the loudest moment in NRG this year. I'd say it was just after JJ Watt's fumble return for a touchdown v. the Colts on Thursday night. Could've been Watt's TD catch v. Tennessee. JJ's safety today was a solid NRG meltdown as well. But, after JJ's fumble return v. the Colts, it felt like the entire stadium was going to collapse. What say you?

During the Washington win, OLB Jadeveon Clowney lost his helmet on the sideline as he attempted to go back in the game. No one could find it until Andre Johnson sprinted down to the defensive area with his helmet in hand. I knew all Andre wanted to do was win but that took that mantra to a totally different level.

Speaking of the Washington game, if you buy me a water when you catch me out and about, I'll tell you the off-the-air story of the radio broadcast that day. Let's just say Mother Nature had her way with us and it produced a couple of my favorite moments of the year...of which I'm sworn to secrecy. For now.

One of the best, and funniest, things I saw all year long was in Cleveland just after Watt's second roughing the kicker penalty. He walked back to the sideline and stood just near O'Brien waiting for an expected, uh, lecture. Aggressive counseling as Marc Vandermeer calls it. But, O'Brien couldn't really bring himself to say anything as Watt was hustling to make a play and did so much for this team. So, they stood near each other, with nothing truly said between them before O'Brien finally gestured for Watt to get back in the game.

Injuries are a way of life in the NFL and I've been around football a long time, pretty much seen it all. But, no matter how many dislocated fingers I see, it still gives me the heebie jeebies. Against Baltimore, OLB Whitney Mercilus dislocated one of his digits and it pointed in an unnatural direction.

Of course, I just happened to see it as I was giving some information to Marc and Andre. I exclaimed "OH GOSH" as he walked off the field and nearly had to vomit. But, to Mercilus' credit, he popped it back in place and went back on the field. I wasn't as lucky.

Against Philadelphia, former Texan ILB Demeco Ryans intercepted a Ryan Fitzpatrick pass but tore his Achilles tendon on the return. He fumbled the ball as he crumpled in a pain-filled heap. As Ryans lay on the field waiting for the cart, Texans and Eagles both ran on the field to pay homage to the Eagles captain. Of all of the emotional moments this season, that one hit hard, even though it wasn't a current Texan on the turf.

It's amazing that Giants WR Odell Beckham's brilliant one hand catch v. the Cowboys was hyped as the greatest catch of all-time, as it may not have been the best catch in that stadium this year. I contend that DeAndre Hopkins one-hand-catch-that-wasn't was as impressive as Beckham's. Better? I can't go there but as good? Yes.

One of my most vivid observations from today's game was just following the game. As I was trying to locate Kendrick Lewis for our post-game interview, I saw Bill O'Brien leaving the field. He turned to Kevin Cooper and asked a question. I saw Coop shake his head no and O'Brien was visibly upset. I knew immediately that Bill had asked whether Cleveland had beaten Baltimore and Coop had to deliver the bad news. That's when the Rosie Perez frustration hit me the hardest.

"Spitballing" final memories from this year...

Dre80 motioning to the crowd in Arlington after Arian Foster's game tying TD...
Watt's fade route TD catch at Cleveland...
Arian Foster's game tying touchdown in NRG North...
Fitzpatrick's six touchdown game v. Tennessee...
Foster's halfback pass to CJ Fiedorowicz, the first by a non-QB since 2002...
Big Grease helping turn the run defense around...
AJ Bouye's winding pick six v. the Eagles...
Watt's pick six v. Buffalo...
Brooks Reed running down Washington QB Robert Griffin III in the opener...
double fumble at Oakland...
double pass interference against Tennessee...
Kendrick Lewis' run of creating turnovers inside the red zone...
Brian Cushing's hit on Cleveland's Brian Hoyer that nearly knocked the QB out of the game...
Alfred Blue's blocked punt and return for a TD v. Washington...
Blue's 36 carries, replacing Foster, in Cleveland...
Mallett to Garrett Graham - one of the most impressive throws I've ever seen live...
QB Tom Savage completing his first throw for a first down to DeAndre Hopkins in Indianapolis...
11 different players with an interception...
34 turnovers created...
Fitzpatrick on a designed QB sweep for a TD in Jacksonville...
British Arian Foster...
Fitzpatrick to Damaris Johnson on a 43 yard touchdown v. the Giants that elicited Marc Vandermeer's first "Rock n Roll" in 2014...

DT/DE Jared Crick's emergence as one of the best DL in the AFC...
J-Jo's pick six v. Cincinnati to pull within four in the second half - NRG was rocking after that one...
Kareem Jackson's two interception game v. Baltimore...
Lewis game-opening pick six v. Indianapolis...
The Selfies heard around the World in Nashville.

...and many more. As it was my first year on the sideline and in the building, it'll be one I remember for a while. Unfortunately, there won't be any more to add this season.

The 2015 season can't get here fast enough.

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