Playoffs still attainable for Texans


Yogi Berra is right. It ain't over. Well, it's almost over for the Texans with their 5-7 record and four games to play. Still, until the final ray of light closes shut on their playoff dreams, they believe in the old baseball cliché.

And why not? Gary Kubiak's tenure as head coach has a trademark of late-season charges. Although none of the rallies has ended in the playoffs, the Texans are thinking this could be the year that four in a row will get them to postseason.

"We've been here before, we've been able to go four in a row and I know we're going to do the same thing this time," defensive tackle Amobi Okoye said. "I know this team and the individuals on this team and nobody is letting down, nobody is quitting, that's the No. 1 thing.

"In everyone's eyes, you see the determination, the willingness not to give up."

The Texans won their final four games last season for a 9-7 record, their first winning season. They lost a spot in the playoffs on a tie-breaker in the final game of the season. In 2008, they had to win five of their last six games to finish 8-8. The pattern held in 2007 when the Texans were 5-7 and closed out 3-1 for their first-ever non-losing season.

Even in 2006, Kubiak's first season as head coach, the Texans won three of their last five games for a 6-10 record.

So, why not believe?

Wide receiver Andre Johnson believes the Texans can come back, but not because of past history.

"That was last year," Johnson said. "We just have to play. I don't think people thought we could do it last year, but we did. We have to play. Sometimes, you go play a game and get a win and it flicks on a switch."

Someone needs to throw that switch on quick Monday night when the Baltimore Ravens visit Reliant Stadium.

"You get some momentum and everybody gets to feeling good," Johnson said. "This is a big stage Monday night, playing against a great football team and we'll go see what happens."

The Texans' mad dash to the finish line must begin Monday night after dropping five of its last six games. A little help could aid their cause.

They got a little help from an unexpected source on Sunday when the Dallas Cowboys upset the Indianapolis Colts, who had four passes intercepted.

"I thought that it was going to be this way just because you look at the schedule and how we all play each other," Kubiak said. "Everybody kind of has their problems, so to speak. All of us play each other, but our problem right now is that we got to beat Baltimore. We got a big game Monday night and we'll have to play excellent to beat them.

"We've got to stay focused on that."

Indianapolis' loss dropped the Colts to a 6-6 record, one game ahead of the Texans. Jacksonville at 7-5 is in first and the Texans share last place with Tennessee.

The Texans hope to match Baltimore's defensive intensity and play a full game.

"Sixty minutes, that's been knocking us," safety Bernard Pollard said. "We aren't who we think we are. They've got a bus load of dogs that are going to scratch every play. We play two, two-and-a-half quarters really well. We hold quarterbacks under their mark. We hold their running game under their mark. But we get to a point in the game where we lose focus and lose that edge."

The Texans have problems, but motivation isn't one of them.

"I think they've been very motivated," Kubiak said. "They went to New York (Jets) and played a great football game. We didn't finish a minute. There wasn't a lack of motivation there. We went to Philly and we're in a dog fight in the fourth quarter playing very hard and pretty good as a football team. I don't see that (motivation) as a problem.

"Those things are in front of us. They know what's going on. They know what's there for our football team, but we got to play good enough to take care of it, too."

Taking care of business in the fourth quarter has been a major problem. The Texans took a 24-20 lead into the fourth quarter against Philadelphia and gave up two touchdowns and lost 34-20. They lost on last second plays to the Jets and Jaguars.

They are so irritatingly close.

"There are moments we lose something," Okoye said. "We're kind of known for it; it's the staple of what we do throughout the game.

"There's always some time we tend to lose it.  All we can do is go out there Monday and not get into that moment."

Offensively, the Texans face the Ray Lewis-led Ravens' defense, which is among the most potent in the league.

"The way they played the other night (against Pittsburge), just look at the intensity of the game and very physical," Johnson said. "They have a lot of great players over there and it's going to be a big challenge. We have to go execute our offense and protect the quarterback. If we do that, we'll be fine."

Okoye agrees with Yogi.

"It's the simple fact we were in the same position last season, but we have a better situation this season," he said. "We have more motivation, more light at the end of the road as far as handling our business."

The Texans are counting on being good once again in December.

"We play best when our backs are against the wall," cornerback Glover Quin said. "It just so happens we've played some ball going down in December, so we need to get that done this year. Nine wins probably will get us in the playoffs, so we've got to do what we do."

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.

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