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Texans' comeback falls short at Arizona


Linebacker DeMeco Ryans collected a fumble in the first half.

GLENDALE, Ariz. – The Texans were on the verge of their biggest comeback victory in team history until the final minute of their 28-21 loss Sunday to the Arizona Cardinals.

After entering halftime with a 21-0 deficit, the Texans evened the score at 21-21 with 4:15 left in the game behind a physical 17-yard touchdown grab by Andre Johnson, who had a game-high eight catches for 101 yards and two scores.

Arizona regained the lead on the Texans' ensuing possession, when cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie intercepted Matt Schaub's pass to wide receiver Kevin Walter and returned it 49 yards for a touchdown.

A 63-yard kickoff return by André Davis put Houston back in scoring range, but the Texans' potential game-tying drive stalled at the one-yard line after running back Steve Slaton gained five yards on a shovel pass.

With three tries from within a yard of the goal line, running back Chris Brown was stopped twice on second and fourth down, while a third down pass to tight end Joel Dreessen was ruled incomplete at the back of the end zone. Arizona took over on downs and ran out the rest of the game clock.

It was a devastating sequence for Houston, and a flashback to the team's unsuccessful goal line push against Jacksonville in Week 3, when Brown's fumble into the end zone effectively ended the game.

"We should have scored on three out of those four plays, but the bottom line is we didn't," coach Gary Kubiak said afterward. "We thought Steve would score. We caught the perfect defense on our little shovel pass when we got down to the one. We should've scored on the second play, which was what we scored on earlier in the game. We should've scored on the pass. Obviously, we've gotta be good enough to make a yard in the National Football League when it counts. They made a play and we didn't. Give them credit."

{QUOTE}The short-yardage issues at Arizona were not confined to the final minute. In the second quarter, the Texans were stopped on three consecutive plays from the Arizona 22. On second- and third-and-one, Slaton was stopped for no gain. Schaub's pass to Johnson on fourth-and-one sailed past the back of the end zone.

With a Texans' ground game that averaged only 2.1 yards per carry, Schaub attempted a career-high 50 passes with a career-high 35 completions for 371 yards. He completed throws to nine different players.

It was a tale of two halves for Schaub and the Texans. Houston had only 57 total net yards of offense after the first two quarters but finished with 416 net yards in the game.

"We just came in (at halftime) and all the guys were like, 'Hey, we just have to take it to another level,'" Johnson said. "And we went out the second half and we were a different football team than we were in the first (half)."

Defensively, the Texans forced only two punts in the first half, but Arizona punted on all five of their second half possessions except for their final series.

Trailing 7-0 with 2:35 left in the first quarter, the Texans recorded their only takeaway when safety Eugene Wilson tackled wide receiver Anquan Boldin and forced a fumble at the Houston two-yard line. Linebacker DeMeco Ryans recovered the fumble and returned it 29 yards. After review, officials confirmed the ruling on the field.

Johnson then caught a pass for 21 yards and running back Steve Slaton gained 24 yards on three carries before Kris Brown 's 35-yard field goal attempt was blocked by defensive end Calais Campbell.

Arizona extended their lead in the second quarter thanks to quarterback Kurt Warner's deft touch. He completed five passes for 66 yards on the scoring drive. An eight-yard pass interference penalty on cornerback Jacques Reeves set up Warner's nine-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, which made the score 14-0 with 1:44 left before halftime.

Less than a minute later, after a quick three-and-out by Houston, Arizona began from the Houston 48 following Matt Turk's 29-yard punt. Warner found Fitzgerald open on a 26-yard touchdown pass to extend the Cardinals' lead to 21-0.

Midway through the third quarter, Schaub led the Texans on a 10-play, 64-yard scoring drive. He completed four passes for 42 yards, and Brown scored on a one-yard dive to help cut the Cardinals' lead to 21-7.

The Texans stopped the Cardinals' ensuing series when defensive tackle Amobi Okoye sacked Warner at the Arizona 42 as linebacker Brian Cushing grabbed onto Warner's leg.

A 27-yard pass to tight end Owen Daniels, followed by Slaton's 23-yard catch-and-run, gave Houston a first down at the Arizona 27. A 15-yard catch by wide receiver David Anderson on third-and-eight moved Houston to the 10-yard line. Johnson's weaving 11-yard touchdown catch on a screen made the score 21-14 after Brown's extra point.

Defensive end Mario Williams tackled Warner as he was throwing to force Arizona's fourth consecutive punt of the second half.

The Texans evened the score on Johnson's remarkable touchdown reception, where he collided with two Cardinals defenders before powering his way past cornerback Bryant McFadden as he crossed the goal line.

"To be honest, when I fell down, I didn't even know I was in the end zone," Johnson said. "I stood up and I just heard some of the guys celebrating, so I realized I was in there."

Carrying all the momentum, the Texans forced another Arizona punt before Schaub was picked off by Rodgers-Cromartie.

"At the time when I threw it, I thought I had made a pretty good throw to Kevin (Walter) and he was going to be able make a play," Schaub said. "Then the guy recovered and he made the play."

After Davis' season-long kickoff return, Schaub completed passes to Daniels and Anderson for 34 combined yards before his five-yard shovel pass to Slaton set up the team's final three plays from the one-yard line.

Injuries: Rookie cornerback Glover Quin started for Jacques Reeves, while defensive tackle Shaun Cody started for DelJuan Robinson.

The following players were inactive for the Texans: quarterback Dan Orlovsky, safety Nick Ferguson, tight end Anthony Hill, center Antoine Caldwell, cornerback Antwaun Molden, defensive tackle Frank Okam, wide receiver Glenn Martinez and Robinson.

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