As I sat there and watched wave after wave of humanity head for the exits, I had time to think about what this storyline should be.
At first I was thinking that 'feels like old times' would be appropriate given the putrid and lifeless showing by the Texans in the first half.
The game felt a lot like the debacle against the Chiefs on Sunday Night Prime Time a few years back – in the sense that the Texans were incompetent on offense, the line was getting manhandled and embarrassed every way possible, and that people were leaving earlier than I've ever seen them leave a game.
And I've been to a lot of stinkers.
Early in the third quarter, I looked around and even though about 2/3 of the seats were still occupied (maybe it was because of the marvelous silent drill team halftime show) the person behind me was reading the sports page, and the person across the aisle from me was doing a crossword puzzle.
That gave me flashbacks to the lean days of the Oilers when the highlight of Sunday afternoon was watching Mojo retrieve the kicking tee.
How could we have regressed so far after such a promising start this year? Was it fool's gold we were panning in Carolina? Whatever the Texans were doing out there for the first 45 minutes of the game, they put us through the full range of emotion. Anger. Frustration. Apathy. Boring everyone out of their minds. Take your pick.
The Texans' no-show put me into one of those beyond frustration funks. It was a game they so desperately needed and they didn't show up. Again.
I considered leaving, but it's something I've done maybe once in my life as a fan, so I thought, 'What the heck? We'll stick around and see what happens.' Plus, I figured, traffic would be non-existent getting out of the stadium because of the steady procession for the doors.
I'm not sure when things started to turn. It's one of those things where so many things happen in such a short period of time that it takes a while to process it all – even after the fact. It's like the entire fourth quarter was in slow motion or frozen in time or something.
For the 62,500 of you that left, I'll try to describe what happened.
When the Texans drove down to make it 32-13 with 13:48 remaining, I was like, 'Whatever, another garbage time TD.' But it was a nice change compared to the Texans' nine prior drives – which netted 2 first downs and 43 yards – and ended with five punts, two fumbles and two interceptions. The sound of sarcastic applause filled the air when the public address announcer said, 'And that's another Houston Texannnnnnssss" (first down).
I recall saying 'a lot of good that will do' as they lined up and converted the two-point conversion to make the score 32-15.
Few in the stadium were thinking anything other than postgame tailgate at that point – and how nice it would be getting out of the parking lot because everyone left.
But then a quick series by the Titans gave the ball back to the Texans at 12:08, but they were stuck at their own 2-yard line. Radio listeners heard Marc Vandermeer call "1st and 98" at that point. Most people at that point were more concerned about Sage getting sacked in the end zone than anything else – and the postgame tailgate.
On 1st and 10, Sage launched a beautiful bomb over the middle to André Davis, but it was nullified by penalty - offsetting penalties on Keith Bulluck for offside and Jordan Black for illegal formation.
Three plays later, Rosenfels hit Kevin Walter deep for 40 yards. Hmmm.
Three more completions to Walter and Green gets the Texans all the way down to the Titans' 6-yard line with 8:51 to go. Sage finishes the 7-play, 98-yard drive in 3:53 by hitting Walter to tighten the score at 32-22.
There's still no way I thought … this was just an evil plot to make the score look more respectable. But there was 8:20 left and with another stop…
My hopes were starting to rustle after a three-hour slumber.
And then what happens? Another three-and-out for the Titans? You have to be kidding me. The Texans will be getting the ball back with about 6:50 left and 10 points down.
But then David Anderson muffs the punt.
The last few thousand of the restless left at that point, leaving about 10,000 of us in the stands to turn out the lights. And this is where everything starts to run together.
Even though the Titans got the ball at the Texans' 33 after the Anderson fumble, they couldn't move it – in fact, they lost 6 yards on the drive and were forced to punt again at the 4:41 mark.
The Texans took over at their own 12-yard line looking to repeat the magic of the two previous drives, but Rosenfels threw his 3rd pick of the day on the Texans' first play out of the huddle.
The person sitting next to me asked, "Is that all he does?" I just shook my head and slumped back into my chair.
But true to form – in the 4th quarter at least – Bud's bunch could do nothing with the opportunity and the Titans had to settle for a Rob Bironas field goal to extend the Titans' lead to a commanding 35-22 with 3:49 remaining.
At this point, I recall looking at the scoreboard and thinking "hmm, two touchdowns and we win 36-35."
Hey, leave me alone, everybody likes to fantasize every once in a while.
The Texans took over at their own 25 with 3:47 remaining and Sage began to run the two-minute offense to perfection.
Sage converted a key 3rd-and-10 with a dump off to Ron Dayne to the Tennessee 48. Four plays later, he converted a 4th-and-5 with a 12-yard toss to Owen Daniels. The 'Reliant 10,000' are starting to take notice.
The frenzy is in full effect as Sage hits Anderson for 24 yards down to the Tennessee 7 and then connects with Jeb Putzier to cap a 75-yard drive in slightly more than two minutes, pulling the Texans to within 35-29.
You've got to be kidding me was the facial expression of the moment.
This ugly debacle is coming down to an onside kick.
Let me preface the next bit of wackiness by asking the question: What is the conversion percentage for onside kicks? I'm too lazy to look it up at the moment, but I'll guess somewhere around 30% are recovered by the kicking team.
So when you line up for one of these, you cross your fingers and hope, knowing that the odds are stacked against you.
Kris Brown teed it up and bounced a perfect onside kick that was recovered by Anderson. The Reliant 10,000 is in a frenzy (we sounded like 50,000).
But wait. Penalty. Ugh.
Oh well. It was fun while it lasted. What are the odds of converting two onside kicks in one game, much less on consecutive plays?
But lo and behold, Brown's second bouncer was recovered by Zac Diles at the Texans' 34 after being touched by Ben Hartsock.
This is where the thought of an entrepreneurial opportunity entered my mind. I was going to make t-shirts that read "I stayed until the end" on the front, and 36-35 on the back. I'm sure I could have sold at least 70,000 of them.
I even allowed myself to think for a moment that this would exorcise a 35-3 meltdown a decade-and-change ago. Shame on me.
The Rosenfels bomb to Davis was surreal. Sage threw it straight down the hashes and Davis somehow came up with it between two defenders.
The Reliant 10,000 were in a frenzy. People were running up and down the aisles looking for someone to hug.
My hopes for the impossible were creeping into my head. Could this really happen?
I remember telling some guy across the aisle from me that I've seen too much of both of these teams to get too excited until the clock reads 0:00. And then the realization hit. Fifty-seven seconds and three timeouts for the Titans. Too much time.
They almost did it. And the 'Reliant 10,000' did their part. Where we lacked in vocal cords, we made up for by banging empty seats. We made some impressive noise for such a small group of die hards.
The dagger came at 0:37 on a 3rd-and-10. Two plays later, Bironas saved the Titans from some major embarrassment.
Kudos to the Texans for fighting 'til the finish. But despite the near miracle comeback on Sunday, the Texans' offense is still broken. Matt Schaub is getting killed, they can't run the ball, they can't beat a nine-man front over the top, and their play selection options have become limited because of the no-run, no-protect snowball. And I'm not sure if Andre Johnson would make that much of a difference at this point.
The lack of offensive production is spilling over to the defense – keeping them on the field far too long. The d-line is still not getting adequate pressure on the quarterback. The secondary gives up too many big plays. We are making quarterbacks like Kerry Collins and Joey Harrington look good.
The Texans are not what we thought they were. They desperately need at least a split to head into the bye week at 4-5. Anything less will be all too familiar.
You can contact Alan Burge at: email@example.com