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Hope and Winning in the NFL

The Houston Texans lost to the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday night, 27-24. Their record now stands at 2-6 and their playoff hopes are quickly fading. Unfortunately, the Texans lost more than just a football game. They lost their head coach in the process and any hopes of salvaging a season gone awry.

Gary Kubiak went to his knees as he was walking toward the tunnel, headed to the Texans’ locker room at the half. Kubiak apparently did not suffer a heart attack but he was given an IV of medication consistent with people that may have suffered a stroke. This does not mean Kubiak had a stroke, and the details are still sketchy as I write this.

What isn’t sketchy is the reaction the Texans had in the second half of the game. Case Keenum was on fire and the defense was in full shutdown mode in the first half, taking a 21-3 lead into the break. But the next 30 minutes of football belonged to the Colts, as the Texans looked disheveled, confused and thoroughly distracted.

The Texans drew a metaphorical line in the sand and said, ‘Our season starts today!’ If they beat the Colts they would’ve been two games back with half a season left. And they played at home with that kind of desperation — and it worked.

And then…Kubiak went down, literally.

An offense that had lit up the Colts in the first half suddenly collapsed, scoring only three points the rest of the way. A defense that had held Andrew Luck and Co. to a measly three points, suddenly couldn’t stop T.Y. Hilton, who was playing the slot position for the injured Reggie Wayne. The Colts scored 24-points in the second half and although Andrew Luck has orchestrated a record 10 fourth quarter comebacks in his first two seasons, losing Kubiak had a profound impact on Houston.

And now the Texans come to University of Phoenix Stadium on Sunday. What the status of Kubiak might be is uncertain? Regardless of his situation the Texans are going to be in a bad mood. They had a chance to save their season if they could have held on to their lead. The AFC South-leading Colts would have fallen to 5-3, and Houston would have been just two games back with eight to play.

Hope is a powerful motivator for NFL teams. Every team has players on the roster, some of them Pro Bowlers, that need the justification of getting to the postseason in order to sell out on the field. But the Indianapolis game is going to leave a mark on the Texans’ collective soul.

The health of Gary Kubiak could have a huge impact on what Texans team shows up on Sunday. Hopefully, Kubiak will be fine and lead the Texans onto the field. But if he is unable to do so, the morose of being driven behind the veritable line in the sand against Indy, the reality of being 2-6 and uncertainty of Kubiak might push the Texans into the shade of hopelessness.

Lines in the sand are dangerous because there’s always a chance you may lose, leaving players to their own standards of play in the aftermath. Losing a well-liked coach and leader only compounds the problem.