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Texans get close to victory, but fall short right on cue

by | CBSSports.com Senior Writer
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PHILADELPHIA -- A wise man once said it's never over 'til it's over, but with four games left it's over for the Houston Texans.

They just lost their fifth game in six tries. They're 2-6 over their last eight starts. They can't close games when they're ahead. They can't find enough points when they're behind. And next on their schedule is AFC North leader Baltimore.

Fork, please.

The Texans are just about done, and the only reason they haven't been taken off life support is the division where they play. That would be the once mighty AFC South where nobody -- including Indianapolis -- knows how to win anymore. OK, so Jacksonville has been hot lately, but the Jags' three-game winning streak ended last weekend. The Colts lost three of their last four. The Titans are on a four-game downer. And then there's Houston.

If ever there were an opportunity for the Texans to make a run to the top, this was the season. But they blew it. They could've beaten Jacksonville but lost on the last play. They should've beaten the New York Jets, but fell apart in the last 30 seconds. They should've beaten San Diego, too, but couldn't hold a 9-point second-half lead.

Some people call that bad luck. I call it a trend. And it continued Thursday, with the Texans overcoming a 14-point deficit to jump ahead of Philadelphia in the fourth quarter ... only to succumb again, this time with a 34-24 defeat.

Good teams find ways to win. Bad teams find ways to lose. Draw your own conclusions.

"We've got to find a way to finish games," running back Arian Foster said. "We play well for three quarters, three-and-a-half quarters ... I've been playing ball for a long time now, man, and we're trying to find ways to lose."

Well, then, congratulations. Mission accomplished. The Texans' latest defeat was punctuated by poor tackling, not enough pass defense, a little too much Michael Vick and not enough fourth-quarter heroics -- and if you've heard that before, welcome to Houston, where every game is Groundhog Day.

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The Texans tease and tease and tease before going away, so why should we be surprised by what happened here? Houston was resilient, shaking off a 17-3 deficit, but when it had to make plays it couldn't -- allowing Vick and the Eagles to produce two fourth-quarter touchdowns that, frankly, were just a little too easy.

"The biggest thing we have to worry about is us," safety Bernard Pollard said. "We have to find out what's beating us. Once we learn how to close games we're going to be something incredible. I truly believe that. I'll go to my grave with that."

Hopefully, it doesn't take that long, but based on what I've seen lately from these guys it's not happening this season. I mean, every week it's something new -- a Hail Mary one week; a miraculous last-minute rally the next -- but always with the same result. OK, so they shut out Tennessee last Sunday, but the Titans suited up Rusty Smith at quarterback, ran Chris Johnson seven times and all but rolled over, so that's not what I'd call a wake-up call.

Thursday's game was, with Pollard accurately calling it "a do-or-die game" earlier this week. Somebody call a coroner.

"It just seems like anything that can go bad with football goes bad with us," Pollard said.

Of course, that wasn't supposed to happen. This was going to be the year Houston turned the corner and reached the playoffs. And it looked that way back in September when the Texans won three of their first four -- including a defeat of Indianapolis, the defending AFC champion that had beaten the Texans 15 times in 16 games.

That was to be the start of something wonderful ... only a wonderful life it's not for Houston. At 5-7, the Texans not only are last in the AFC South, they must win the rest of their games to have any hope of catching Indy, Jacksonville, anyone, in their division.

Someone tell me why that should happen because it shouldn't. Playoff teams make late-season pushes, but the only push the Texans are making now is for an early January tee time.

"You never know what's going on," Pollard said, "because every team is beatable in the league this year, and that's kinda strange. You see teams falling left and right. We just got to keep fighting."

That's the spirit. But if you ask me it's too late. Turn out the lights. The party's over.

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