The Texans' nosedive out of playoff contention came after a fast start raised hopes that this finally would be the season Houston would break through and earn a playoff berth.
Many fingers have been pointed at the defense, which regressed suddenly and spectacularly after a strong finish to the 2009 season. And indeed, the Texans' problems stopping the pass have marked this very disappointing season.
Something else that has hurt the Texans: slow starts. Consider the following:
• They have been outscored an incredible 96-36 in the first quarter this season.
• The Texans have led at halftime in just 3-of-14 games this season, beating Indianapolis and Tennessee and ultimately failing to hold the lead vs. San Diego.
• They have not led at halftime on the road all season. They were tied 14-14 halftime at Oakland in Week Four, a game they eventually won, but that is the closest they have come to starting the second half with a lead away from Reliant Stadium.
• They are averaging a little more than a touchdown in the first 30 minutes of regulation (8.1 ppg). Their opponents, meanwhile, are averaging 15.6 points in the first half. The Texans have been outgained 190.1 to 144.7 on average in the first half in 2010.
• Their passing game has sputtered early in games. In the first half this season, the Texans have been held to less than 100 net yards passing in 9-of-14 games and have outgained their opponents only twice through the air.
• Digging further, we find that the Texans are completing just 56.9 percent of their passes in the first half compared to 66.7 percent thereafter. And QB Matt Schaub has thrown seven of his 11 interceptions in the first 30 minutes of play.
The way we hear it, the Texans are at a loss to figure out why they have started so slowly, but head coach Gary Kubiak is familiar with the problems slow starts and playing from behind creates.
"Well it throws your game plan out the window real fast," he said on Dec. 20. "… From a game-plan standpoint, the way you wanted to attack their base defense or what you wanted to accomplish against them, you kind of throw it out and say, 'We've got to go get some speed and get some plays run and see if we can get back in this football game.' That's how it affects you."
The Texans have been a much better second-half team, outscoring the opposition, 219-168. Curing those first-half headaches figure to be a point of emphasis in the offseason — yet another one to be beginning too soon for their tastes.