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A real kick in the gut for Brown

Last-second miss devastates reliable Texans kicker

Kicker Kris Brown is the longest-tenured Texan because of his dependability, his reliability. For 7½ seasons, Brown rarely had to hang his head in shame, or kick the turf in disgust, or beat himself up in the locker room afterward.

He has made a lot of big kicks in his day — enough to have scored a franchise record 721 points — but because the Texans have rarely been playing for anything that mattered, nobody could get too excited. But now, with the playoffs finally a palpable goal, Brown finds himself confronting a whole different kind of pressure, and it’s not going well.

“I don’t know what to say,” Brown said, reflecting on his missed 49-yard field goal that cost the Texans a chance to force overtime Monday night. “There’s a lot of adjectives I could use right now. I’m disappointed. I don’t know what to say. It’s all on me. It’s totally on me. The frustrating part for me is we have 44 guys out there busting their tail and one guy out there not doing his job, which is me.”

Two games, two chances to force overtime, two wide lefts. Titans 20, Texans 17. This after it was Colts 20, Texans 17, when Brown missed from 42 yards out.

The Texans still might have lost both games in overtime, but Brown didn’t want to hear that. He shouldered all the blame for his team falling to 5-5, leaving its postseason hopes in a precarious place.

“(I’m) the reason we lose the game,” he said. “That’s hard for me to take. I need to figure out what the heck is going on, and I need to figure it out pretty quick.”

Brown’s teammates came to his defense, as teammates do. He’s a popular, respected player, not a quirky outcast like some kickers.

Schaub in his corner

“I feel tremendously bad for him,” quarterback Matt Schaub said. “He’s a tremendous player, and he puts a lot of time into what he does. He’ll rebound. We’re going to need him before this year’s out to go out there and win us a game, and I have no doubt he’s going to do that.”

Through his own frustration, receiver Andre Johnson insisted that Brown was no more culpable than anyone else in the locker room, adding: “He works real hard. It’s happened to him two weeks in a row now, so of course he’s going to (take the blame), but you never want anyone to feel that way.”

Defensive end Mario Williams also came to Brown’s defense, saying there had been plenty of other chances for the Texans to have had the Titans buried before the final tick, when Brown’s foot fatefully met the football at the Tennessee 39.

Wide left again. And Brown, horrified, saw it wide left all the way.

“Everything felt good,” he said, “but when it came off my foot I knew it was no good. It was just a bad kick.”

Asked if the failure in Indy was still weighing on his mind, he said: “I let Indianapolis go a long time ago. The thing is, nobody is going to feel sorry for you in this league.”

Confidence remains

Over at his locker, Brown’s holder, punter Matt Turk said: “On both his misses (Brown was also wide right on a 49-yarder in the second quarter), he hit the ball so well, so strong. The kicks would have been good from 60 (yards). It’s just … in this game … it’s a game of inches.

“Kris will come back. He’s one of the best kickers in the league. This isn’t something that will keep him down. He’ll work through it. We’ll go back to the drawing board and get it fixed. Pressure time, if I had to choose anyone to be out there, it would be Kris Brown.”

The problem is, although it must go unsaid, the damage might be done. Had the Texans gone on to beat Indy and Tennessee, they’d be 7-3 and in control of their wild-card destiny. At .500 — exactly the level at which they have played for the last 2½ seasons — they’re in trouble.

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