Houston (2-13) at San Francisco (3-12)

Fair Currently: San Francisco, CA
Temp: 47° F
  • Game info: 4:05 pm EST Sun Jan 1, 2006
  • TV: CBS
Preview | Box Score | Recap

A season-ending matchup between two teams with a combined 5-25 record does not normally generate much interest. It does when the draft rights to one of most electrifying players in college football history may be at stake.

The Houston Texans can secure the No. 1 overall pick—presumably for Heisman Trophy winner Reggie Bush if he leaves school—with a loss to the San Francisco 49ers in the first meeting between these teams.

Should Houston win a game some have tagged the “Bush Bowl,” they could ultimately lose.

Under that scenario, the Texans and Niners both would finish 3-13. If the New Orleans +Saints+, Green Bay Packers and New York Jets also lose their season finales, that would leave five teams with 3-13 records, further complicating matters.

The tiebreaker for determining which team gets the top pick would then fall to strength of schedule where the 2005 records of the opposing teams would be totaled. That means the hurricane-displaced +Saints+ would be awarded the first pick followed by the Packers, Jets, Texans and Niners.

However, all of Sunday’s games must be completed before final of strength of schedule standings can be determined.

While Bush, the all-purpose back from Southern California, would change the face of the Texans, Houston might want to focus on improving its defense. Last Sunday’s 38-20 loss to the playoff-bound Jacksonvillle Jaguars marked the fourth time in five games where the Texans have surrendered a fourth-quarter lead.

David Carr hooked up with Andre Johnson on a 53-yard scoring pass with 13:01 to play that gave the Texans a 20-17 lead. Houston’s defense then surrendered three touchdowns in an 8:04 span.

“We had our opportunities and were close on a few, but we didn’t make the plays it takes to beat a good football team,” Texans coach Dom Capers said.

When Jacksonville’s Ernest Wilford scored on a 36-yard TD pass from backup quarterback David Garrard with 3:30 left, about a dozen Texans fans began a spirited chant of “Reg-gie Bush, Reg-gie Bush.”

“If another team was in the same situation we’re in, the fans would be doing the same thing,” Johnson said. “They come out and support us every week, but when you’re down you have to do something to cheer yourself up.”

Houston had the top pick in the 2002 draft and selected Carr out of Fresno State. In four seasons, he has passed for 48 touchdowns, thrown 53 interceptions and been sacked 208 times.

It would be hard for the Niners to pass on Bush, especially considering he went to high school with quarterback Alex Smith, taken by San Francisco with the No. 1 overall pick in last season’s draft.

San Francisco’s ground game, though, looked good last week despite being without starter Kevan Barlow, rushing for 217 yards in a 24-20 win over the St. Louis Rams.

Rookie Frank Gore, a third-round pick from Miami, scored on a 30-yard run with 4:05 to play and Maurice Hicks rushed for 109 yards, including a 73-yard TD.

“It shows the heart of a 3-12 team,” Gore said. “I think any other team would have laid down.”

Barlow, the team’s top rusher, has missed three of the last four games with a knee injury and was placed on injured reserve Wednesday.

San Francisco is still waiting for a return on its investment in Smith.

He has appeared in eight games, starting six, with just 716 yards passing, no touchdowns and 10 interceptions.

“I don’t think I would have gotten here if I hadn’t won games in the past. That’s how quarterbacks are ultimately evaluated,” said Smith, who completed 12-of-16 passes for 131 yards against the Rams.

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Super Bowl
  Sunday, Feb 12  
NFC 17
23 Final