Texans earn pick, to fire head coach


Published: Monday, January 2, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 2, 2006 at 12:00 a.m.
The Houston Texans had so much to lose if they won their season finale. They nearly did it anyway.
Instead, the San Francisco 49ers salvaged some pride in their own miserable season - and the Texans got on the clock for the NFL Draft in April.
Mike Adams lateraled his second interception to Ben Emanuel for a 35-yard return in overtime, Joe Nedney kicked a 33-yard field goal with 3:52 left and the 49ers earned their first consecutive victories in more than two years with a 20-17 victory Sunday.
But after one last loss, fans of the Texans (2-14) might have felt like the real winners. Their franchise clinched the top pick and now has the chance to choose Reggie Bush, the Heisman Trophy-winning tailback from USC who's widely expected to enter the draft.
The draft pick will be decided with a new coach. The Texans will fire coach Dom Capers, but will retain general manager Charley Casserly, a person close to the organization told The Associated Press on Sunday. The Texans plan to make the announcement Monday, according to the person, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Both teams Sunday sometimes seemed determined to lose during a wacky afternoon that included a scoreless fourth quarter at rain-soaked Candlestick Park. Houston lost quarterback David Carr and top receiver Andre Johnson to injuries in the first half, then went scoreless for nearly 32 minutes to end the game.
Adams returned a third-quarter interception 40 yards for a tying touchdown for the 49ers (4-12), whose own No. 1 pick, Alex Smith, finally threw his first touchdown pass late in the first half.
Houston's Kris Brown missed a 31-yard field goal with 6:07 left in regulation, slicing it right in a stiff wind. The Niners then drove to the Houston 35 - where they inexplicably decided to punt with 50 seconds left instead of trying a long field goal by the strong-legged Nedney.
After three overtime punts, backup Houston quarterback Tony Banks' long pass was intercepted near midfield by Adams, who lateraled to Emanuel for a rambling return. Two plays later, Nedney capped his stellar season with one more field goal.
Steelers 35, Lions 21 Jerome Bettis, playing what is likely his final game in Pittsburgh, matched his career high with three touchdown runs, none longer than 5 yards, as the Steelers overcame some sloppy defensive play to secure their 10th playoff appearance in 14 seasons under coach Bill Cowher.
Bettis, the fifth-leading rusher in NFL history, ran for just 41 yards as Willie Parker got most of the carries and gained 135. But Bettis scored on runs of 1, 5 and 4 yards to help the Steelers (11-5) overcome an early 14-7 deficit against the Lions (5-11), who finished another dismal season with six losses in their final seven games.
The Steelers won their fourth in a row to return to the playoffs for the fourth time in five seasons. They will play Sunday at AFC North rival Cincinnati (11-5).
Colts 17, Cardinals 13 Tony Dungy grabbed the game ball in his right hand, raised it and pumped it toward the crowd in relief. It was a rare emotional outburst for the usually stoic Colts coach.
The Colts' defense had a late goal line stand after Jim Sorgi threw two touchdown passes to give Dungy a victory three days after he returned to the team following his oldest son's funeral in Tampa.
Indianapolis (14-2) set a single-season franchise record for victories by avoiding its first three-game losing streak since midway through the 2002 season. Dungy earned his 107th career victory - and perhaps his most emotional and the Cardinals finished 5-11.
Before the game, the Colts had a moment of silence in honor of 18-year-old James Dungy, who was found unresponsive Dec. 22 in his Tampa-area apartment. The Colts coach spent pregame warmups shaking hands and walking around the field with his other teenage son, Eric.
When Dungy walked onto the field before introductions, he received a standing ovation and waved to the crowd.

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