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SAM FARMER / ON THE NFL

Matt Leinart's luck is consistent — all bad

The former USC quarterback, finally getting another chance to establish himself in the NFL and playing well early in Texans' win over Jaguars, suffers a collarbone injury that could end his season.

November 27, 2011|Sam Farmer
  • Texans quarterback Matt Leinart looks to pass over Jaguars defensive tackle C.J. Mosley in the first half Sunday.
Texans quarterback Matt Leinart looks to pass over Jaguars defensive tackle… (John Raoux / Associated…)

Matt Leinart hadn't thrown a touchdown pass in three years, and hadn't injured his collarbone in four.

Sunday, he did both.

A day that began with such promise for the former USC star ended with him on the sideline in a sling, his window of opportunity slammed shut because of a hard tackle by Jacksonville's Jeremy Mincey near the end of the first half. Leinart may have broken his collarbone, but Coach Gary Kubiak said X-rays were inconclusive.

"There's a pretty strong possibility I probably won't be coming back this season," Leinart said. "It's pretty disappointing. It's tough to swallow, but we'll just move forward."

Even though they won 20-13 and maintained their two-game lead in the AFC South, the Texans are down to third-string quarterback T.J. Yates, a rookie, having lost starter Matt Schaub and backup Leinart. The team also just signed Kellen Clemens.

The injury was a cruel twist for Leinart, who had a prime opportunity to finally achieve liftoff on his NFL career. He re-signed with the Texans this summer instead of joining former Trojans coach Pete Carroll in Seattle. The Texans came into the weekend with the league's No. 1 defense, and the best running game in the conference. It was a turn-key situation for success.

"Everything that's happened to me, this was a great opportunity," he said. "It's unfortunate, but I'm not going to give up. It's not my nature."

Leinart played very well until the injury, completing 10 of 13 passes for 57 yards with a touchdown, helping the Texans build a 17-10 lead they wouldn't relinquish.

It seems every break Leinart catches is the kind that requires medical attention.

Indy blues

Believe it or not, the Colts almost went the entire month without scoring an offensive touchdown. Their first of November came in the second quarter against Carolina on Sunday, when Donald Brown scored on a 17-yard run.

The Colts would score another touchdown, with Reggie Wayne's 56-yard reception in the third quarter, but wound up losing, 27-19, dropping to 0-11.

Barring any bizarre twists, the Colts will win the Andrew Luck derby with ease. On its broadcast Sunday, Fox noted that Peyton Manning (neck surgery) has not even been cleared to swing a golf club, let alone return to football.

Trigger happy

Some touchdown dances are silly and mindless. Buffalo's Steve Johnson must have put some forethought into his, even though the outcome was brainless.

Facing the New York Jets — Plaxico Burress' team — Johnson celebrated a touchdown catch by firing imaginary pistols into the air, then pretending to shoot himself in the leg. Burress, you'll recall, actually did accidentally shoot himself in the leg, and spent 20 months in prison for it.

Johnson was flagged on the celebration, but only because he went to the ground at the end of it.

Because of that penalty, the Bills had to kick off from their 20. Dave Rayner mis-hit the squib kick, the Jets recovered at the Buffalo 36, and that set up a short touchdown drive. The Jets ultimately won, 28-24.

"I was just having fun, and part of having fun ended up being a penalty and a touchdown for the Jets," Johnson said. "It was a stupid decision by myself."

If the league fines him for his imaginary gunplay — and it would be a surprise if the NFL didn't — Johnson will feel even dumber.

Rolling rookie

The punters in Dallas, San Francisco, Cleveland, Cincinnati and Seattle will get the same directives from their coaches in the coming weeks:

Don't put a returnable ball in Patrick Peterson's hands.

The first-year Arizona cornerback, the fifth overall pick, scored on an 80-yard punt return Sunday against St. Louis, tying an NFL record with his fourth punt-return touchdown this season. Peterson also is the first player in league history with all four of those returns covering at least 80 yards.

Of course, those punters could try doing what Oakland's Shane Lechler did Sunday when booting the ball to Chicago's Devin Hester. Lechler boomed it over Hester's head with an 80-yard punt that bounced into the end zone, the rough equivalent of a 400-yard drive in golf.

Stats watch

Minnesota dropped to 2-9 after losing to Atlanta, the worst start in Vikings history. The team is now guaranteed consecutive losing seasons for only the second time in the last 25 years, the other instance occurring in 2001 and '02.

•Washington, which won at Seattle, has committed at least two turnovers in 10 consecutive games.

•The Texans have intercepted a pass in 10 straight games.

•With six field goals against Chicago, Oakland's Sebastian Janikowski set a team record. Not to be outdone, Lechler set a team record with his 80-yard punt.

Bitter end

The Chicago-Oakland game ended in an uncommon way. The Bears trailed, 25-20, and had no timeouts with eight seconds remaining. They quickly lined up for quarterback Caleb Hanie to stop the clock with a spike.

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