Just after Sunday's loss to the Buffalo Bills, an aggravated David Carr snapped off his chin strap -- about the only thing he pulled off all afternoon -- and sat on the bench motionless for several minutes.
No, the loss wasn't entirely Carr's fault and there was a tug of war among everyone in the Houston locker room over who deserves the most blame for the embarrassing 22-7 loss. A lot of it had to do with the unruly Buffalo defense, which didn't give Carr time to think, much less complete passes, while it forced five turnovers.
But the quarterback, especially one with as much unfulfilled potential as Carr, always receives the brunt of the blame.
"This is as helpless as I've felt playing quarterback since I've been in third grade," Carr said. "It was embarrassing. It was embarrassing for our team, our fans, and our family."
This is not the way Carr, or Houston, envisioned starting his fourth season after being selected No. 1 overall out of Fresno State in 2002. By virtue of his draft status, Carr is mentioned in the same breath as John Elway, Troy Aikman and Peyton Manning. But he has played more like Tim Couch and Jeff George during his first three seasons.
Carr has a strong arm but ever since he entered the league he's worked behind a patchwork offensive line. Still, there are some who insist some of the 49 sacks Carr absorbed last season are the result of him holding onto the ball too long. But after completing 61.2 percent of his passes and throwing for 3,531 yards, 16 touchdowns and 14 interceptions, this was supposed to be Carr's breakout year.
The preseason -- 8 for 24 for 56 yards and no touchdowns -- was not a good dress rehearsal, and perhaps it revealed more naked truths. On Sunday, Carr completed just 9 of 21 passes for 70 yards. He was picked off three times and sacked five.
Aaron Schobel sacked Carr on the Texans' first series on third down, which led to a Bills field goal. On his next series, Carr rolled out on third down and the Bills' Troy Vincent stepped in front of Andre Johnson for an interception which led to another Buffalo field goal. The agony continued for the rest of the day.
"That was as hopeless I've felt in the pocket trying to get something done ever," he said.
Even Houston's only touchdown drive -- capped by Carr's 1-yard bootleg -- was aided by three Buffalo defensive penalties. It could be argued that Carr doesn't have that many offensive tools at his side. Domanick Davis (14 carries, 48 yards) is a decent running back, and wide receiver Andre Johnson is a Pro Bowler and one of the league's rising offensive stars. But Bills cornerback Nate Clements shut Johnson down (three receptions, 18 yards), and when that happens, Houston is limited offensively.
"I'm sure that our offense is not real confident coming out of this game, but they'll recover," said Houston coach Dom Capers. "I've seen us come out and have turnover problems before and we'll just go back to work on it. David was under duress a lot and I don't think our offensive performance was really what we were looking for out of our total offensive team."