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Kubiak: WR Johnson's injury is "mild"

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HOUSTON (AP)

Andre Johnson has a mild left hamstring injury, though Houston coach Gary Kubiak says it's too early to know if his star receiver will play at Cincinnati this weekend.

Houston (9-3) has taken command of the AFC South with a franchise-record six straight wins, most of it without their five-time Pro Bowler.

Johnson pulled up in the third quarter of Sunday's 17-10 win over Atlanta as he was chasing down a deep pass from rookie T.J. Yates, who was making his first NFL start. Johnson was playing his second game after missing the previous six with a right hamstring injury that required minor surgery.

An MRI exam showed that Johnson's latest hamstring issue was far less severe than the last one.

''We're very fortunate,'' Kubiak said. ''He's day to day. I'll probably give you a better answer once we give him a couple of days here, and get to Wednesday. But we do expect him back, hopefully sooner than later.''

The Texans still couldn't get through a game without sustaining another season-ending injury.

Punter Brett Hartmann caught his left foot in the turf and tore his left anterior cruciate ligament late in the game. An undrafted rookie out of Central Michigan, Hartmann beat out veteran Brad Maynard in training camp, and he booted a franchise-record 69-yard punt in a victory over Miami in Week 2.

''Very unfortunate for him, he was really having a good year,'' Kubiak said. ''We'll have to replace him here in the next couple of days.''

Hartmann was also kicking off, and set a Texans record with six touchbacks in the season opener against Indianapolis. Kubiak said place kicker Neil Rackers will handle kickoffs for now, unless the Texans sign a punter this week who can handle both jobs.

Kubiak says the Texans may consider veteran Matt Turk, who was cut by Jacksonville in October. Turk played for Houston from 2007-10.

Linebacker Brian Cushing, Houston's leading tackler, twisted his right knee in the first half on Sunday and left the game. But Cushing was back on the field in the third quarter and finished with a team-high six tackles. Kubiak said Cushing has a sore knee, finally some positive news for a team that's literally lost a key player to a major injury in just about every game for more than a month.

Starting quarterback Matt Schaub broke his right foot against Tampa Bay in Week 10, and backup Matt Leinart broke his left collarbone in Houston's 20-13 win over Jacksonville two weeks later.

Kubiak had a whirlwind week preparing the fifth-round pick Yates for his first start. Yates completed 12 of 25 passes for 188 yards and a touchdown against Atlanta.

''Just his play, in particular, was encouraging,'' Kubiak said. ''He can get a lot better, and there are so many things he'll learn from throughout the course of the game, and watching himself on tape, play that many plays.''

Yates was sacked three times, but his worst mistake, a fourth-quarter interception, was nullified by a defensive holding call.

''He made smart decisions,'' Kubiak said. ''He missed a couple of throws, but he made some great throws that we didn't handle, too. It's a big step forward, and we're all very encouraged.''

Houston's defense, meanwhile, continued its resurgence under new coordinator Wade Phillips and his 3-4 scheme. Matt Ryan threw two interceptions, and the Texans held Atlanta to 70 yards rushing.

The Texans slipped from first to second in total defense (274.1 yards per game) behind Pittsburgh (273.8 yards per game). But they still rank fourth in stopping the run (90.7 ypg) and pass (183.4 ypg), and have held each of their last six opponents below 20 points.

Kubiak said the top defensive player on Sunday was cornerback Kareem Jackson, a first-round pick in 2010 who's vastly improved from his rookie season. Jackson intercepted a pass and then broke up Ryan's last-second pass to Julio Jones in the end zone to secure Houston's victory.

Kubiak says secondary coach Vance Joseph and offseason free-agent acquisitions Johnathan Joseph and Danieal Manning have helped restore Jackson's confidence.

''He's had a lot of ups and downs. He had the expectations of the first-round pick, and then what we went through last year,'' Kubiak said. ''But his toughness has shown, mentally and physically. Johnathan coming here has helped him, he's kind of got a mentor back there, (and) Danieal Manning.

''All that stuff has added up to Kareem growing up a little bit,'' Kubiak said. ''Very excited to see him playing well.''

Tagged: Falcons, Texans, Matt Turk, Andre Johnson, Matt Schaub, Matt Leinart, Johnathan Joseph, Danieal Manning, Matt Ryan, Brian Cushing, Kareem Jackson, T.J. Yates, Brett Hartmann

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