Mistakes catch up to Texans
Houston coach Gary Kubiak saw this one coming.
The Texans (10-4) were still winning, even as the injuries mounted, but something wasn't right. The offense had lost some sharpness from earlier in the season, and the mistakes were piling up.
The shoddy play finally caught up to Houston in a 28-13 loss to Carolina on Sunday. The Panthers converted two of the Texans' three turnovers into touchdowns, led from start to finish and snapped Houston's seven-game winning streak.
''We've been sloppy with it and we have to get it fixed,'' Kubiak said. ''That's what happens to you when you get that way.''
The Texans play at Indianapolis (1-13) on Thursday night, and Kubiak is glad another game is coming so soon.
Houston has seven turnovers in its last two games after committing only 11 in its first 12. Arian Foster has lost three fumbles in four games, Ben Tate lost one against Cincinnati last week and rookie T.J. Yates has thrown three interceptions in two games.
''We've got a lot of things to fix,'' Kubiak said, ''and maybe just a quick turnaround is the thing.''
The Texans escaped Cincinnati with a 20-19 victory on Dec. 11 and they clinched the AFC South later that day. Houston fans celebrated the victory and met the team at Reliant Stadium for a pep rally, while behind closed doors, Kubiak was deeply concerned at how his team had performed that day.
The Bengals jumped to a 16-3 lead, generating 10 points from two turnovers in the first half. The defense stiffened and Yates saved the day with two gutsy drives in the fourth quarter.
Still, Kubiak emphasized protecting the ball in practice last week, putting his players in pads and testing the running backs in ''gauntlet'' drills.
''Obviously, it didn't help,'' Kubiak said, ''so we'll have to get back in there.''
Foster went over 100 yards for the sixth time this season, but he fumbled on the second play of the game, and the Panthers promptly took a 7-0 lead.
''I think that's three on the year for me and I think I had three last year, so I think it stops here,'' he said. ''You know, I'm not going to let my team down no more.''
Yates, meanwhile, finally looked like a fifth-round pick after an otherwise impressive start to his pro career. Pressed into action following injuries to starter Matt Schaub (right Lisfranc fracture) and backup Matt Leinart (broken left collarbone), Yates completed his first eight passes on Sunday before throwing two interceptions.
Trailing 14-0, Houston faced a third down at the Carolina 43 when linebacker Jordan Senn intercepted Yates' pass to Kevin Walter. Cam Newton then guided the Panthers for another touchdown to drop the Texans into their largest deficit of the season.
''There's no real reason for what happened,'' said Yates, who was making his third career start. ''I've just got to be able to see the game better - just go up to the line of scrimmage, delete decisions and kind of make pre-snap reads a little bit better, a little bit faster, so I can be more comfortable in the pocket.''
Linebacker James Anderson picked off another Yates' pass in the end zone midway through the fourth quarter. Yates slowly walked to the bench after the play and sat down next to quarterbacks coach Greg Knapp. He was quickly surrounded by Schaub, moving around on crutches, and backup quarterback Jake Delhomme, who was signed before the Atlanta game two weeks ago.
Yates likes getting input from so many voices.
''We just kind of talk stuff out,'' Yates said. ''The guys have good things to say and stuff to put in my ear, just to move on, move to the next play. They're very helpful on the sideline.''
The Texans have been held below 21 points in all four games since Schaub was hurt, but Kubiak has more concerns beyond just the running backs and Yates. Neil Rackers has missed a field-goal attempt in four of the last five games, including a 49-yard try on Sunday.
On top of that, the usually reliable defense had an off day against Carolina, too, giving up more than 20 points for the first time in two months. With linebackers coach Reggie Herring filling in for coordinator Wade Phillips, who's on medical leave, the Texans' defense failed to generate a turnover for the first time this season.
It's all adding up to a sleepless few days for Kubiak heading into Thursday's game.
''The scary thing for me is that it did start last week in the first half (at Cincinnati),'' he said. ''I have to find a way to stop the bleeding.''