Texans skidding after strong start
The Houston Texans seem to have a host of issues.
Mario Williams is out for the year, quarterback Matt Schaub is hurting, and the running game is sputtering. Most significantly, the Texans (3-3) have lost two in a row heading into a pivotal divisional matchup in Tennessee (3-2) this week.
Houston faltered in the fourth quarter for the second straight game on Sunday, losing 29-14 in Baltimore.
''We've been in two very tough games, and haven't gotten it done,'' coach Gary Kubiak said Monday. ''But we come in here, we make our corrections, we've got to juggle some guys around because of some of the nicks we've got going on.
''We're going to Tennessee to play in a huge game, for the division lead,'' he said. ''We're getting over the disappointment of (Sunday) really fast, and we're getting excited about playing this weekend.''
But the Texans are still four games from their bye week, and the health concerns seem to be mounting.
Schaub underwent an MRI exam on Monday, and Kubiak says he has a bruised chest and sore hip. Schaub was already playing with a sore throwing shoulder after taking some hard hits in Houston's 25-20 loss to Oakland the previous week.
Kubiak says Schaub is ''just banged up'' and will likely sit out Wednesday's practice.
''We need him on the field,'' Kubiak said. ''There's not a break in sight right now, it's a month away. We've just got to be smart with him. Throughout the week, if I've got to give him a break, a day a week, or two days a week. Matt can play without the practice. I've just got to be smart with him, but he is just very banged up right now, after six weeks.''
Kubiak is hoping Andre Johnson can return this week after missing two games with a right hamstring injury. Johnson's workload will increase this week, Kubiak said, and his status for Sunday's game will be determined later.
Johnson was injured in Houston's 17-10 win over Pittsburgh in Week 4, and underwent a minor procedure to repair the hamstring.
''He made a lot of improvement last week,'' Kubiak said. ''I had a long talk with him on Saturday night. He's feeling very, very good. I have a hard time saying (if he'll play Sunday). Maybe there's a chance he sees the practice field before the end of the week. If that's the case, there's always a chance. But we'll have to wait and see.''
The Texans haven't yet found a way to make up for Johnson's absence.
Newly acquired Derrick Mason caught three passes for 27 yards in Baltimore, and Kevin Walter had six catches for 52 yards. Tight end Owen Daniels had two catches for 13 yards, but none after the second quarter.
Jacoby Jones, who took Johnson's position, caught four passes for 76 yards in Baltimore, but he couldn't get a first down on a short pass from Schaub with less than four minutes left.
''I think in some of these situations that we've been in, I hope these guys aren't looking for him because he's not out there,'' Kubiak said. ''Somebody else has got to step up and make that play. We're in the situation we're in until he gets back. We've got to find a way to work through it.''
And without Johnson, the running game has stalled, as well.
Houston still ranks seventh in rushing (126 yards per game), but 2010 NFL leading rusher Arian Foster has been bottled up since running for 155 yards in Houston's 17-10 win over Pittsburgh in Week 4. He's rushed for only 117 yards since - 68 against Oakland and 49 on Sunday.
Ben Tate, Foster's backup, has only 61 yards in his last two games after topping 100 yards in the Texans' first two games this season.
''First off, we're not a bad running football team,'' Kubiak said. ''I think we're seventh in the league, but our standard of running the ball is very high and I don't think we've met the standard the last two weeks.
''Where are my concerns? My concern is with the group,'' Kubiak said. ''It's not with the line. It's not with the backs. It's with everybody and I told the players, I just don't think we're doing the little things that we do that put us at the top of the league (last year), some of the little extra things we do work-wise, so I'm calling on them to get that done.''