The Houston Texans sit atop the AFC South thanks to one of the
most potent rushing attacks and stingiest defenses in the NFL.
That has the team hopeful it can make the playoffs for the first
time in franchise history, but coach Gary Kubiak knows there’s
still a long way to go.
Seeking a career-high seventh consecutive 100-yard effort from
scrimmage, Arian Foster looks to help the visiting Texans to a team
record-tying fourth straight win Sunday against the stumbling Tampa
Houston (6-3) has posted one winning season since entering the
NFL in 2002, but it continues to look like a playoff contender.
Led by Foster (656 yards rushing) and Ben Tate (623), the Texans
are compiling an average of 155.1 yards on the ground – the
second-highest mark in the NFL entering Week 10.
“We’re sitting where we want to be, first in the division, 6-3,”
said Kubiak, whose team leads second-place Tennessee by 1 1/2
games. “But as everyone knows, things can go downhill fast in this
league so we have to remain focused.
“We’re controlling the football and the clock, so we’re doing a
good job of keeping them off the field. They’re only going to get
tougher as we move forward.”
While its ground game leaves little to be desired, Houston’s
defense – traditionally a weak spot for the club – has been even
more impressive. The Texans rank No. 1 in the league with 274.0
yards allowed per game and third with 17.4 points given up.
“I tell you guys all the time, (the goal) is hopefully get a
team that’s good enough when you show up on Sunday that you can win
three different ways,” Kubiak said. “Right now, I think we’re
heading very much towards that. I think we feel like we can play
defense with anybody in the league and we feel like we can move the
ball with anybody in the league.”
Despite the success, Kubiak is trying to keep an even keel as
his team looks to win four straight for the first time since Dec.
13-Jan. 3, 2010.
“We’ve got enough guys around here that have been through enough
tough times to know how hard they’ve worked for this opportunity
that they’re fixing to go into here over the course of the next
seven weeks,” he said.
Houston cruised past Cleveland 30-12 last Sunday behind 124
rushing yards from Foster and 115 from Tate, setting a franchise
record with 261 yards on the ground. Foster has rushed for at least
112 yards in each of the last three games and gone over 100 from
scrimmage in his last six contests – the league’s longest such
The Texans improved to 4-0 when giving up fewer than 90 rushing
yards. They allowed a season-low 44 to the Browns.
That doesn’t bode well for Tampa Bay (4-4), which dropped to 0-4
when rushing for fewer than 100 during a 27-16 loss at New Orleans
last weekend. The Buccaneers, who were looking forward to getting
their ground game going with leading rusher LeGarrette Blount back
following a two-game absence, fell behind early and were limited to
84 yards on the ground.
Blount, though, has averaged 100.0 rushing yards and 5.6 per
carry over his last six home games dating to last season.
The Buccaneers’ second straight loss and third in four games
dropped them into third place in the NFC South, 1 1/2 games behind
the division-leading Saints.
Tampa Bay’s recent struggles can be linked in part to its
inability to score touchdowns in the red zone. The Bucs have scored
TDs eight times in 22 opportunities inside their opponents’ 20 –
the lowest percentage in the NFL.
“It’s hard to win in this division … when you’re not scoring
touchdowns,” said Josh Freeman, who threw for 281 yards and a TD
against New Orleans. “It’s just taking advantage of the
opportunities … everything in the red zone is more condensed,
it’s gotta happen faster and we just haven’t been making
Penalties have also plagued the Bucs, who were flagged nine
times for 80 yards last Sunday. Tampa Bay’s 68 penalties are the
third most in the league.
The team made a high-profile move to bolster its defense
Wednesday, claiming Albert Haynesworth off waivers one day after
the lineman was released by New England. The Bucs lost defensive
tackle Gerald McCoy for the season this week because of a torn
The Buccaneers have surrendered an average of 305.0 passing
yards at home but catch a bit of break because Texans All-Pro
wideout Andre Johnson won’t be able to return. Johnson will miss a
sixth straight game with a right hamstring injury.
These teams haven’t met since Houston won 28-14 on Dec. 9, 2007,
behind Johnson’s nine catches for 82 yards and a TD.