Cracks showing again for Houston Texans
The Texans were feeling pretty confident after a 3-1 start.
Now, Andre Johnson and Mario Williams are out with injuries, Matt Schaub missed practice Wednesday and the snake-bitten franchise must fight off the sense that another season is on the brink of falling apart.
Johnson is expected to sit out Sunday when the Texans (3-2) play at Baltimore (3-1) after hurting his right hamstring in the Texans' 17-10 win over Pittsburgh in Week 4. Williams, the Texans' career sacks leader, is out for the season after tearing a pectoral muscle Sunday in a 25-20 loss to Oakland.
Schaub sat out practice because of a sore throwing shoulder, but says he'll be ready to go by Sunday. The Texans acquired veteran Derrick Mason from the New York Jets to boost the receiving corps without Johnson.
Dealing with injuries to key players is nothing new to the Texans.
Johnson missed seven games in 2007 and tight end Owen Daniels sat out the last half of the 2009 season with a knee injuries. Last year, Houston lost middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans to a torn left Achilles tendon after a 4-2 start and dropped eight of its last 10 games.
By now, the Texans say they've learned how to overcome that kind of adversity.
''We just feel like that can't stop us,'' left tackle Duane Brown said. ''Everyone is here for a reason, and now other guys just have the opportunity to step in and make plays.
''Yeah, we have great individuals. But now, we also feel like we have a great team, and we feel confident in all facets of our game, and that we can win from week to week. The loss of one or two players won't stop us from doing that.''
Linebacker Brian Cushing says playing without Williams will be easier to absorb than the absence of Ryans did.
''Losing DeMeco is like losing a quarterback,'' Cushing said. ''Losing Mario is more like losing a big-time receiver. DeMeco, he's absolutely the main captain of this team, with his leadership role and how smart a player he is. He gets guys lined up, he's really the general out there.
''Both those guys, obviously, you want them both next to you,'' Cushing said. ''But it's football. Injuries are part of the game, other guys are going to have to step up and we're completely fine with that.''
Second-round draft pick Brooks Reed will take Williams' spot at outside linebacker. Reed played about 50 snaps in Sunday's game.
''I'm going to contribute the best I can,'' Reed said. ''I know no one is expecting me to produce as much as Mario, but I think it will be a collective effort. Obviously, there's a lot of pressure. I'm a rookie, stepping in and playing for a Pro Bowler. There's pressure, but I like that and I think I'll respond.''
Mason played in all five games this season for the Jets, but started only two. He played the previous six seasons with the Ravens, starting all but two regular-season games in that span. He's had 1,000 yards receiving in eight of his previous 10 seasons before 2011.
Mason met with coach Gary Kubiak on Wednesday and says he's ready to contribute immediately.
''A breath of fresh air, to come to a situation where they want you, and they believe in what you can do,'' Mason said.
Schaub certainly missed Johnson on Sunday, especially on the final play, when Houston had the ball at the Oakland 5 with seven seconds left. Schaub flipped a pass to Jacoby Jones in the end zone, but Michael Huff stepped in front of Jones and intercepted it, ending the game.
The Texans say they're only looking ahead now.
''You just go to the next down, the next game and you just keep playing,'' Schaub said. ''Obviously, we didn't finish the one the way we wanted to last week, but the more you think about them, the more you dwell on it, the more you're hurting yourself for this week. We've got to continue on and go to the next play.''
Notes: The Texans waived RB Chris Ogbonnaya and WR David Anderson, and signed LB Thaddeus Gibson and WR Juaquin Iglesias to the practice squad. Ogbonnaya was Houston's leading rusher in the preseason, but had only three carries for six yards in the regular season. Anderson had one catch for nine yards since the Texans signed him in mid-September. ... Houston also recalled LB Jesse Nading from the practice squad and re-signed WR Trindon Holliday, who was placed on the practice squad after training camp and then cut last week. ... Kubiak said FB James Casey is ''day to day'' with a strained pectoral muscle and may be a game-time decision for Sunday.