Shaky pass rush hasn't slowed Texans

Shaky pass rush hasn't slowed Texans
November 29, 2012, 6:19 pm
Share This Post

HOUSTON (AP) The Houston defense was a major hit, literally, in its first year under Wade Phillips, finishing the 2011 season with a franchise-record 44 sacks.

Statistically, this year's defense stacks up well with last year's unit, and defensive end J.J. Watt has emerged as one of the NFL's top pass rushers, now second in the league with 14 1/2. But the pass rush has tapered off as a whole in recent weeks, and the defense has yielded big passing numbers as an indirect result.

Watt had a career-high three sacks in Houston's 34-31 overtime win over Detroit on Thanksgiving. Take him away, and the rest of the Texans have only 15 1/2 sacks all season and now outside linebacker Brooks Reed, who has 2 1/2, is out indefinitely with a groin injury.

The Texans (10-1) have still kept right on winning and can clinch a playoff berth with win at Tennessee (4-7) on Sunday. But the defense can't ignore the fact that it's given up an average of 395.5 yards passing and six touchdown catches in the last two games.

``I'm proud of my boys, because each week, got to find a way to win, and we keep winning,'' defensive end Antonio Smith said. ``But you can't just sit and act like the yardage didn't happen, the touchdowns didn't happen. A lot of the things we have not let happen this year, we let happen in the last two weeks.

``The defense that we are, we take pride in being one of the best,'' Smith said. ``We definitely want to get that fixed, get a stop.''

Smith has four sacks and Reed's injury creates an opportunity for first-round pick Whitney Mercilus, who has three sacks in the last four games. Mercilus led the nation in sacks last season at Illinois (16), and Phillips is hoping he blossoms like Reed did last season after Mario Williams was hurt.

``This is his time and he's got to come through for us,'' Phillips said of Mercilus.

Connor Barwin, who led the Texans with 11 1/2 sacks last season, will move to the strong side with Reed out. Linebacker Bradie James, who worked with Phillips in Dallas and coordinates the defense on the field, is also questionable for Sunday with a hamstring injury. Darryl Sharpton has been filling James' play-calling role in just his third game back after a torn right quadriceps that sidelined him for a year.

After some maneuvering, the Texans know what positions they'll play on Sunday. Now they just have to figure out how to get back to pressuring the quarterback again.

``We've been close,'' Sharpton said. ``It's just a matter of time and I think this could probably be the week that we convert some of that pressure into sacks.''

With quarterbacks Chad Henne and Matthew Stafford getting an important extra second or two in the last two games, Houston has also allowed some big games by receivers, too. Jacksonville's Justin Blackmon had 263 yards receiving on seven catches in a 43-37 loss to the Texans on Nov. 18. Detroit's Calvin Johnson and Ryan Broyles both topped 100 yards receiving in the Thanksgiving game.

Phillips downplayed concerns about the last two performances.

``It's a team game, we've won 10,'' Phillips said. ``It's about winning, it's not about the stats overall, it's about being able to win. Our team has learned how to win. We'd like to win by 21 points every time, but that's not always going to happen. We've learned to fight and win in tremendously tough situations, that's the key.''

Not only is Reed out, but lead cornerback Johnathan Joseph is questionable after injuring a hamstring in the Jacksonville game and sitting out in Detroit. Joseph, who has two interceptions and eight pass break-ups this season, worked individually with trainers on Wednesday and sat out on Thursday to rest.

Like the pass rushers, Houston's secondary feels like the last two games were anomalies and there are only minor glitches to fix.

``You don't want to look too much into that,'' safety Danieal Manning said. ``Now, we've got to a chance to look back at all that, get off our feet, relax and play ball like we have been.''

Notes: Coach Gary Kubiak said RB Ben Tate practiced on Thursday and will be ready to play on Sunday. Tate has missed the last four games with a hamstring injury. ... RT Derek Newton (right knee) and RG Antoine Caldwell (hamstring) sat out Thursday's practice and Kubiak says he'll re-evaluate their status on Friday.

---

Online: http://pro32.ap.org/poll and http://twitter.com/AP-NFL

Texans - Team News
Andre Johnson - WR
Andre Johnson (ankle) remained limited in Thursday's practice. Johnson doesn't need full practices at this stage of his career. He's a solid WR2 for Sunday's game against the Titans.
Oct 23 4:37PM Read More
Jadeveon Clowney - LB
Texans OLB Jadeveon Clowney (knee) said he'd be surprised if he doesn't play in Sunday's game... Clowney hasn't played since tearing his meniscus in Week 1. He says he plans to "push through" the soreness that's still in his knee. If the training staff lets...
Oct 23 11:41AM Read More
Andre Johnson - WR
Ryan Fitzpatrick admitted he "didn't get it to Andre [Johnson] nearly enough early"... Johnson finished with 5-77-0 on nine targets, but had just one catch for four yards through the first three quarters. After the game, coach Bill O'Brien said that Johnson...
Oct 23 8:03AM Read More
Brian Cushing - LB
Texans ILB Brian Cushing will miss at least one week with a knee injury. It's a blow to an already vulnerable Houston run defense, and a nice upgrade to Bishop Sankey's Week 8 matchup. Justin Tuggle and Mike Mohamed figure to start at inside...
Oct 22 8:32PM Read More
Andre Johnson - WR
Andre Johnson (ankle) was limited in Wednesday's practice. The Texans are limiting Johnson's reps coming off Monday night's loss. He'll remain a WR2 for Week 8 against the Titans.
Oct 22 5:22PM Read More
Arian Foster - RB
Arian Foster was limited in Wednesday's practice. The Texans listed Foster as "not injury related," but he missed practice time last week with a groin issue. Foster has a matchup with the Titans' No. 22 ranked run...
Oct 22 5:15PM Read More
Jadeveon Clowney - LB
According to HoustonTexans.com, there's a "decent chance" Jadeveon Clowney (knee)... "He feels good," coach Bill O'Brien said Monday. "Well see how it goes this week in practice. We'll be able to make a determination pretty soon about whether...
Oct 21 3:58PM Read More
Garrett Graham - TE
Garrett Graham caught two passes for 24 yards in the Texans' Week 7 loss to the Steelers. Graham was targeted three times, but dropped the other. It can be considered one of Graham's better statistical games of the season, which obviously means he's nowhere near...
Oct 20 11:31PM Read More
Andre Johnson - WR
Andre Johnson caught five passes for 77 yards in the Texans' Week 7 loss to the Steelers on... Johnson and DeAndre Hopkins each saw a team-high nine targets. There was nothing special about Johnson's night. His biggest play was a 24-yard grab on a deep in route in...
Oct 20 11:25PM Read More
DeAndre Hopkins - WR
DeAndre Hopkins caught six passes for 108 yards in the Texans' Week 7 loss to the Steelers on... Hopkins and Andre Johnson each saw a team-high nine targets. Ryan Fitzpatrick threw it to whichever receiver was working against embattled Steelers CB Cortez Allen. ...
Oct 20 11:16PM Read More
Alfred Blue - RB
Alfred Blue rushed for 14 yards on five carries and caught an 11-yard touchdown in the Texans'... Blue was the vulture on the opening-drive 11-yard score after Arian Foster managed 59 rushing yards to get the Texans near the goal line. Foster is an every-down back,...
Oct 20 11:09PM Read More
Ryan Fitzpatrick - QB
Ryan Fitzpatrick completed 21-of-32 passes for 262 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception... Fitzpatrick played well for much of the first half, leading the Texans on three consecutive scoring drives to open the game. It was a train wreck thereafter. One play...
Oct 20 10:56PM Read More
Arian Foster - RB
Arian Foster rushed for 102 yards on 20 carries in the Texans' 30-23, Week 7 loss to the... Foster got off to a blazing start, rushing for 59 yards on the Texans' 94-yard opening touchdown drive, but was vultured by Alfred Blue for the 11-yard touchdown catch to...
Oct 20 10:47PM Read More
Jadeveon Clowney - LB
Jadeveon Clowney (knee) is inactive for Monday night's Week 7 game against the Steelers. Clowney's lateral agility wasn't where the Texans wanted it to be in pre-game warmups. He's been out since undergoing knee surgery after Week 1. Whitney Mercilus is...
Oct 20 6:09PM Read More
DeAndre Hopkins - WR
DeAndre Hopkins (hand) is probable for Week 7. The Texans listed Hopkins on the injury report, but his status was never in doubt. He'll be a WR3 for Monday night against the Steelers.
Oct 18 2:54PM Read More

More Team Talk