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
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
Arian Foster - RB
Arian Foster (groin) is probable for Monday night's game against the Steelers. Foster was limited on Thursday, but practiced in full the last two days. He should have another heavy workload against a Steelers defense that's allowing 4.4 yards per carry...
Oct 18 2:48PM Read More
Andre Johnson - WR
Andre Johnson (ankle) was upgraded to full in Saturday's practice and is listed as probable for... Johnson is good to go for Monday night's matchup with the Steelers. He's Rotoworld's No. 15 receiver this week.
Oct 18 2:39PM Read More
Jadeveon Clowney - LB
Texans OLB Jadeveon Clowney (knee) is listed as questionable for Monday night's game against... Clowney got in two limited practices this week, but said he still "can't run laterally." He could be held out in an attempt to get fully healthy for Week 8. If...
Oct 18 2:20PM Read More
Jadeveon Clowney - LB
Texans OLB Jadeveon Clowney (knee) returned to practice Friday. It was Clowney's first practice since undergoing knee surgery in Week 1. He's expected to be a game-time decision for Monday night. Clowney will likely be on a limited snap...
Oct 17 6:08PM Read More
Arian Foster - RB
Arian Foster (groin) was upgraded to full in Friday's practice. Foster suffered a groin injury in last Thursday's loss to the Colts, but his Week 7 status isn't in doubt. He should be fine for Monday night against the Steelers.
Oct 17 6:02PM Read More
Andre Johnson - WR
Andre Johnson (ankle) remained limited in Friday's practice. The Texans are limiting Johnson's practice reps, but he's expected to play on Monday night. Johnson is Rotoworld's No. 15 receiver this week.
Oct 17 5:53PM Read More
DeAndre Hopkins - WR
DeAndre Hopkins is listed on the Week 7 injury report with a hand issue, but is practicing in... Hopkins must have tweaked something in last week's loss to the Colts. It won't affect his WR3 status for Week 7.
Oct 16 4:22PM Read More
Andre Johnson - WR
Andre Johnson (ankle) was limited in Thursday's practice. The Texans have made a habit of limiting Johnson's practice reps, but he hasn't been limited in games. He'll be a WR2 for Monday's game against the Steelers.
Oct 16 4:20PM Read More
Arian Foster - RB
Arian Foster was limited in Thursday's practice with a groin injury. It's a new ailment for Foster, but it doesn't appear to be anything that's going to cast doubt on his status for Monday night's game against the Steelers. It's never wise to...
Oct 16 4:19PM Read More
Jadeveon Clowney - LB
Texans OLB Jadeveon Clowney (knee) will be a game-time decision for Monday's tilt with the... "It's getting closer to game time and we'll know better as we move closer to game time," coach Bill O'Brien said Thursday. "If he were to play against...
Oct 16 3:41PM Read More
Jadeveon Clowney - LB
Coach Bill O'Brien said OLB Jadeveon Clowney (knee) has a 50-50 chance of returning to the... The Texans and Steelers play on Monday night. Clowney has been sidelined since going down with a torn meniscus in the season opener. J.J. Watt is single-handedly carrying...
Oct 15 9:28AM Read More
Jadeveon Clowney - LB
Texans OLB Jadeveon Clowney (knee) is targeting Week 7 against the Steelers to return. Clowney is recovering from surgery to repair a torn meniscus. The first overall pick in May's draft would add a needed edge presence with J.J. Watt wreaking havoc up front....
Oct 10 2:32PM Read More
Alfred Blue - RB
Alfred Blue rushed three times for 22 yards in Houston's Week 6 loss to the Colts. Blue was only called on when all-world workhorse Arian Foster needed a breather. Blue is a pure handcuff. He has no standalone value.
Oct 9 11:49PM Read More
Garrett Graham - TE
Garrett Graham was held without a catch on one target in Houston's Week 6 loss to the Colts. It almost appears as if Graham is being phased out of the Texans' offense, as he's now been targeted just twice over his past two games. Graham is emphatically off the radar...
Oct 9 11:47PM Read More

More Team Talk