A Capsule Look at this Week's Colts Opponent, the Houston Texans
Synopsis: The Colts, a week after their bye week, will face an opponent Sunday that has had one of the NFL's most difficult early seasons.
The Houston Texans, after finishing 8-8 last season – the first .500-or-better season in the franchise's six-year history – entered the season with many observers believing they would contend for a playoff position. Because of Hurricane Ike, they have played their first three games on the road, starting the season 0-3 for the third time in franchise history.
But the Texans haven't played like an 0-3 team, Colts President Bill Polian said.
Far from it.
"It's a strange 0-3," Polian said. "They had the interruption with Hurricane (Ike), which was a very difficult issue for them and for all of their families. They are also a much-improved football team. . . . Everything sort of falls in line for them – coming home and having the capability of being a contender. There are no two ways about that.
"The personnel is in place. They have good coaching. Their management and coaching is meshed, so they have added people who have really helped them on the personnel front. They're a very difficult opponent."
That was particularly true this past week, when the Texans lost to the Jacksonville Jaguars – a team that beat the Colts, 23-21, the previous week – in overtime, 30-27, in Jacksonville.
Texans quarterback Matt Schaub, under outside criticism following the team's two early-season losses, directed touchdown drives of 91, 80 and 85 yards and did not commit a turnover for the first time this season. He had thrown five interceptions while being sacked eight times in the first two games of the season.
Wide receiver Andre Johnson, a two-time Pro Bowl selection, has 15 receptions this season for 179 yards and Polian said the Texans have been particularly helped by the quick emergence of rookie running back Steve Slaton.
Against Jacksonville, Slaton – one of two third-round selections by the Texans in the 2008 NFL Draft – produced 116 yards offense, his second consecutive game with more than 100 total yards. Slaton, who played collegiately at West Virginia, has rushed for 192 yards and a touchdown on 41 carries this season.
"They're a very good offensive football team," Polian said. "Steve Slaton is (Tennessee rookie running back) Chris Johnson. He is a home-run hitting sub-4.5, 195-pound running back who if he gets going downhill is gone. He's very different from the two (running backs) at Jacksonville, who are a little bit different style. He represents a big threat."
Defensively, the Texans have a talented, young roster, with end Mario Williams and tackle Abomi Okoye among the league's best young players at their positions and middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans making his first Pro Bowl appearance last season.
The Colts have beaten the Texans in 11 of 12 meetings, with Houston's lone victory in the series coming in December of 2006, 27-24, on a last-second field goal. The Colts swept Houston last season, holding off a second-half rally for a 30-24 victory in September and winning 38-15 in Indianapolis in December.
The effects of Ike on the schedule continue for the Texans in October, when they will play four consecutive home games against Indianapolis, Miami, Detroit and Cincinnati. They had to reschedule their original home opener – a Week 2 game against Baltimore – making October 5 the latest home opener for an NFL team since the Detroit Lions held their home opener on October 8, 2001, because of the events of September 11, 2001.
The Texans will become the first NFL team to play four consecutive home games since the 1990 Houston Oilers.
2008 Record: 0-3, 4th in AFC South.
Head Coach: Gary Kubiak, third season as Texans and NFL head coach (14-21).
Last game: Texans quarterback Matt Schaub had his best game of the season, completing 29 of 40 passes for 307 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions in a 30-27 overtime loss at Jacksonville. The Texans outgained the Jaguars, 386-375, had 23 first downs to 21 for the Jaguars and converted 9 of 13 third downs, but after tying the game on the final play of regulation, Houston couldn't stop the Jaguars in overtime. Jacksonville drove for a field goal on the first possession of the extra period.
2008 NFL Rankings: Offense – Overall, 19th (312.3 yards per game); Rushing, 22nd (100.0 ypg); Passing, 14th (212.3 ypg); Defense – Overall, 25th (341.0 yards per game); Rushing, 27th (160.0 ypg); Passing, 9th (181.0 ypg).
2008 Leading Passer: Matt Schaub (71-110 completions, 697 yards, 64.5 pct., 4 TD, 5 INT, 75.5 rating).
2008 Leading Rusher: Steve Slaton (41 carries, 192 yards, 1 TD).
2008 Leading Receiver(s): Andre Johnson (15 receptions, 179 yards, 0 TD), Kevin Walter (15 receptions, 132 yards, 3 TD), Steve Slaton (15 receptions, 97 yards, 1 TD), Owen Daniels (14 receptions, 191 yards, 0 TD).
2008 Leading Sacker: Mario Williams (1).
2008 Turnover Breakdown: Minus-3 (3 forced, 6 committed).
First-round draft choice: Duane Brown, offensive tackle. With the No. 26 overall selection in the NFL Draft, the Texans selected Brown an offensive tackle from Virginia Tech.
Brown, a two-time second-team All-Atlantic Coast Conference selection, moved quickly into the starting lineup for the Texans at left tackle, where he has started all three games this season. He began his career as a tight end, moving to tackle as a junior.
Key free agents acquired: Kevin Bentley (Seattle), CB; Chris Brown (Tennessee), RB; Nick Ferguson (Denver), S; Jaques Reeves (Dallas), CB; Chaun Thompson (Cleveland), LB.
Key free agents lost: Charlie Anderson (Miami), LB; Michael Boulware (Minnesota), S; Danny Clark (New York Giants), LB; Von Hutchins (Atlanta), CB.
2008 Review: The Texans, because of Hurricane Ike, have opened the season with three consecutive road games, losing the first two by wide margins before an overtime loss in Jacksonville this past Sunday.
In the opener, the Texans fell behind Pittsburgh 38-3 in a 38-17 loss, and after a scheduled game against Baltimore was delayed by Hurricane Ike, they lost to Tennessee on the road, 31-12, before losing in overtime to Jacksonville, 30-27, Sunday.
Last time in Playoffs: Never.
Last time in Super Bowl: Never.
Super Bowl Championships: None.
2007 Pro Bowl Selections: DeMeco Ryans, LB.
Quotable I: "In this league, it doesn't matter if it's by one or by 30. If you lose, you lose. You work the same all week, regardless of what is going on. We have been working extremely hard. You know, it's been a very, very difficult start in the National Football League with these three road games, and it doesn't get much easier going home and playing the former World Champion Colts. But that's the NFL, and you've got to prepare every week. And if we come out and play with this attention to detail and this effort and make another play or two, we give ourselves a chance to win."
--- Texans Head Coach Gary Kubiak
Quotable II: "It's very encouraging, just when you're watching how our guys fought. That's how you want your team to go out. And they didn't just dominate us. It was a hard-fought game and they made that one extra play that they needed to make to win the game."
--- Texans Linebacker DeMeco Ryans