Houston Texans - Team Report
December 30, 2011
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The Texans are livid because only two players, running back Arian Foster and cornerback Johnathan Joseph, made the Pro Bowl.

Perhaps they'll transfer that anger to the field on Sunday when they host Tennessee. The Texans might need some more motivation since the game means nothing but pride to them.

The Texans had more players in the Pro Bowl last season when they finished 6-10. They believe that one or more offensive linemen, left tackle Duane Brown and center Chris Myers, were deserving of the Pro Bowl considering they've had one of the three best running games all season.

Their defense improved from 30th to second, but only Joseph made it. Inside linebacker Brian Cushing and outside linebacker Connor Barwin have been outstanding.

Truthfully, if the Texans don't like their Pro Bowl snubs, they should take it out on their opponents. Maybe they'll be able to avoid finishing the season with a three-game losing streak before being one and done in the playoffs.

Although they have more victories than any team in franchise history and they have clinched their first AFC South title, they haven't had as few as two voted to the Pro Bowl since the 2008 season.

The Texans should blame themselves for this kind of slight. Until this season, they never made the playoffs in their first nine seasons. They've lost five consecutive games in prime time, including three in 2010.

Reputations are made in the playoffs and prime time.

The Texans are getting so little respect they're three-point underdogs at home against the Titans. The last time the Texans were underdogs at home, they beat Atlanta and the spread.

After that 17-10 victory over the Falcons, the players said they were insulted to be underdogs at Reliant Stadium. Maybe they'll be insulted again. Players like Cushing, Barwin and Brown should double-insulted.

SERIES HISTORY: 20th regular-season meeting. Titans lead series, 13-6, including 6-3 at Reliant Stadium. The Texans won the first game 41-7 in Nashville. The Texans have won four of the last six games in this AFC South series.


--ILB Brian Cushing has been the team's best defensive player. The Texans are ranked second in defense, but he wasn't voted to the Pro Bowl.

"I'd be lying to you if I said I wasn't disappointed," Cushing said. "I play this game to be the best, and I'm never going to hide that. It only means one thing, there's room for improvement. Obviously, they don't think I'm good enough yet, and I'll continue to do it. As far as motivation and a driving force, this is going to be a big one."

--Coach Gary Kubiak is excited to have back defensive coordinator Wade Phillips after a two-game absence because of surgery on his kidney and gallbladder.

"It's good to have him back," Kubiak said. "I know it's good with the players. We got to be smart with him out here and make sure we don't get him banged around, but it's good to have him back out here and see that he's feeling much better. Bum (Phillips) was out here today, so it was a good day at practice."

Bum Phillips is Wade's 88-year-old father.

--Even though the Tennessee game means nothing, Kubiak is going to do everything he can to win and break a two-game losing streak. He doesn't want a third consecutive loss going into a wild-card game at Reliant Stadium.

"A win's what you're after every week," he said. "My point is we've got to get back to the type of football that has made us successful, and what I'm alluding to there is the turnover situation, not hurting ourselves penalty-wise or with mistakes.

"That's something we've been very solid on as a team and will have to be solid on starting next week if we're going to have our chances to win. We've proved to ourselves if we get sloppy, we're going to get beat, so that's a big concern of mine -- cleaning up our football so that we have a chance to be successful."

BY THE NUMBERS: 5-0 - The Texans' record under Gary Kubiak in the last game of the regular season. All have been played at Reliant Stadium, where they have averaged 31 points.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "They don't see how many plays he makes that are unseen, unless you put the camera on it, slow it down and go in slow motion. He's there - boom - making plays. I know a lot of people are deserving, but that guy's a holy phenom now. He's one of the best I've coached, and I've been at it a long time." - Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, when asked about ILB Brian Cushing being left off the Pro Bowl team.


Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips returns after a two-game absence because of surgery on his kidney and gallbladder.

Receiver Andre Johnson is expected to return after missing three games with his second hamstring injury. He's missed nine overall.

Phillips and Johnson should give the players an emotional boost they need after losing consecutive games to Carolina and Indianapolis.

Phillips will coach from the press box. Linebackers coach Reggie Herring, who called the defenses during Phillips' absence, remains on the sideline. When Phillips was out, the Panthers and Colts scored touchdowns on their last series at times when the team was desperate to stop them. With Phillips calling the defenses, that might not have happened.

Johnson will give rookie quarterback T.J. Yates a down-the-field target. In their only game together, the 17-10 victory over Atlanta, Johnson caught four passes for 97 yards and dropped a 30-yarder before suffering his second hamstring injury.


--RB Arian Foster ran for 119 yards in the last game of the 2009 season - the first 100-yard game of his career - and 180 in the last game of the 2010 season.

--LT Duane Brown has been outstanding, allowing only two sacks and not being called for holding on an offense that ranks second in rushing and leads the league in average time of possession.

--TE Owen Daniels leads the team with 54 catches for 677 yards. He also has three touchdowns. Rookie quarterback T.J. Yates likes to utilize Daniels on crossing routes.

--RB Ben Tate, who backs up Arian Foster, has four 100-yard games, including 104 on 15 carries in the 41-7 victory over Tennessee. While Foster was sidelined with a hamstring injury in the first two games this season, Tate became the 11th player in history to rush for back-to-back 100-yard games to start his career.

--DT J.J. Watt has been tremendous during his rookie season. He has 5.5 sacks and leads the linemen with 55 tackles. He's quick off the ball, strong at the point of attack, and gets outstanding leverage for a player who's 6-5, 300.


--G Mike Brisiel (fractured fibula) underwent surgery, and won't play against Tennessee.

--CB Sherrick McManis (sprained ankle) did not practice, and probably won't play against Tennessee.

--FS Troy Nolan (sprained ankle) did not practice, and may not play against Tennessee.

--TE Owen Daniels (bruised knee) was limited in practice, but will play against Tennessee.

--WR Andre Johnson (strained hamstring) was limited in practice, and will play against Tennessee.

--TE Joel Dreessen (sprained knee) was limited in practice, and will play against Tennessee.

--SS Glover Quin (personal matter) did not practice, and will play against Tennessee.

--NT Shaun Cody (sprained knee) was limited in practice, and will play against Tennessee.

--WR Bryant Johnson (bruised thigh) was limited in practice, and will play against Tennessee.

--WR Jeff Maehl (sore hamstring) was limited in practice, and probably will play against Tennessee.

GAME PLAN: The Texans scored a season-high 41 points in their October victory at Tennessee. Matt Schaub was still their starting quarterback. Rookie T.J. Yates doesn't throw as much or as well as Schaub, so coach Gary Kubiak has been conservative in his play-calling, for the most part.

Yates has thrown only three interceptions in four starts. He's 2-2 as a starter. To take pressure off Yates, the Texans rely heavily on their second-ranked running game.

The Titans know they have to contain Pro Bowl running back Arian Foster. He played one of the best games of his three-year career in the first game against the Titans. He ran 25 times for 115 yards and two touchdowns. He also caught five passes for 199 yards and one touchdown.

The Titans know to expect more of the same. They must limit Foster and force Yates to throw. If they do a good job against Foster, Yates will use him in the passing game. Not only does Foster have seven 100-yard rushing games, but he has three 100-yard receiving games.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Texans WR Andre Johnson vs. Titans CB Cortland Finnegan -- They've had some epic battles in the past. Johnson missed the first game. Finnegan has covered slot receivers in passing situations. Their paths are sure to cross, though. Don't expect any more fights. They got that out of their systems last year. Finnegan doesn't have the size to control Johnson, but he's feisty and nasty, kind of like a gnat. Johnson would like to get down the field but may end up running a lot of crossing routes.

Texans OLB Connor Barwin vs. Titans LT Michael Roos -- Barwin should be extra motivated after being shafted by Pro Bowl voters. He has 11.5 sacks. He's had three more nullified because of penalties. Counting hits on the quarterback, he's gotten to the passer 38 1/2 times. He'll use a lot of moves against Roos, who's allowed only two sacks, tied for the fewest in the AFC. At 6-7, Roos moves well for a player his size. He does a good job of redirecting pass rushers. He shuffles his feet well and stays in front of the rusher the way the coaches like.

Texans QB T.J. Yates vs. Titans FS Michael Griffin -- If the Titans use their corners to play the run, Griffin will have to cover one of the wideouts, probably Kevin Walter. The idea is to shut down the run and force Yates to throw. Griffin is the last line of defense. Yates went deep when Andre Johnson was playing but hasn't done it much. Johnson is sure to run a couple of deep routes. Griffin will have to show some range to guard against Johnson and Walter catching balls down the sideline.

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