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Texans To-Do List vs. Indianapolis

Posted Nov 1, 2013

Here is the not-so-short list of things the Texans hope to improve upon when facing the Colts on Battle Red Sundayl.

1. Keep Case upright

Indianapolis will also be putting the pressure on Case Keenum with its playmakers. Robert Mathis leads the NFL in sacks with 11.5. Through seven games, the five-time Pro Bowl linebacker has already tied his career season-high sack numbers. Mathis has flourished in the Colts 3-4 defense, going from a 4-3 end to outside linebacker, implemented in 2012 under defensive coordinator Greg Manusky. Head coach Gary Kubiak wants to avoid third-and-long situations against Mathis and the Colts defense.

“He’s playing everywhere if they get you in must-pass situations, not many people have blocked him this year,” Kubiak said. “For a guy that’s not a big player, he can play power football, too, if you watch some of the plays he made against Denver in that game. We’re well aware. It’s easy to say you’ve got to go in and help this guy or chip this guy or do that, but they’re going to play Mathis enough places where it’s going to be very difficult. Us running our offense and not having third-and-12, third-and-10, those type of things, will help more than anything.”

This week Bjoern Werner returned to practice for Indianapolis after missing three games due to a foot injury on September 29 at Jacksonville. The first-round was drafted to replace Mathis’ former pass rush partner Dwight Freeney who left in free agency.


2. “We need to get some Luck this week, and not have luck,”  (Wade Phillips 10/31/13)


Andrew Luck returns to his hometown of Houston another year older and wiser. He is coming off a 39-33 win against Denver where he completed 21-of-38 passes for 228 yards and four touchdowns (three passing, one rushing) for a quarterback passer rating of 99.5. The Colts had a bye last week but not before Luck was named AFC Offensive Player of the Week for his performance.

“He’s a year older, as far as experience, so I think that’s helped him,” Phillips said. “He still makes tremendous plays. He can really throw the ball great and we know that. He can drop back in the pocket and he’s very accurate, but his off schedule plays are really outstanding and I think that’s what makes him really a great young quarterback.”

Without his top target Reggie Wayne, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in the game, Luck and the Colts will look to establish a power run which they have been doing more of this season with Donald Brown and newly-acquired Trent Richardson.

“They run the ball,” Phillips said. “They’re up there in rushing stats, although the quarterback has rushed for a lot of yards so that also helps their running stats. They can run the ball well, so that helps their quarterback. Just like anybody, if you can run the ball well, it helps you.”


3. No more green lights in the red zone

Of the 22 trips that opposing teams have made to the red zone against Houston, 19 have yielded scores: 16 touchdowns (ten passing, six rushing) and four field goals. While the Texans defense ranks first in yards allowed, something is happening inside the 20-yard line.

“Well, we’ve had certainly stretches where we’ve played tremendous in several games. That’s why we’re statistically where we are. We lost two playmakers on defense, but the other guys have to come in and do their jobs. Some of our other playmakers have to make more plays.”

With Danieal Manning and Brian Cushing out for the season, the defense has a tall order to fill.  Offensively, Indianapolis is the only team in the NFL this season that has scored 100 percent of the time in the red zone. In 21 red zone drives, the Colts have rushed for eight touchdowns, passed for five, and kicked eight successful field goals.


4. Who doesn’t love a good wedge?

We’re not talking about shoes or underwear here, but special teams.

Kubiak emphasized getting some extra help on special teams heading into the bye week. After the bye, the Texans signed three running backs, two of which were kick returners on special teams during the preseason. Deji Karim and Dennis Johnson could see action on returns, if Keshawn Martin, who has been playing with an injured shoulder, is not ready to go on Sunday.

“If I’ve got questions whether or not Keshawn can protect the ball, somebody else is going back there,” Kubiak said. “We’ll see how he (is). I think he got better this week. He’s feeling better. It’s still going to take some more time for him to be 100 percent, but he has improved.”


5. Keep it clean!

Of course playing clean football is something the Texans always want to do, but they have to be extra disciplined playing against a team that is playing with fewer mistakes than any other in the league. This season the Colts have turned the ball over just 6 times, the fewest in the NFL and have committed the least penalties with 28 for 227 yards. Houston is tied for 15th with 50 penalties for 499 yards.

The Texans showed improvement in turnovers against Kansas City but still had a fumble by Keenum late in the fourth quarter. The Texans turnover differential improved slightly in Week 7, but it is still minus-eleven with just five takeaways and sixteen takeaways.

“Physiologically, it just wears you out, to sit there and go down the field and put the ball on the ground or throw an interception, turn the ball over,” Kubiak said. “We concentrated on it throughout the bye week and these first few days, on Monday, we did some extra red zone work against each other. We’ve got to improve down there as a team, not just one side of the ball.”

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