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Texans' defense rising up

Posted Sep 24, 2011

With the NFL's top-ranked scoring defense through two games, the Texans are aiming to continue their stingy ways on that side of the ball.


Don’t even try to get any of the Texans defensive players or coaches to strut just because they lead the NFL in total defense.

The Texans have allowed an average of 271.0 yards in their 2-0 start and that’s quite a recovery from where they finished in 2010. They also lead the lead with 162.5 passing yards allowed and 10 points per game.

Just a little brag?

“You’ve got to congratulate yourself after a game but then the next day you’ve got to move forward,” cornerback Johnathon Joseph said.

“You still have a task at hand.  For us, it’s the drive into the playoffs and ultimately to the Super Bowl. You can’t be satisfied with 2-0 start.  You can be 2-0 and go on a 2-3 game losing streak.”

They just aren’t biting on big talk and here’s why. So far, the Texans have had a couple of pop quizzes in their victories over Indianapolis and Miami. The big exams are just starting Sunday against the New Orleans Saints followed by Pittsburgh, Oakland and Baltimore.

Facing Drew Brees and the Saints’ potent offense is enough to keep any defense humble. This season, Brees has completed 58 of 86 passes for

689 yards, six touchdowns and a 67.4 percent completion average. He has a 114.9 quarterback rating and ranks first in the NFL in third down rating at 157.0.

“They have a fast tempo so we’re going to have to play fast too,”

linebacker DeMeco Ryans said.  “He’s a very good quarterback.  He gets the ball out quick and knows where his guys are supposed to be. We have to be on their receivers tight.  We know he’ll find a way to get it in there.”

Mario Williams and Antonio Smith are among the league leaders in sacks with two apiece. Connor Barwin has a sack.

The Texans could be forgiven for acknowledging their improvement. Last season they ranked 30th in overall defense (376.9 yards per game) and last in passing defense (267.5 yards per game).

Now, the Texans find themselves in unfamiliar territory with its defense atop the league.

“Now it just means we have to uphold it,” defensive end Antonio Smith said.  “There has been a lot of 400 yard passing games and one even 500 almost 600 yard games.  So, any given week it can happen to you so you’ve got to stay on top of your game.”

The Texans are a little irritated by fans saying they haven’t been tested.

“Naysayers will always say what they want to say,” nose guard Shaun Cody said. “Miami was a great offense until we played them.  We’ve got to put some good performances together and put things back to back.”

Joseph added: “I guess it depends on how you look at it.  People can say what they say for different reasons. For us it is going out and doing what we do well.  Before last week’s game Chad Henne threw for 400 yards against the Patriots.”

Watt has learned quickly that in the NFL, victories are precious.

“People can say what they want about the first two games but this is the NFL, a win is a win,” he said. “This will be a great test and we’re excited to go to Louisiana and play a very good team and prove ourselves.

“We need to stop the run, we need to stop the pass.  That’s how you win football games.  We need to do those things and execute the game plan that coach Phillips puts in place for us.  He’s a very smart coach and we trust what he does.”

Facing Brees will be a big challenge compared with the two quarterbacks the Texans faced in their open two games, Kerry Collins and Chad Henne.

The Texans have been proficient at batting down passes in their first two games and someone pointed out that Brees isn’t all that tall.

“No, but Drew has been not tall for a long time,” Cody said.  “He knows what to do to get the ball and knows when to boot out and get the ball down field.”

Rookie defensive end J.J. Watt has been a leader of the “hands up” movement.

“I don’t know if it’s me or coach  (Wade) Phillips but it’s a lot of fun and it’s good for our defense,” Watt said. “A batted ball is a no-gain and we’ll take that as many times as we can. Those hands will be up this week trying to get as many knockdowns as possible.”

The Saints offense is noted for its high tempo.

“It doesn’t inhibit us from making substitutions,” Ryans said.  “We just have to play fast.  That’s nothing new.  I don’t think we have to match their tempo.  We just have to play fast and that’s what we do anyway.

It’s the next game for us. That’s all it is.  We’re going against the Saints.  We’re trying to go 1-0 against the Saints.”

If the defense survives the next month and remains atop the defensive stats, could there be strut line dancing before and after workouts.

Still no bravado.

“I think the mentality would be the same,” Joseph said.  “You never can relax and give up.  You’ve got to keep digging.  You never know when that turning point may come. Our ultimate goal is to go 1-0 16 times this season.”

EDITOR'S NOTE: Michael A. Lutz worked for The Associated Press for 38 years covering news and sports in Louisville, Ky. Dallas and Houston. Most of that time was spent in Houston covering the Oilers, Astros, Texans and other college and pro sports.

Content on HoustonTexans.com does not necessarily represent the views of the Houston Texans front office staff, coaches or executives.