It took one ferocious hit by safety Danieal Manning to get the Texan' defense off the field in the first quarter. And that was the start of a special homecoming for the former Chicago defender.
Following a Texans' 3-and-out to start the contest, the Bears' Jay Cutler connected with tight end Kellen Davis for what would've been a pickup of six yards. But Manning jarred the ball loose, linebacker Tim Dobbins scooped it up and Houston wound up kicking a field goal on the ensuing possession.
"He played a lot of great football here, and I know it was important to him," head coach Gary Kubiak said. "He had a great week of practice, but he's been playing well for us."
Later in the opening quarter, Manning struck again, intercepting a Cutler pass at the Texans' 6-yard line and squelching a Chicago drive that started at Houston's 45-yard line. It was one of three Bears' turnovers in the first quarter.
"We were in a zone coverage on that backside," Manning said. "Early in the game I was showing down. I was trying to get him to run the ball and he checked and motioned the guy out to the back stay inside. He pumped fake to the left over Brandon [Marshall] and I ran back to [Matt] Forte, ran back to the seam to make a play."
Along with the interception and forced fumble, Manning finished with three tackles in the Texans' win. But returning to the place he started his career as a second-round draft pick in 2006 was surreal.
"Just pulling into the stadium I saw where we used to park," Manning said. "I'm seeing the guys pulling in, I was like 'This is crazy.' I'm on the other end. Actually I've never been in this locker room."
Manning signed with the Texans in late July of 2011 after five years in Chicago. The Abilene Christian alum has helped stabilize the secondary over the last couple seasons, and his heroics on Sunday night were no surprise to his defensive coordinator.
"Danieal Manning is a great player, and I've been saying it all along," defensive coordinator Wade Phillips said. "You could certainly see it today. You could see it tonight."
On Saturday evening, prior to the team meeting, Kubiak asked if Manning wanted to say anything to his teammates. The veteran did, and stressed the need to remain resilient and to continue making plays. It was an experience with which quarterback Matt Schaub could easily identify.
"I knew what type of game it was going to be for him," Schaub said. "I've been there before, too. My first year here, going back to Atlanta. So, it's special when you go back and play against the guys you were in the locker room with before. I knew it was a big game for him. He came out and played exceptional."
Manning came close to intercepting two more passes on the night, and his leadership—both vocal and by example—have served the Texans well.
"He's outstanding," Phillips said. "He's a tremendous guy. He's the leader of the secondary. I don't know many safeties better than him."