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Houston Texans

Defense stymied by Manning


He made 13 tackles, an excellent day for any linebacker in the National Football League.

But all DeMeco Ryans could think about after the game was what he didn't do in the Texans' 30-24 loss to the defending Super Bowl champion Indianapolis Colts on Sunday.

"I did all right," Ryans said. "But I could have had a better game. Just making tackles isn't always enough."

The second-year middle linebacker was one of the best in the NFL as a rookie when he had 156 tackles, including an NFL-high 126 solos as he won AP Defensive Rookie of the Year honors.

Ryans knows that tackles are fine, but turnovers are better. The Texans forced no turnovers, managing zero interceptions and failing to recover the only fumble Indianapolis had.

"You've to get your hat on the ball," Ryans said. "You've got to knock the ball loose. We all have to do it. I'm going to have to see how I can get better."

{QUOTE}Colts quarterback Peyton Manning also was sacked only once for minus three yards. On most plays, he seemed to have five seconds and more to survey the field and find an open receiver as he hit 20-of-29 passes for 273 yards. Indy also converted a strong eight of their 14 third downs, including the first seven in a row.

"We were almost there a bunch of times," Ryans said. "But almost isn't good enough in this game. We stayed on the field too much and didn't stop them on third downs.

"Those were the main things. If we get the turnovers and stop them on third downs, it would have been a lot different.

Mostly Ryans bemoaned the lack of turnovers.

"I think we did a solid job on defense," he said. "But the biggest thing is we didn't get any turnovers like we did the first two games. That's what we pride ourselves on and we didn't do it today.

"You have to get those to give your offense a short field. I put that on us. Our offense played well, but we didn't get the turnovers today."

Otherwise, the Texans felt they could play with the Colts in this unexpected showdown of unbeaten teams. Houston was the last team to beat Indianapolis – a 27-24 victory on this same field last Christmas Eve – and they entered this game with surprising confidence.

"They're the world champions," defensive end N.D. Kalu said. "But we really felt we could beat them."

Defensive end Mario Williams agreed.

"They're a great team," Williams said. "But we've just got to get better. We've got to create turnovers. If we had gotten the turnovers, it would have been a totally different game."

Manning, the league's MVP last year, is a big reason the Colts rarely have turnovers or allow sacks.

"He just gets rid of the ball so fast," Williams said. "It's very hard to sack Peyton Manning. There were times we had guys touching him and he managed to get the ball off. He's just a great player."

Not to mention an intelligent, savvy player. Manning is known for being one of the league's best in reading defenses and switching plays at the line.

"He's a smart guy," defensive tackle Travis Johnson said. "He's like an offensive coordinator himself. It's tough when you have an offensive coordinator on the field."

Cornerback Dunta Robinson agreed.

"We had them in third downs a lot of the time," Robinson said. "But that's what a great quarterback like Peyton Manning does. He makes the big plays on third downs.

"This is the first time we've played this way this year, with a few mistakes. We've got to correct them and get better."

It was still obvious this isn't the same old Texans, a team that has come from 2-14 just two seasons ago.

"It's very different now," Johnson said. "I've been here when we were 2-14 and really, it was 2-17 counting preseason. But now it's a whole different feeling. Now we expect to win. We've just got to work and work and work and get better."

After trailing by as much as 27-10, the Texans still made a game of it.

"There's no quit in this team," Robinson said. "In past years, this game might have gotten out of hand. But we kept playing hard to the end."

That despite a rash of injuries with no fewer than four players leaving the game.

"It's always frustrating to lose," cornerback DeMarcus Faggins said. "They've got some great players, but we were excited to play them. We were ready to play them. You just have to make big plays against a team like that and we didn't."

EDITOR'S NOTE: Jim Carley is a veteran Houston sportswriter who has covered the NFL for more than 25 years. He has worked for such newspapers as the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, The Houston Post, the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner and the National Sports Daily covering such teams as the Dallas Cowboys, the Houston Oilers, the Los Angeles Rams and the Oakland Raiders.

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