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Fewer chinks in the armor

The Texans' 2003 bye week occurs at the same point in the schedule as last season's bye week.

Last year, quarterback David Carr desperately needed the breather. Through four games, he had been sacked 25 times as Houston entered the off week on a three-game losing streak.

Carr, like his teammates, isn't going to turn down a few days off this time around. But he is definitely fresher after four games in 2003. The Texans have yielded just seven sacks, a big component of their somewhat surprising 2-2 start.

"I think it's a combination of a lot of things," Carr said. "The play-calling is geared toward me getting the ball out of my hand (quickly). I've made a conscious effort to get the ball out of my hand and not even being close to letting the defense get anything going."

The league stat sheet shows Houston tied with Denver and San Francisco for 11th in the NFL in sacks allowed. But three teams ahead of the Texans (Carolina, Miami, Tampa Bay) have played just three games.

It's early in the season, but it's also obvious that solid offensive line play equates to a better chance of a win for Houston. In their two wins, the Texans have yielded a total of one sack -- a shared sack by Jaguars defensive tackles Marcus Stroud and John Henderson in the fourth quarter this past Sunday.

In that game, left tackle Chester Pitts kept Jacksonville defensive end Hugh Douglas from getting his hands on the quarterback. Pitts pitched a similar shutout in the Texans' season-opening win at Miami against Dolphins defensive end Jason Taylor, who led the NFL with 18 1/2 sacks a season ago.

"I think I'm playing a little bit better," Pitts said. "I think I'm playing a little more consistent and protecting David a little bit better. But I still have a ways to go.

"Our offensive line is playing better as a unit. We're protecting better. David is obviously helping us as well-throwing the ball faster."

The Texans -- last in the league in total passing offense in 2002 -- rank ninth in the NFL in passing offense as October rolls around. Carr is getting more time to throw, which in turn gives him a little more confidence to fire away.

And although Houston's running isn't completely untracked, head coach Dom Capers did have enough confidence in the offensive line to get those final, precious few inches against the Jaguars at the end of the game.

"I am glad that they have confidence in us to call plays like that," guard Zach Wiegert said.

         confidence will only grow if Carr stays upright. The Texans' primary
         goal during the off-season was to protect their quarterback better.
         Through the quarter pole, that goal has been accomplished.
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