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Five things to watch for - Texans vs. Titans


The Texans' defense will have to pile on the pressure to beat the Titans in Sunday's rivalry game.

Here are five key players, matchups and things to watch for as the Texans square off against the 3-2 Tennessee Titans in the TNT rivalry game at Reliant Stadium.

1. Not in my house: The Texans' rivalry with the Titans is full of history and dramatic subplots. The Titans were born when the Houston Oilers left town in 1996, devastating many Luv Ya Blue fans.

Then, just when Houston seemed to have moved on the Texans era, the Titans broke hearts once again in 2006 by drafting hometown hero Vince Young, the quarterback of the national champion Texas Longhorns.

"He's from this city, he just doesn't play for this organization," cornerback Dunta Robinsons said. "He was a high school legend when he was here, and then he went to UT and was a college legend, so people know all about Vince Young, and they love him. He can basically be the mayor of this city when it's all said and done. But it is what it is; we've just got to make sure that we send all the Vince Young fans home sick Sunday."

Robinson was the one feeling sick last year after Young scored on a 39-yard run in overtime to complete a season sweep of the Texans. After the game, Houston fans celebrated Young with a standing ovation, and the quarterback declared the stadium was "his house."

"For him, I bet it was everything he could dream of," Robinson said. "For me, it was probably the sickest thing I could dream of. The one thing that you don't want to happen. But we've just got to make sure it doesn't happen again."

The rest of Robinson's team feels the same way. Houston is determined to pick up the intensity on both sides of the ball and come away with a win in the rugged AFC South Division, which sports the best cumulative division record in the NFL at 15-6.

The Texans also want to protect their house from a team that has beaten them eight times in 10 previous encounters…and from Young.

2. Stop the run: The Texans' first order of business will be to stop the run. Against Jacksonville, the Houston gave up 244 yards rushing with an average of 9.4 yards per carry.

"We didn't play the way we were supposed to," defensive end N.D. Kalu said. "We weren't in our gaps. I know one play, I wasn't in my gap, they took it for 60 (yards)."

The defensive line must plug the gaps and start stuffing more rushers at the line of scrimmage. The Texans linemen would like to begin with Titans running backs LenDale White and Chris Brown, who tend to power the ball uphill.

"Tennessee has two good running backs; they're probably chomping at the bit to go against us," Kalu said. "LenDale White's one of those guys that runs angry. So we've got a two-headed monster coming in here at running back and we have nothing but respect for him, but after the way we played last week, we're looking forward to this challenge to prove to ourselves and our fans that we can play against a good running team and succeed."

White receives most of the carries in goal line situations receives and leads the team with three rushing touchdowns. Brown, who has been sitting out of practice this week with a sore ankle, tops the team with 300 rushing yards, most of which came in his 175-yard rushing performance in a Week 1 win over the Jaguars.

Head coach Gary Kubiak, however, is just as worried about the Tennessee's running quarterback, Young.

"If we don't stop him from running the ball, especially after what happened to us last week, we're going to be in for a long day," Kubiak said.

3. Over the top: It's no secret that the Texans' offense has been most effective when it's moving the ball vertically. Quarterback Matt Schaub has used his pocket poise and downfield vision to connect consistently on the long ball.

Early in the season, he hit wide receiver Andre Johnson with a 77-yard touchdown pass. Last Sunday, the signal caller helped wideout Kevin Walter garner a career-high160 receiving yards.

"We've made a lot of what we call explosive plays in the passing game," Kubiak said. "You look for like seven a game. You feel like you're a pretty good team if you can find seven plays like that a game. We had a game, I don't know if it was last week or two weeks ago, where we had 12. You have to be able to make big plays in this business and get on and off the field quick. We've been making those plays."

The offense wants to continue making big plays over the top, connecting with the young receivers and tight ends who have been picking up the slack for an injured Johnson.

"There are a lot of players that have stepped up," Kubiak said. "Kevin Walter, you don't have to go any further then him. David Anderson's made plays. André Davis has made plays. Owen Daniels has picked his game up. It's a credit to a lot of guys. Like I tell them, it's exciting what we're doing moving the ball and imagine if we fix these couple other things we have, we should only get better."

4. Ground zero: The main thing the Texans have to fix is the running game, which is ranked 29th in the NFL. The team is averaging 3.1 yards a carry and just 81.7 rushing yards per game. The Texans also rank 29th in red-zone offense.

"I think from our end, we're not executing as well as we could have, and it's not consistent," running back Samkon Gado said. "At times we do as running backs and as tight ends and linemen, sometimes we execute well and sometimes we don't. Then, on the other end, we have been going against some tough defenses and they're paid to stop us as well."

Tennessee's titanic defense is proving to be the best at stopping the ball. The Titans allow only 63.8 rushing yards a game, which makes them No. 1 in the league against the run. They hunker down inside the 20 and have given up only three touchdowns on 13 attempts.

"Going against a team like the Titans is going to be interesting because they've got the number one defense, period, and number one against the run and so it's going to be tough," starting rusher Ahman Green said. "It won't be easy, which it hasn't been every week, but with them it's going to be because they're very disciplined, and they fire off the ball real well."

To have an effective running game in short yardage situations, guard Chester Pitts will have to contain Titans right tackle Albert Haynesworth, who is one of the most explosive interior linemen in the league. And Green will have to take advantage of small gaps and break away downfield.

5. Top scorer: The Texans' top scoring honors belong to kicker Kris Brown who has posted 59 points this season. Brown has been the team's key offensive weapon with the team struggling to convert in the red zone.

The 9-year veteran basically carried the Texans to 22-19 win over Miami with five field goals, including three past the 50-yard line. The kicker ensures that if the Texans can get it close, they can get points on the board.

Schaub would just like those points to be seven's.

"We're getting down in there and we can't score seven and that's the main thing and the bottom line," Schaub said. "We just need to turn those threes into sevens and we'll be fine."

The Texans' second highest scorer is receiver Andre Johnson with 18 points. The wideout hasn't played since he sprained his knee in Week 2 against Carolina, which was also the team's last decisive win.

The Texans know that getting more players into the end zone will translate into a big win.

Injury Report: For the Texans official injury report, please **click here**.

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