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Houston Texans

Five things to watch: Texans at Browns


Running back Steve Slaton will look to make plays between the tackles at Cleveland on Sunday.

The Texans (3-7) and Browns (4-6) meet for the sixth time with Cleveland holding a 3-2 series lead. Houston is hoping to secure its first road victory of the year with a high-octane offense that ranks fifth in the NFL at 370.1 yards per game.

1. Running the ball against Shaun Rogers: The Texans are coming off a 177-yard rushing performance at Indianapolis where rookie Steve Slaton ran for 156 yards, including a 71-yard touchdown. Pro Bowler Ahman Green also rushed for two touchdowns in the game.

Coach Gary Kubiak said he would like to run the ball even more when his team is on the road to limit turnovers. That means the Texans will look to pound the ball between the tackles at Cleveland on Sunday. The only wrinkle in their plan is defensive tackle Shaun Rogers.

"Shaun is as good as there is in this league," quarterback Sage Rosenfels said. "Not only just on run plays, usually guys as big as him just play on run plays, he plays first down through third down and when his motors running, he's very, very impressive.

"He's a load up there. For how big he is, he's got some pass rush type stuff. He doesn't just stand there like some guys that are as big as he is. He can do it all."

{QUOTE}This season, the 6-5, 360- pound Rogers has recorded 53 tackles and 4.5 sacks. For Slaton to find a crease in the Browns' 3-4 defense, center Chris Myers will need guards Chester Pitts and Mike Brisiel help him block Rogers. The offensive line also will have to mix it up and play outside and inside zones.

"As a runner, we basically want to run away from that, to run away from him," Green said. "He knows that. So in terms of the passing game, our offensive line has to be ready because like I said, he's a big guy but he's still quick. He can get around blocks very well."

The Texans rank 15th in rushing, averaging 114.3 yards per game. The Browns, on the other hand, are 27th in run defense, giving up 145.2 yards a game.

2. Quinn's broken finger may change things: Browns quarterback Brady Quinn broke his right index finger during Cleveland's Monday night win over the Buffalo Bills. The team's injury report said Quinn participated in the full practices this week, and he plans to play Sunday against the Texans.

"If he's going to play, then I assume he can do everything," Kubiak said. "So, it won't change anything."

Quinn took over as starting quarterback for Derek Anderson two weeks ago and has two touchdown passes and no interceptions in two games. He has a great feel for the pocket and has helped the offense look crisper with no delays, false starts and unnecessary timeouts.

The Texans aren't changing their game plan because of Quinn's injury, but his broken index finger could make it harder for him to grip the ball in cold weather, causing him to sail several passes. And that would change things for the Texans, giving them the momentum they need on the road.

"I'm sure he's a tough kid, and he's not the first person that's played with a broken finger," Rosenfels said. "The worst one is the thumb. That's what Brett Favre broke a few years ago, and he played through that. And that's almost impossible to do because you literally can't squeeze the football and if you can't squeeze the football, you don't have a chance."

3. All is right for Dunta: Cornerback Dunta Robinson will start on the right side at Cleveland with Jacques Reeves at the opposite cornerback position. Robinson hasn't been in the starting lineup since last Nov. 4 at Oakland when he tore his right ACL and ripped his hamstring off the bone on the same leg.

Since his return on Oct. 19 against Detroit, he has 18 tackles, an interception and three pass deflections while taking most of his snaps as a nickel back.

"People wan t to see me line up outside and they want to see me take away receivers the way that I've done in the past," Robinson said. "I'm excited about it. I've played a little bit outside, but now here's my chance to show everybody, to show the Texans that I'm still that number one corner."

Robinson will face a Browns' receiving unit led by Pro Bowler Braylon Edwards, who leads the team with 576 receiving yards this season. Tight end Kellen Winslow, who recorded 107 receiving yards against the Texans last year, is listed as questionable for the game with a shoulder injury.

Regardless, Robinson has a lot to prove in base defense, especially because he is in the final year of the contract he signed as a rookie in 2004.

"I have to go out there and I have to play football," Robinson said. "I have to show the world that my knee is correct, so I can get what I think I deserve and a lot of other people think I deserve."

4. Joe vs. the Mario: The best one-on-one matchup could be Browns left tackle Joe Thomas going against right defensive end Mario Williams. Thomas, who made the 2008 Pro Bowl as a rookie, probably will go one-on-one against Williams. Thomas is that good.

Williams leads all AFC defensive ends with eight sacks, but he hasn't taken down a quarterback in the last three games. He's hungry. The Texans might have to get creative with Williams, moving him around on the line or having him stand up.

Quinn wasn't pressured much in his two games, and a healthy dose of Super Mario could make life very difficult for him in his third start.

5. Now or never for the run defense: The Texans' run defense has looked porous in the month of November, allowing three consecutive 100-yard performances by opposing ball carriers. Houston ranks 17th against the run, allowing 132.5 yards rushing per game.

Those statistics have Browns running back Jamal Lewis licking his chops. Lewis is averaging 3.6 yards a carry and he excels at making plays between the tackles. Last season against the Texans, he ran for 134 yards and a touchdown.

The Texans' tackles will have to play big upfront for all four quarters to contain Lewis. Rookie defensive tackle Frank Okam, the biggest player on the roster, might see more action in the trenches. Defensive tackle Amobi Okoye should return to the lineup after missing two games with a high ankle sprain.

"It's been frustrating in the fact that statistically, that's the frustrating part about it, I don't have any sacks," Okoye said. "Play-wise, I've been happy with the way I've been able to get better from last year, last season. I've seen a lot of improvement in myself."

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