Skip to main content

Five things to watch: Texans at Packers


Running back Steve Slaton is tied second among rookies in scoring with nine touchdowns.

The Texans (5-7) travel to Green Bay (5-7) for the first time in team history to take on a Packers team that has lost its last two games. Houston, meanwhile, looks to extend its two-game winning streak.

1. Getting heat on Rogers: There will be nothing warm about Green Bay on Sunday, but the Texans will be looking to get heat on Packers quarterback Aaron Rogers.

Rodgers has posted strong numbers in his first year as a starter, throwing for 2,897 yards, 20 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He has a passer rating of 91.2 and a completion percentage of 63.36. If Rogers has time in the pocket, he will feed the ball to wideouts Greg Jennings (64 catches, 1,057 receiving yards) and Donald Driver (54 catches, 698 receiving yards).

The Texans have turned up the defensive intensity and been getting more production out of their pass rush. They forced eight turnovers in the last two weeks against Cleveland and Jacksonville. Against the Browns, they blitzed a season-high 11 times.

"Pressure up front and just being aggressive," cornerback Dunta Robinson said. "Those are the things we've done the past two weeks, and it's kind of what we have to do this week. We have to be able to go get the quarterback."

The pass rush has been almost solely the domain of defensive end Mario Williams, who recorded three sacks on David Garrard on Monday to give him 11 this season. Williams will go after Rogers, and Robinson and cornerback Jacques Reeves will look to keep Jennings and Driver from making big plays.

With Robinson starting again at right corner in the last two games, the Texans' front seven has been able to dial up the pressure with less risk of the team getting burned. They will look to take that aggressive brand of defense to Lambeau Field and take Rogers out of his game.

2. Schaub vs. Packers' secondary: The Packers' secondary is stacked with All-Pro talent that has been making big-time plays this season. Cornerback Charles Woodson, a four-time Pro Bowler, has intercepted five passes in 2008, returning two for touchdowns. Free safety Nick Collins has intercepted five passes and returned three for touchdowns.

Green Bay defenders have pulled in 17 interceptions, which is tied for the third in the league, and have returned six interceptions for touchdowns. Their pass defense ranks fifth in the NFL, allowing 187.6 yards per game.

"You make a mistake with the ball, and they make you pay," coach Gary Kubiak said. "That's what good corners do, and they've got them. Their safeties have done a hell of a job, too."

The person most responsible for preventing mistakes will be quarterback Matt Schaub, who will be back in the huddle after missing four games with a knee injury.

Schaub, who ranks sixth in the league in passing with 251.7 yards per game, has thrown eight interceptions this season to 10 touchdowns. He will have to be careful with the ball against a man-coverage team with a secondary fast enough to lock down opposing receivers.

"They are a big man-under team," Kubiak said. "(Collins) is involved whether he's in the middle of the field cheating toward routes or playing quarters and jumping on underneath routes and those types of things. They're a very aggressive defensive football team and when they touch the ball, they're very capable of taking it right back the distance."

3. Slaton grinds it out: Running back Steve Slaton is coming off 130 yards rushing and two touchdowns on Monday Night Football. The rookie enters Week 14 with 904 rushing yards, 34 receptions and nine total touchdowns. He is averaging a 5.0 yards per carry.

The Packers are 27th in the league against the run (141.7 yards per game), 28th in yards allowed per carry (4.8) and coming off a week in which Carolina running back DeAngelo Williams scored four rushing touchdowns against them.

{QUOTE}Slaton probably has been licking his chops, which he would never admit.

"They are a hard-nosed team," he said. "Any time they get to play at home, it's definitely in their favor. So we're just going to have to up there and just keep grinding."

Historically, teams look to run the ball on the road in poor-weather conditions to minimize turnovers. And because Green Bay boasts the fifth-best pass defense in the league, the Texans' ground game will need to move the chains. That all points to the Texans needing a big day from Slaton.

4. The Lambeau chill: The Texans have never played at Lambeau Field. They also haven't played at a place as cold as Green Bay this season. The forecast calls for a high of 20 degrees and a low of seven.

There's no way for the Texans to practice playing in those conditions, and Kubiak said he is not changing the game plan because of the weather. The Texans will establish the run early and look to stay aggressive on defense, which would be Kubiak's plan regardless of the game's location.

"We've all been cold at some point in our lives before, so it's mind over matter," Robinson said. "As soon as you run around, you're not cold any more. Early in the game, guys probably will be dreading it, but that goes away when the game starts."

Most of the Texans have said they don't plan on dressing in long-sleeved shirts, and the offensive line will fine any member of the unit who wears a long-sleeved shirt under his jersey.

"Just don't wear sleeves and go out there and fly around, that's all I say," wide receiver Kevin Walter, a Chicago native, said. "It's going to be a lot of fun."

5. It all comes down to turnovers: The Texans have won the turnover battle three times this season. Not shockingly, they have won all three of those games. In wins over Cincinnati (35-6), Cleveland (16-6) and Jacksonville (30-17), Houston was plus-eight in the turnover margin with six interceptions and five fumble recoveries. The Texans have recorded eight takeaways in their last two games.

"I think that guys have a little more confidence with each other right now in where they're at and what's going on and what we're doing just from getting repetitions together and doing it together," Kubiak said about the defense.

As for the offense, the turnover problem has boiled down to interceptions. Schaub and backup quarterback Sage Rosenfels have combined for 18 interceptions this season. They will have little margin for error at Green Bay.

"We'll have to win a turnover battle, we'll have to run the ball," Kubiak said. "We're going to have to be very sound at what we're doing and handle pressure with noise and a great place to play. Those are the things you've got to be able to do if you want to be successful in this league."

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.

Related Content