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Five things to watch: Texans vs. Colts


The Texans (0-3) return home after spending three weeks on the road and regrouping from a hurricane that severely damaged Reliant Stadium. To say they need a win in Houston is an understatement, but standing in their way is the Indianapolis Colts (1-2), a team that is coming off a bye week after a slow start.

Here are the five things to watch for when these AFC foes square off at Reliant on Sunday, Oct 5.

1. Controlling the clock: The Colts' Achilles heel this season has been their run defense. In all three of their games, Indy has allowed four 100-yard rushers.

Chicago rookie Matt Forte racked up 123 yards in the Bears' 29-13 win. Minnesota's Adrian Peterson followed with 160 yards in Week 2. Jacksonville's Fred Taylor (121 yards) and Maurice Jones-Drew (107) ran all over Indianapolis the following Sunday in the Jags' overtime victory.

If the Texans can run the ball effectively, chances are they will win the game. The mastermind behind executing the attack on the ground will be assistant head coach Alex Gibbs.

"Coach Gibbs and the coaching staff really have a good plan going for this game to be able to control the clock and run the ball more," left tackle Duane Brown said. "They have a great pass rush, so you really can't drop back on them every down or else they are going to make you pay for it sooner or later. So we have a pretty good game plan going into it to be able to control the ball."

Running the ball and controlling the clock not only takes advantage of the Colts' porous run defense, it keeps quarterback Peyton Manning off the field. Case in point: The Jaguars had possession of the ball for 26 minutes in the second half and finished the game with 236 yards rushing.

"The way I look at it, if you go back and look, their time of possession has been way down," head coach Gary Kubiak said of the Colts. "Against Jacksonville, Jacksonville had the ball 40-plus minutes."

That leaves running back Steve Slaton with a heavy load to carry. The rookie rushed for 116 yards against the Titans, a team with arguably the best defense in the league right now. Slaton could rack up even more yards rushing if he can create mismatches with the Colts linebackers and keep the Texans' offense on the field.

"He's been a very impressive young man because he's played against two very physical teams," Kubiak said. "He hasn't missed a day of practice; very upbeat kid, always smiling. He's got a chance to do something special as a rookie this year. He's staring at a lot of football season left, so it will be interesting to see how he progresses."

2. Protecting Schaub's blind side: Quarterback Matt Schaub knows he will be facing a defensive line, which is built on rushing the passer with defensive end Dwight Freeney, a three-time Pro Bowler who already has recorded two sacks.

"It's a relentless group," Schaub said. "They are very fast and quick. They aren't the biggest guys in the world, but I think that's an advantage for them because they are so small and slippery and they're fast."

Duane Brown will face another tall order in protecting Schaub from Freeney. The rookie struggled to fend of Titans defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch in Week 2 but showed dramatic improvement in his pass protection last Sunday against the Jags. In that game, Schaub wasn't sacked and he ended up throwing for 307 yards and three touchdowns.

"When you think about headaches for a left tackle, you think about Dwight Freeney," Brown said. "He's fast. He has leverage and he's strong. He has everything that makes him a great pass rusher and you never really know what move he's going to do.

"If you watch them on film, Indy is not too concerned with anything else but getting to the quarterback and I think they leave the responsibility of the run to the interior lineman and the linebackers. They just try to do everything they can to bring pressure to the quarterback and, like I said, we have a pretty good game plan going into it to try to beat that."

3. A collective effort for the Texans' secondary: With starting strong safety C.C. Brown on the injured reserve list for the rest of the season, the Texans will go to a three-man rotation at safety. They secondary probably will be without starting free safety Will Demps, who has sat of practice this week with a hamstring injury.

{QUOTE}That means 10th-year pro Nick Ferguson and second-year pro Brandon Harrison probably will start and rookie Dominique Barber will provide support off the bench.

It's not the ideal situation for the Texans as they go against one of the best quarterbacks to play the game.

"It's scary to face him if you had 15 safeties that were healthy, so that doesn't change," Kubiak said. "He's unbelievable and he's going to make plays. They're going to make plays. What you have to do is just keep grinding, keep playing and not get discouraged when they make one on you. Hopefully, you find your plays before the day is said and done. It takes a total team effort to get it done against them – a very unselfish team effort – and that's what we're looking for this weekend."

Manning also has perhaps the best trio of receivers at his disposal with Pro Bowler Reggie Wayne, future Hall of Famer Marvin Harrison and tight end Dallas Clark. The Texans also plan on rotating their cornerbacks and adjusting their coverage depending on which receiver sets the Colts use. The cornerback rotation will include Fred Bennett, Jacques Reeves and DeMarcus Faggins.

"They don't come out and try to game plan anybody," Faggins said about the Colts. "They just come out and try to do what they know best, execute their plays. We just have to come in and execute our plays and make plays on the ball when the time comes."

4. 'Dre gets more involved: Andre Johnson had cornerbacks draped all over him the last two games. As a result, 'Dre pulled in just five passes for 67 yards. That doesn't sit well with the Pro Bowl receiver. He doesn't want more touches because he is selfish. He wants the ball more because he knows it will help the Texans win.

"I just go out and play," Johnson said. "All I care about is winning. Like you said, you can see the frustration. I'm tired of losing. I'm pretty sure everyone else around here is tired of losing. I just go out and play and try to help the team win. That's pretty much all I do. I'll just continue going out and doing what I can do to help this team win games."

Johnson has proved himself as one of the best deep threats in the league. But he also is excellent at making plays after the catch, which is why he might start looking for quick slant passes or dishes off of screen plays. Either way, Johnson will make it a point to get more catches against the Colts.

"It's frustrating," Johnson said. "You want to get involved in the game. You want to go out there and make plays. You just try to do your best when the ball is thrown to you. You know other guys go through it. Other guys on other teams go through it. It's part of the game. Like I said, I'm going to continue doing what I have to do to help the team win games."

5. Pressuring Peyton: Although Peyton Manning hasn't been himself since recovering from preseason surgery on an infected bursa sac in his knee, he still has the capability of being MVP-winning Peyton Manning. The Texans know that all too well as they have seen the quarterback pick apart Houston's defenses to win 11 out of their 12 contests.

"He's still pretty accurate," linebacker DeMeco Ryans said. "You can't deny him that. He's still a good quarterback. He's still running the show, he controls the offense. I always say, he's like an offensive coordinator out there on the field. He reads his coverages and then he puts his guys and makes them run the right routes to beat the coverages that you're in."

The Texans don't want Manning to have that luxury.

"If you just let him sit there and not disrupt him, he'll pick you apart," defensive tackle Jeff Zgonina said. "I don't care who is out there. Peyton, he's a heck of a quarterback and you have to keep him moving around dancing on his feet. You have to keep hitting so he knows the rush is coming so he gets rid of the ball faster."

The Texans will look to get more pressure on the quarterback and do a better job of tackling the ball carrier.

"We have to be aggressive against these guys," Ryan said. "Get our hands on the receivers. We have to tackle well against the running back. If we can get some hits on Peyton, that would be great. If we could shake him up, get some hits on him, put him on the ground. You see him on the ground a lot you know we're doing a good job."

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