*STRONG FINISHERS: ** It's hard to believe that the Texans are coming down the home stretch of the 2004 season. Time sure does fly. The season has produced both team and individual highs and some lows, but at this point, none of that matters.
With three games remaining on the slate, the Texans have one goal in mind – going undefeated from now until January. Rounding out the campaign on a positive note sounds like a great way to ring in the New Year here in Houston.
"I know as long as we just take one game at a time and play as hard as we can, I know guys on this team will," cornerback Aaron Glenn said about continuing to perform with intensity. "We've got to continue to go out there and try to make plays and win games and continue to get this franchise on the right track."
The team convened for one final practice session today in preparation for a road trip to Chicago this weekend. Glenn and the rest of the defense know they must be on point Sunday when handling the Bears offense.
Quarterback Chad Hutchinson will start in his third game of the season. Though Hutchinson didn't have a banner day last week in the Bears 22-3 loss against Jacksonville, he showed a glimpse of his potential talent two weeks ago when he threw three touchdown passes against the Vikings.
Hutchinson is the fourth quarterback the Bears have utilized this season, so the Texans defense won't have a library of film at their fingertips to diagnose and break down his tendencies.
"We know we're going to have to play a good defensive game," head coach Dom Capers said. "They're now starting Hutchinson at quarterback. He had an exceptional game when they beat the Vikings two games ago. Now I'm sure that he's getting more comfortable. It's the third game he's a starter. We've got to go in with the mindset that we have to go out and play an outstanding defensive game."
The Bears offense may not be very impressive on paper, ranking last in the league in points scored, but they do carry some offensive threats on the roster that could break out at any time.
"We have the same record so we're both at the same place and want to finish the season out strong," safety Jason Simmons said. "As far as the offense, they have talent out there, they have real good backs in Thomas Jones and Anthony Thomas and their receivers are real good so we're not going to underestimate them and I'm sure they're not going to underestimate us. We're both 5-8 and are trying to improve."
Ending the year with an 8-8 record would mean a number of things for the Texans, but mostly, it would show a lot of character as the club heads into the its fourth season.
"I hope we go into this game and prove that we're strong finishers," Capers said. "I think that these next three weeks, people remember what you do in the latter part of the season. You can tell a lot about football teams how they finish. Our goal is to go out and play our three best football games."
THE ICEBOX: With temperatures falling under 20 degrees on Sunday, Soldier Field may seem more like Soldier Ice Skating Rink….well, not really. Modern technology has certainly made its way into the football world, especially in cold weather cities where the threats of frozen ground are substantial.
In stadiums like Soldier Field, underground heating systems have been installed to prevent the ground from freezing. The ground won't be an ice cube, but the cold weather and possible snow will play a part in torn up turf. Players from both sides will be equipped with a longer set of cleats that they'll screw in to help with traction and stability on the uneven surface.
"These fields today, unless you're getting a lot of snow, the players know they have to wear the longer cleats for traction," Capers said. "It's a little different than what it used to be because most of these fields are maintained fairly well so if there's snow it doesn't affect you as much."
INJURY UPDATE:Running back Tony Hollings was one of two Texans not participating in Friday's practice session. Hollings is still resting a hamstring injury and will not be available for Sunday's game. Also missing today's work was defensive tackle Jerry Deloach, who was sent home due to illness. Capers said he expects Deloach to be ready to go for Chicago.