Brian Cushing will have to wait another season before facing Andrew Luck for the first time.
After missing both matchups with Indianapolis in 2012, Cushing will be out of Sunday's lineup against the Colts. The inside linebacker was placed on injured reserve after suffering a season-ending leg injury at Kansas City. Head coach Gary Kubiak said the three-time defensive captain's absence was noticeable on the practice field this week.
"I think I could kind of sense Monday when we went back to work that Cushing wasn't on the field from an emotional standpoint," Kubiak said. "But we had to adjust to that last year. So we'll have to do that again. J.J. (Watt's) already a leader, but I think it's going to call for some other guys to be vocal. I think Joe Mays has got more confidence in what he's doing. Unfortunately, we've been down this road before and some guys will have to step up."
When Cushing tore his ACL in Week 5 againt the New York Jets, the defense struggled to make up for the loss. In 2012, the Texans had the second-ranked defense and was ranked third in scoring when Cushing played. In the final 11 games of the season, the team slipped to 16th in total defense and 20th in scoring defense without him.
Through seven games in 2013, Cushing led the defense with 64 tackles, 44 solo, 1.5 sacks, three quarterback hits, two passes defensed, and one interception returned for a touchdown. As defensive captain, Watt already considers himself a leader but hopes to elevate his game play with Cushing gone.
"56 made some great plays out there," Watt said. "If I need to make a couple of more plays, I'll make a couple more plays. I'll do whatever it takes to win football games. It's that plain and simple. Just make plays and win football games. I think everything else will take care of itself."