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New-look defense causes fits for Colts


*Watch head coach Gary Kubiak's Monday press conference live on Texans TV at 3:30 p.m. CT.

The phrase "it was only one game" will be repeated countless times this week by the Houston Texans.

Yeah, but what a game it was.

The Texans' retooled defense forced two turnovers in the first quarter and didn't let up the pressure until late in the game and the offense took full advantage for a 34-7 victory over the Peyton Manning-less Indianapolis Colts Sunday.

"Some will take notice, others will say it was just a fluke because Peyton Manning wasn't in there, and all kinds of things," defensive end Antonio Smith said. "But I remember Kerry Collins not too long ago winning a lot of games."

The Texans defense isn't worried about what will be said.  They are keeping their focus right where it belongs.

"It's all business this year.  We expect to be 1-0 every week," linebacker DeMeco Ryans said. "This is the way we expect to play. We came out and played great defense and that's going to win us games.  We're going to be an aggressive, attacking defense.  When we step on the field we expect to dominate."

Smith forced a Collins fumble in the first quarter and Shaun Cody recovered, setting up a 1-yard touchdown run by Derrick Ward.

10-0 Houston.

Collins fumbled again on the first snap after Houston's score at the Colt 19. Seconds later, rookie Ben Tate got his first NFL touchdown.

Now it's 17-0 and the race is on. The Texans were up 34-0 at the half.

"That's the best half of football that we've played as a team," coach Gary  Kubiak said.  "It was explosive in every area, offense, defense, special teams.  We needed to be that way.  They're a heck of a football team.  They are a big division rival. We talk about starting fast as a football team.

"I'd like to see us finish better."

The defense settled into a comfort zone in the fourth quarter, something Smith expects to be addressed.

"We became a little complacent," Smith said. "We weren't as loud on the sideline.  Everyone wasn't as excited.  When you have success with 30 something point, that doesn't mean anything. You have to go out and play just as hard.  You have to have that extra that we had in the first half."

The Texans held the Colts to 64 rushing yards and 236 total offensive yards.  Collins was more successful in the second half.  He hit Reggie Wayne with a 6-yard touchdown pass with 9:17 left in the game, dampening Houston's defensive performance.

"It burned a lot because we wanted the goose egg," Smith said. "We wanted to put an exclamation point in the defensive day. That's just something we have to go back to the drawing board and fix. If you don't fix little problems, they become big problems."

The Texans showed big strides in preseason but getting it done on the real schedule put them in a great frame of mind.

"Every year is a new year and this year it feels good to come out and show off our new defense and have a good defense for the first game but we're not satisfied with just one game," safety Grover Quin said. "We're ready to continue to get better."

The Texans had to learn on the fly after the end of the lockout.  Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips installed the 3-4 defense, moved defensive end Mario Williams to linebacker and it showed immediate results.

"I felt more comfortable," Williams said. "It was a team effort.  I couldn't have done it without coverage. It was a good chance to get out there the first real game to get out there and make something happen. We still have work to do.  We leaked some runs out that we shouldn't have done but we'll be all right."

Williams got two sacks against the Colts and is still learning to play in a standup position.

Williams benefitted from finding himself one-on-one with Colts tight end Dallas Clark.

"The way our defense is set up, you sometimes can get mismatches and when that happens, you have to take advantage of it," Williams said.   

Rookie defensive end J.J. Watt got his first pro fumble recovery in his first regular season game.

"It felt good," Watt said. "It was a big momentum change deep in their territory and you give our guys the ball and they're going to score. It was good to give them that opportunity."

The Texans were generally considered the worst defense in the NFL last season.  Their first unit was impressive when they played in the preseason, but Sunday, they showed their potential.

"We got going really good in a short period of time," Kubiak said.  "There's no doubt in my mind if we don't turn the ball over in the fourth quarter it could have been even better.

"He's (Phillips) been exceptional.  The players have adjusted quickly to what he wants them to do.  The defensive staff has done a very good job in a short period of time."

Striking an early blow to the Colts, helps everyone's temperament.

"We've heard a lot over the past year about our struggles and I think we were tired of it," Cushing said.  "I think we came out and it was a good start.  Now we turn to Miami."

Smith was especially pleased with the big plays by the defense.

"A big play ignites the whole team," Smith said.  "That's one thing I enjoyed seeing today. Instead of one or two people celebrating with each other, I saw the whole team went crazy. 

"When you are having fun playing anything, the tone is set.  You feel unstoppable.  You feel you can do anything. You have positive vibes."

Is it too soon to start thinking playoff tickets?

"We need as much belief as you can," Smith said.  "Faith and belief is the only way you get anywhere.  So, if our fans believe in us, if they have faith, it can't do anything but help us, if you have that much positive vibes going around Texas and Houston. It can't do anything but help.

 "We came this year not to be a contender but to be one of the best teams in our division. That's our goal. That's the only thing that we see.

"So, if you believe, buy away."

EDITOR'S NOTE: Michael A. Lutz worked for The Associated Press for 38 years covering news and sports in Louisville, Ky. Dallas and Houston. Most of that time was spent in Houston covering the Oilers, Astros, Texans and other college and pro sports.

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