Entering their first season as a franchise with 53 players that
had little or no experience playing together, the Texans knew it would take time to develop some chemistry.
Bradford's solid game against the Titans helped the Texans rack up 458 net yards of offense.
With that in mind, they put together a team in the mold of past expansion franchises. Knowing how difficult it is for a new offense to get on the same page, the Texans focused on putting together a strong and opportunistic defense.
The philosophy paid off. While the offense slowly picked up offensive coordinator Chris Palmer's complex schemes and formations, the defense kept the team in ball games and even won a couple of them, too.
Case in point: the Texans' 24-6 victory at Pittsburgh. The Texans' offense accumulated a measly 47 net yards of offense in the game and had three first downs.
However, the Texans defense had one fumble return for a touchdown and cornerback Aaron Glenn took two interceptions to the house. The victory was symbolic of how the defense carried the team throughout the season.
Entering this year, the Texans hoped to have a little more balance as a team. On offense, a significant number of starters returned, including quarterback David Carr and wide receivers Corey Bradford and Jabar Gaffney. Defensively, all the pieces were in place for the Texans to improve on a successful 2002 season, where they finished a modest 16th in the league in total defense.
In an unpredictable and odd twist of fate, the Texans' offense and defense have practically reversed their roles from last year. Through five games, the offense has shouldered the load, while the defense hasn't held up their end of the bargain.
Although they returned 10 starters from last year, the Texans defense lost defensive tackle Seth Payne to a season-ending knee injury at New Orleans and they were without defensive end Gary Walker for the first two games of the season. Recently, Glenn missed Sunday's defeat at Tennessee due to a groin injury.
Even with the injuries, the defense has still had the services of their two leading tacklers from 2002, linebackers Jamie Sharper and Jay Foreman. Their secondary is more than capable with cornerback Marcus Coleman and strong safety Eric Brown.
Currently, the Texans rank 32nd in the NFL in pass defense and 18th in rush defense. In all, only the San Diego Chargers and Atlanta Falcons have worse team defenses.
On the flip side, the Texans pass offense ranks fifth in the league, and their rushing offense is tied for 18th, which is a significant step in the right direction after finishing 31st in the NFL in rushing offense last season. Few would have thought at the beginning of the year that the Texans offense could be mentioned in the same breath as the New York Giants, Kansas City Chiefs and Denver Broncos' offenses.
Yesterday's defeat at Tennessee mirrored the team's win at Pittsburgh last year. Only this time, the Texans defense was the inept unit and their offense couldn't quite overcome a 21-point first-half deficit.
Even with Walker's strong effort, the Texans weren't able to slow down the Titans' offensive explosion.
In Nashville, Carr threw for a record 371 yards, including a 65-yard bomb to Bradford and another 13-yard dart to wide receiver Derick Armstrong. He averaged 14.8 yards per completion and threw to eight different receivers. Most notably, the offensive line allowed just one sack against arguably the NFL's best defensive line.
Defensively, the Texans seemed outmatched. Titans quarterback Steve McNair threw for 421 yards, more than any other quarterback has thrown versus the Texans. The majority of the time McNair connected with wide receiver Derrick Mason, who had a career-game, catching six passes for 177 yards and three touchdowns.
Despite the Texans' poor defensive play, there is something positive that they can build on. In five games, they've faced some of the NFL's best running backs in Priest Holmes, Deuce McAllister, Eddie George, Ricky Williams and Fred Taylor, yet they have held each to under 100 rushing yards.
If the defense can continue stopping the run and build on that success, the offense has shown the ability to consistently move the ball and put up enough points to win. Right now, it's up to the defense to provide the offense with some much-needed stability.