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Run game fuels early success

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The running game will continue to be the foundation of the Texans' offense this season.

Head coach Gary Kubiak reviewed the Texans' 34-21 victory over the Panthers during a Monday press conference, highlighting key performances as well as what to watch for in the upcoming matchup with the Colts.

'Dre watch: Wide receiver Andre Johnson is "questionable or doubtful" for Deep Steel Sunday against the Colts after an MRI on Monday morning revealed a sprained left knee. Johnson, who has 262 receiving yards and three touchdowns through two games, suffered the injury on a hit from Panthers safety Chris Harris in the fourth quarter of the Texans' victory Sunday.

Click here to get the full scoop from HoustonTexans.com's Nick Schenck.

Winning formula: Houston has depended on the run to set up the pass this season, and it has paid dividends in the form of back-to-back victories. The Texans have amassed more than 100 yards rushing in both regular season games, averaging 33:19 of possession time.

"That's the way our team plays best," Kubiak said. "When we went (to Carolina) yesterday, we preached to our guys all week that if it was second-and-10, we were going to get ourselves to third-and-five or third-and-six because if we were sitting third-and-10 with (Julius) Peppers and (Michael) Rucker and those guys teeing off on us, we weren't going to play very well.

"It was the way we wanted to play the football game and, fortunately, we were able to pick up some big third downs and stay on the field."

The Texans used that same run-oriented, clock-chewing approach in piling up 191 yards rushing and 35:59 of possession time during last season's Christmas Eve victory over Indianapolis. Running backs Ahman Green and Ron Dayne will attempt to mimic that effort this weekend and keep Colts quarterback Peyton Manning off the field as much as possible.

"You better do it or it's going to be a long dang day for you," Kubiak said. "I think everybody in this league has found that out. Just sitting there watching Tennessee yesterday, Tennessee was trying to run the ball and keep their third downs manageable and they were in position at the end of the game to have a shot. You better play pretty close to that way to have a chance against this football team."

Okoye growing up: After the season opener against Kansas City, Kubiak said that defensive tackle Amobi Okoye played like the rookie he is. He couldn't say the same on Monday following the 20-year-old's two-sack performance against Carolina.

"He has the ability to rush the passer, and that's what he showed in the game," Kubiak said. "He's gotten better against the run. He's an explosive guy. When he gets off of a block, that space that he covers getting to the quarterback, he covers it awful quick. I think he just played with a little more confidence his second time out. He was a factor...and he definitely made a lot of improvement from week one to two."

Solid play across the defensive line has helped to take pressure off Okoye. Jeff Zgonina, Anthony Maddox, N.D. Kalu and Earl Cochran all have been playing well enough to allow the Texans to shift and rotate players along the line to keep them fresh as the game progresses, something the team had difficulty doing last season.

Big game for Brown: Kubiak lauded the play of free safety C.C. Brown. Against the Panthers, the third-year pro out of Louisiana-Lafayette recorded a season-high six tackles, two assisted, along with a pass defensed and a recovery of a fourth-quarter DeAngelo Williams fumble that set up the Texans' final score of the game.

"A guy to definitely mention from this performance was C.C. Brown," Kubiak said. "It's the best game I've seen him play since I've been here. He played very, very well."

All of a sudden, the Texans' safeties aren't such a question mark. New starter Von Hutchins led the Texans against Carolina with 11 tackles, and recently signed Will Demps forced a fumble on defense. If Brown's improved play continues, the safeties could emerge as one of the team's surprise strengths.

Injury report:

  • Cornerback Fred Bennett is day-to-day with hamstring soreness but should be fine.
  • Tight end Mark Bruener missed most of the Panthers game with the flu. Bruener began the game on special teams but left feeling ill after the first 10 plays and did not return.
  • Defensive lineman Earl Cochran suffered an abdominal sprain and running back Ron Dayne was "banged up" after the Panthers game, but both should be fine and ready to play on Sunday against Indianapolis.
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