The Texans won their game in Week 6, but they lost the heart and soul of their defense.
Middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans will miss the rest of the season with an Achilles injury to his left foot. He was hurt in the second quarter of the Texans' 35-31 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday.
"DeMeco's done for the year," Texans coach Gary Kubiak said after the game. "He tore his Achilles and he'll have surgery in the next couple of days."
Ryans had seven tackles against Kansas City before being injured on Dwayne Bowe's 17-yard touchdown catch, the Chiefs' last offensive play of the first half. Ryans hurt his Achilles when he planted and tried to jump and make a play on the ball. He was carted off the field to the locker room.
"It sucks," said Ryans, on crutches after the game. "It's the first time I've had to deal with something like this, a real serious injury… It was heartbreaking to hear the news that you're done for the season. Some things you just can't control. You just have to roll with the surgery and the rehab process and make the best of it."
The loss of Ryans, 26, is as big as it gets. A four-time captain and two-time Pro Bowler, he entered this week's game with the most solo tackles (433) in the NFL since entering the league in 2006. His 565 total tackles since 2006 ranked second to Redskins linebacker London Fletcher.
"Hands down, you really can't replace DeMeco," Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson said. "His nickname is 'Captain.' Everyone calls him 'Cap.' That goes to show you what he means to this football team. For us to lose him, it makes you feel like we can't catch a break because we're having so many guys get injured, but we just have to have some guys step up."
With their bye week coming up, the Texans have two weeks to decide on a replacement at middle linebacker. Kubiak said that weakside linebacker Zac Diles could be an option. Diles moved over to the middle in the second half on Sunday.
Rookie linebacker Darryl Sharpton also could step in, but he's dealing with a couple of injuries and was inactive in Week 6. Kevin Bentley has middle linebacker experience but has missed the last two games after having knee surgery.
"We definitely have to step our game up," Diles said. "If they do move me over to Mike, that's big shoes to fill. DeMeco's a Pro Bowl player. I have the utmost respect for DeMeco and what he does. We're going to keep pushing, we're going to keep playing and we're going to get better."
Ryans will finish this season with 54 tackles. He had at least 112 tackles in each of his first four seasons in the league.
"We lost our captain today," linebacker Brian Cushing said. "We lost him for the season, and any time something like that happens, it's a blow to the team. It's a blow to morale, but we have to play for him now. We have to step it up in a lot of ways on defense."