Looking to light a fire under his defensive teammates, Texans defensive lineman Antonio Smith called a players-only meeting earlier this week.
Safety Bernard Pollard said that Smith called everybody out – including himself. And the message was loud and clear.
"We've got to be able to come together," Pollard said. "We made a vow. We made a vow to each other… We made a vow to turn this thing around."
The Texans are 4-2, but they rank 32nd in the NFL in total defense (410.5 yards/game), 32nd against in passing defense (306.2 yards/game) and 29th in scoring defense (27.8 points/game).
Smith, along with Pollard and defensive end Mario Williams, is one of three healthy captains on the defense now that linebacker DeMeco Ryans is out for the season. Since joining the Texans last offseason from the Arizona Cardinals, Smith has been one of the team's most fiery players both on the field and off.
He had the full attention of his teammates during their closed-doors meeting.
"'Tonio has been a big part of this defense," Pollard said. "He's been a big part in this locker room. He's a silly dude, but he's a guy who knows how to win. He's a guy who's been to a Super Bowl. He knows what it takes to get to that quarterback, he knows what it takes to get that camaraderie out of everybody, and that's something that we're looking to do.
"That (meeting) is something that he called, and we all made the vow with him… Everybody shut up. Everybody listened to him. That's something we needed."
Defensive tackle Shaun Cody said that the meeting was "overdue."
"It was time for us to have a meeting," Cody said. "Hopefully, it'll help us in our defensive play.
"Antonio's a leader on our defense. He had some pretty good things for us to hear. You hope it helps, but then again, it's just words. You've got to still go out there and do it."
Perhaps the meeting is already having a carry-over effect. Pollard said Texans coach Gary Kubiak told players that Thursday's practice was one of the best that he has seen from the defense.
"I think it checked everybody," Pollard said. "I think all the guys on our defense actually had to re-evaluate their self, check their self, and today was a great practice… That's just something that we have to continue to do. "
Of course, the effort that matters most will be the one the Texans give on Monday night in their intra-divisional clash with Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts.
"He's going to Canton (Hall of Fame)," Pollard said. "Peyton is the best quarterback in the game right now. He's the best. But this is a must-win for us. This is a must-win for our defense. This is a time for us to step up."