As the Texans prepare to take on the New England Patriots in Monday Night Football on Dec. 10 at Gillette Stadium, they're looking forward to the challenge of facing Patriots quarterback Tom Brady in what some players say is the biggest game in franchise history.
Head coach Gary Kubiak, who has gone against Brady several times with the Texans and during his time as offensive coordinator of the Denver Broncos, had nothing but praise for the quarterback.
"He's a Hall of Fame player," Kubiak said on Thursday. "You're watching something special whether you're coaching, you're a fan or whatever you do. They don't come around like that very often, and (he's a) great person, loves ball, great leader."
Brady has had a typically exceptional season, throwing for 25 touchdowns, four interceptions and 3,537 passing yards in 12 games. Rookie outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus is well aware of the peril Brady and the Patriots offense could bring for the Texans defense.
"He's phenomenal, gets the ball out quick," Mercilus said. "They've got pretty decent protection up front, but the guy just knows how to make plays and just make things happen. That's one of the challenges we're going to face.
"Going up against a team like that, you've got to be perfect every single phase of the game and you can't give Brady a chance, if he's behind, to get on top. You got to get on top of him early."
The Texans' defensive line believes the key to limiting Brady's success Monday night lies in the pass rush.
"We're playing a great quarterback, and we need to put pressure on him," defensive end J.J. Watt said. "As a defensive lineman, you always want to be able to put pressure on him but with just your front four. That's always our goal.
"I think that's what makes our defensive line so dangerous is you have to defend the batted ball, but you also have to defend the pass rush. It's not just a one-way street or one-trick pony. We're tough to defend, and I like that."
Brady poses a particular threat to the Texans' already banged-up secondary, which lost nickel cornerback Brice McCain to a potentially season-ending foot injury and has been without cornerbacks Johnathan Joseph and Alan Ball in recent weeks.
Despite the setbacks, Watt is confident in the secondary's ability to get the job done.
"We have a lot of trust in our back end," he said. "We know the more we bring blitzes, we can trust them and they're going to do what it takes back there. I'm trying to do it without all that extra help because we like doing it up front. That's our job."
Safety Danieal Manning said the plan for the Patriots is to continue to play man-coverage, limiting Brady's options down the field.
"They're going to draw up plays and try to get us in certain situations," Manning said. "They're going to do all the things knowing what defense we run. We've just got to be sound and make sure we're on those guys tight. Brady can pinpoint balls, so if we're on them tight, we force him to be great every time."