Two weeks after a 27-13 defeat to the rival Dallas Cowboys, the Texans were overwhelmed by another NFC East opponent at home as the New York Giants cruised to a 34-10 win in front of 71,110 fans at Reliant Stadium.
The result dampened the enthusiasm surrounding the return of Pro Bowl linebacker Brian Cushing, who made his 2010 regular season debut following a four-game suspension. Cushing finished with nine tackles and a tipped pass, but he could do little to slow down the Giants' aerial attack, which accounted for three touchdowns and 297 of the team's 414 net yards of offense.
Besides the Texans' problems in pass defense, the team allowed three sacks, had two turnovers, committed eight penalties and totaled only 24 net rushing yards. The run game never got on track after entering the week ranked first in the NFL with 172 rushing yards per game.
Afterward, coach Gary Kubiak described his team's slow start and disappointing performance.
"They kicked our tail in every phase of the game," Kubiak said. "We got sacked, turned the ball over and then throughout the rest of the half, they dominated us as a football team.
"We just got our butt kicked and played undisciplined. That's a reflection of me. That's not us, and we've got to figure out a way to fix it."
Wide receiver Andre Johnson returned to the field after missing last week's win at Oakland to rest his high ankle sprain. He caught a team-high five passes for 95 yards (19.0 avg.), but he didn't get his first reception until the third quarter. Quarterback Matt Schaub targeted Johnson five times in the first half without a completion. Many of the balls were batted down at the line of scrimmage.
"He's our go-to guy and we obviously want him involved no matter what game we're playing or who we're playing against or what defenses they're throwing at us," Schaub said. "We had some opportunities to get him the ball and just a couple balls were batted down and our attention to detail of what we were doing wasn't there."
On the flip side, the Giants' receivers found holes in the secondary throughout the game. Wide receiver Hakeem Nicks caught 12 passes for 130 yards (10.8 avg.) and two touchdowns, while wide receiver Steve Smith totaled 89 yards on six catches (14.8 avg.) and a score.
While the Texans intercepted two passes for the second week in a row, the secondary is still having trouble getting stops consistently.
"Obviously, that's an area that's not good enough right now, but nothing was good today," Kubiak said. "To go pin that on the secondary again – they made a couple nice plays in the third quarter. We weren't good at all in any phase."
By the end of the first quarter, the Texans trailed 14-0. At halftime, the score was 24-3. When the Texans forced the Giants to punt on the opening series of the third quarter, it gave the team some momentum. Two plays later, though, Schaub was sacked by defensive end Osi Umenyiora, who forced a fumble that defensive end Justin Tuck recovered.
Rookie cornerbacks Sherrick McManis and Kareem Jackson responded by intercepting quarterback Eli Manning on the Giants' next two drives, but Houston converted only one of those takeaways into points. With 7:06 left in the third quarter, running back Derrick Ward bulldozed his way into the end zone against his former team, making the score 24-10.
That was the extent of the Texans' offense. On the next three possessions, Matt Turk punted twice and running back Arian Foster was stopped on fourth down with 2:48 remaining in the contest.
"We are an offense that can really get in rhythm and get things going and stay on the field," Schaub said. "And that wasn't there today for a variety of reasons, whether it was penalties or turnovers or just lack of execution."
Kubiak praised his team's practices leading up to the Week 5 game. Unfortunately, the preparation didn't translate onto the field.
"I'm shocked by how we played," Kubiak said. "The discipline part is what bothers me the most."
The loss drops the Texans' record to 3-2 with the Kansas City Chiefs (4-1) coming to town next Sunday. After that, Houston has a bye week before traveling to Indianapolis for a Monday Night Football showdown on Nov. 1.