After a few uncertain weeks, the Texans are beginning to round into a team that won’t take a backseat to any AFC opponent.
The scary part to that is they still aren’t at full strength. That won’t come until star receiver Andre Johnson returns to the lineup following next weekend’ bye week.
At that point, if Sunday’s dominating 37-9 on the road against Tampa Bay is any indication, these Texans could be pretty close to unbeatable – against their remaining schedule anyways.
A respectable Tampa Bay team just seemed outclassed Sunday as the Texans (7-3) dispatched of them with relative ease to extend their winning streak to four straight without Johnson to take their best record in franchise history after 10 games.
The NFL’s No.1 defense, led by inside linebacker Brian Cushing, put forth perhaps its most impressive performance of the season. The unit recorded three interceptions and forced a fumble while holding the Buccaneers without a touchdown until the fourth quarter while the offense opened a 30-3 lead.
The defense also sacked Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman three times to add further insult to a day in which his rating was 31.8.
It was the kind of display that makes you wonder, which of the six remaining opponents is capable of beating the Texans as they head toward their first AFC South title and playoff berth?If only they could play the Oakland Raiders and Baltimore Ravens again down the road.
You also wonder who will stop them offensively, especially once Johnson returns from a hamstring injury that has sidelined him for six games?
The offense definitely needs Johnson’s deep-threat ability to loosen up opposing defenses, but it has been interesting to see how the Texans have adapted without him in the lineup. The cast of available wideouts that includes Jacoby Jones, Kevin Walter and Derrick Mason has played well at times but also have been too inconsistent to count on.
So Gary Kubiak and offensive coordinator Rick Dennison have turned to running back Arian Foster to do more receiving out of the backfield and that has added a formidable wrinkle that will give opposing defenses fits the remainder of the regular season and into the playoffs.
On Sunday, Foster caught four balls for 104 yards, which included a short pass from Matt Schaub that he turned into a 78-yard touchdown reception in the second quarter. Jones also got into the aerial act with an 80-yard touchdown reception on the opening play from scrimmage.
But the Texans showed their balance with Ben Tate, Derrick Ward and Foster combining for 185 yards rushing while all three backs scored a touchdown in the game.
Schaub finished the day with an efficient 11 of 15 passing for 242 yards and two touchdowns to finishing with a 154.9 rating.