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HOUSTON (CBS Houston) – Even before the Texans entered training camp there has been this inkling they are special – maybe Super Bowl special.
Nothing we’ve seen to date dispels that belief.
But Sunday’s 38-14 dismantling of AFC South rival Tennessee has provided the strongest evidence that Houston is in for a season to remember. Not because the Texans are playing flawless and dominant football from start to finish but because even when they aren’t playing their best they are still good enough to beat a division foe by 24 points.
Winning in spite of your shortcomings at times is a staple of a great team and that is what the Texans did Sunday.
It normally means disaster when you run the ball and defend the run the way the Texans did against the Tennessee in Reliant Stadium. But that isn’t the case with a team as complete as the Texans are this season. When one key area failed, several other areas were there to pick up the slack and deliver the Texans to their first 4-0 start in history.
Running backs Arian Foster and Ben Tate – arguably the best backfield tandem in the league right now – couldn’t find daylight any ways they turned against one of the worst defenses this season. But it didn’t matter much when quarterback Matt Schaub had the option of turning to tight end Owen Daniels and H-back/fullback James Casey and making them game-breaking threats.
Defensively, the Texans with rising stud J.J. Watt allowed Titans running back Chris Johnson to have his break out game of the season with 128 rushing yards on 25 attempts. But it didn’t hurt as much when safety Danieal Manning and cornerback Kareem Jackson contributed 14 points off of two pick sixes on quarterback Matt Hasselbeck.
You take one strength away from the Texans and they just seem to rely on another. That was especially evident with an offense that once only had receiver Andre Johnson as its go-to weapon. But now Johnson is one of several weapons Schaub has to choose from.
Schaub completed passes to seven different receivers and Johnson just happened to be the third-leading receiver Sunday with three catches for 56 yards and no touchdowns. Daniels led the way with six catches for 72 yards and a touchdown followed by Casey with five receptions for 36 yards a score.
Two years ago if Johnson had only caught two balls in a game and was kept out of the end zone that would have been a loss for the Texans. Not anymore.
“We’ve got a ton of weapons, and you can see that. Whether it’s our wide outs or tights,” said Schaub, who was his normally efficient self with 202 yards and two touchdown passes on 20 of 28 completions. “It really is pick your poison as a defense, who do you want to lock-in and take away?”
You would hate to be the defensive coordinator having to make that decision. Titans defensive coordinator Jerry Gray clearly took the path of stacking the defensive line to overwhelm the right side of the Texans offensive line and take away any cutback lanes Foster and Tate would have tried to exploit.
The end result is neither Foster nor Tate could get much goin,, especially on third down-and-1 and the Texans rushing offense remained mostly in neutral and finished averaging just 3.1 yards per carry.
“We could run the ball better,” said Texans coach Gary Kubiak, who was on the sideline Sunday for his 100th game with the team. “I didn’t like the way we ran today.”
Most important neither did his players, who were excited to have the best record in the AFC at this point but were still mindful of the work that needs to be done if they hope to make any of it matter come the playoffs.
“It doesn’t mean anything because it could all go downhill really fast. It doesn’t matter,” said Foster said of the team’s 4-0 start. “It helps but it doesn’t matter.
“We are all happy but we need to keep pushing as a team.”
And that is exactly what Kubiak likes hearing. He knows the never satisfied attitude will pay dividends during the adversity that is always part of any NFL season.
“The good teams I have been around, that is the way they focus, because they don’t get concerned about who they play, where they play. They get concerned about how they play,” he said. “And it’s a hard thing get to take over on our team, but our guys are really into that right now.”