The final play of any significance was an interception, and the home crowd rejoiced Sunday.
Beating the visiting Pittsburgh Steelers, 17-10, was impressive enough, but battering Ben Roethlisberger to the degree that the massive quarterback departed Reliant Stadium in a walking boot after being sacked five times was significantly more satisfying for all invested in the Texans.Yet, Danieal Manning needed to vent."It's only been four games -- we haven't won or lost anything," the safety said. "But if the season were to end today, we'd be in the playoffs. If we want to 'what if' this, we'd be in the playoffs and tied for No. 2 in the AFC."
And he wasn't finished.
"I love the fans, I love the media, but as a football player, this is about the Houston Texans," Manning added. "This isn't about anybody else... It's about these guys in the locker room. We're circling the wagon, and this is what we believe in. People have to write about things, people have to get it out there -- it's just the way it is. Everybody has a job to do -- I'll put it like that. It's the nature of the beast."What you guys go over and talk about, about what we talk about, we try to keep it in our wagon."
OK, so the Texans don't listen to what's being said outside of their locker room, especially what's being reported by the media. But maybe the media should have heard what the Texans were saying this week and maybe Sunday wouldn't have been so surprising.
Based on last week's fourth-quarter collapse in New Orleans, the tired, old narrative resurfaced -- the defense was a sieve once again. Never mind it was a fired-up Drew Brees leading a comeback at the deafening Superdome -- the eye-rolling and snickering resumed anyway.Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips was asked Thursday what he'd learned about his unit."We just needed to play well one quarter and we didn't do that well," he said.
He wasn't blowing smoke - Phillips said as much again Sunday, after his defense limited the Steelers to 296 yards and, most importantly, just 10 points.
"We played one bad quarter -- that's really all we've had this season," he said.
He's right. In the first 11 quarters in 2011, the Texans surrendered just 37 points. But the 23-point fourth quarter was so jarring, it shook all of the confidence in this team. Well, the confidence in this team -- outside of the locker room.
So much so that earlier in the week, head coach Gary Kubiak was asked if his team possessed an identity."I don't know," Kubiak said Wednesday. "I feel like I know my guys. Identity-wise, I don't know. That'll be developed over the course of 16 weeks. For two games and three quarters, we had a nice identity and it wasn't very good the last quarter, so we got to go change it this week."
According to inside linebacker DeMeco Ryans, consider the transformation complete. He said there was no concern when the defense was forced to protect a lead three times in the final 8:21."When we're put in situations to close games out, we're finishing those games instead of allowing teams to score, which we haven't done in the past," Ryans said. "I had no feeling we were going to blow it. When we stepped out on the field, I knew we were going to close it out. I knew it."
In the end, Jason Allen's interception of a pass intended for Antonio Brown -- the same wide receiver who'd had success against Allen with three consecutive receptions during the Steelers' lone touchdown drive in the third quarter -- was fitting.Outside linebacker Mario Williams was a menace, dragging down Roethlisberger twice for sacks. Defensive end Antonio Smith added another sack, and outside linebacker Connor Barwin and defensive tackle Shaun Cody had the others."They did a nice job, particularly at the end," Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin said. "Of course, when we had to get one-dimensional trying to play catch-up."Added Manning: "When we're covering well, they're going to get sacks."
So, do the Texans have an identity now, especially with star wide receiver Andre Johnson's uncertain status? Whatever it is, the defense must be considered a vital, focal point, no longer deserving of the "soft" label. Inside linebacker Brian Cushing thinks so, at least."I think that will change after today," inside linebacker Brian Cushing said. "I think we played one of the most, if not the most, physical teams in the NFL today."
And won, somewhat convincingly -- which wasn't a surprise to anyone inside the locker room.
"We weren't worried about a loss," he said. "We watched film and we thought we played good against (the Saints). We looked at (Sunday) as another chance to redeem ourselves, against another great team and more emphasis on this game because it's an AFC team.
In: Other News
Tags: I, don't, even, like, the, Texans, but, this, is, hilarious, to, me
Location: Austin, Texas, United States (load item map)
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