GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) -- Bruce Arians knows what it’s like to be an interim head coach. Now he gets a chance to go against one.
The Houston Texans will have Wade Phillips at the interim helm Sunday when they face Arizona in an attempt to end a six-game losing streak. Phillips replaces Gary Kubiak, who collapsed on the sidelines of last Sunday night’s game against the Indianapolis Colts and was hospitalized for what was described as a “mini-stroke.”
Arians, in his first season as head coach of the Cardinals, took over as interim coach of the Colts a year ago and led the team to a 9-3 record, a performance that earned him coach of the year honors and propelled him into the top job with the Cardinals. Now Phillips, a former head coach in Dallas and Kubiak’s defensive coordinator, must try to end a skid that has tied a franchise record. The Texans (2-6) never have lost seven in a row.
“It was certainly shocking what happened in the ball game and the aftermath of that,” Phillips said. “We’re certainly glad that he’s getting better. We’ve had kind of an upside down season. Generally, things haven’t been going our way very well. This was another example of that.”
The Cardinals (4-4) had a bye week after a 27-13 victory at home over Atlanta, a team that, like Houston, was supposed to be a lot better than it has been. The Texans, despite their poor record, enter the game first in the NFL in defense and eighth in offense.
“They’re extremely well-coached and they’re loaded with talent,” Arians said. “How they are 2-6 is beyond me.”
Here are five things to watch when the Texans play the Cardinals.
TEXANS MOOD: It’s difficult to judge how the coaching situation will affect the Houston players, who were having a difficult season before their coach collapsed during a nationally televised game. The Texans say they have taken developments in stride. “It’s just part of being a professional,” defensive end J.J. Watt said. “You’re dealt certain types of adversity or dealt certain hands. You just have to go out there and play. You have to deal with the situations that come your way. And right now we’re dealing with a situation where Wade (Phillips) is our interim head coach and he’s a very knowledgeable guy and knows what he’s doing. We’re in good hands.”
CARDINALS MOMENTUM: The Cardinals hope their week off doesn’t stem the momentum from their victory over Atlanta. Quarterback Carson Palmer says the time off should be beneficial with no problem getting back to work. “It was great for the entire team to get off their feet for a little while,” he said. “I know some guys went home to see family and friends and all that, but it just kind of gives you a chance to recharge.” The time off gave wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald (hamstring) and running back Rashard Mendenhall (toe) a chance to heal.
HOUSTON’S OFFENSE: Kubiak called most of the plays, and now that duty falls to offensive coordinator Rick Dennison. Arians says that makes defensive preparation for the Cardinals more difficult. “Once you have a different play caller, that’s a change,” Arians said. “There are no tendencies. You throw that out the window. There’s nothing we have on Rick Dennison other than a half of football (Sunday).” Dennison downplayed the chance of any significant change in what the Texans do. “It’s pretty much the same,” he said. “I just don’t have anybody bouncing ideas off me and me bouncing ideas off them.”
KEENUM IN CONTROL: Case Keenum will get his third straight start at quarterback for Houston.
In last weekend’s 27-24 loss to Indianapolis, Keenum completed 20 of 34 passes for 350 yards with no interceptions. It included touchdown passes of 62, 41 and 5 yards to Andre Johnson.
Keenum’s ability to get the ball downfield has been a big plus for Houston.
“We’ve had some great opportunities and they’ve kind of presented themselves in different situations as far as what coverages they’re playing and we can attack certain areas,” he said. “It’s having guys like No. 80 (Johnson) and you feel good about putting the ball up and letting him make a play. He does it more often than not, so you kind of keep looking his way when it’s crunch time.”
CLASS OF ‘04: The Arizona Cardinals had one of their greatest draft classes in 2004 and four of those picks will be on the field Sunday. They are: Fitzgerald (first round), inside linebacker Karlos Dansby (second round), defensive tackle Darnell Dockett (third round) and, now playing for Houston, defensive end Antonio Smith (fifth round). All four played significant roles in Arizona’s 2008 Super Bowl season.