HOUSTON—The Houston Texans have answered all their skeptics so far with the first 4-0 start in franchise history.
Now the task is staying focused as the stakes get higher each week and they prepare for a nationally televised game against the Jets on Monday night.
Coach Gary Kubiak isn’t worried about his Texans getting caught up in the hype.
“I just think they’re very mature and I’ve told you all that,” he said. “It’s a good group of guys. They’re really hard on each other.”
Although Houston has become a popular pick to challenge for its first Super Bowl this season, Kubiak doesn’t want anything to do with questions related to the big game this early.
On Monday when a reporter asked him what the most important quality a team needs to get to the Super Bowl, Kubiak laughed and said: “Don’t get so far ahead of yourself.”
Houston wrapped up the first quarter of the season with a 38-14 win over AFC South rival Tennessee with the help of 14 points scored by the defense. It forced three turnovers by backup quarterback Matt Hasselbeck after Jake Locker was injured on a sack in the first quarter.
This season, the nine turnovers Houston has forced have led to 41 points.
“They’re feeding off each other,” Kubiak said. “They’re playing very hard. The best thing we’ve done as a team is we’ve protected the ball and taken it away. Those two things together win games in this league.”
Kubiak has been particularly impressed with his defense through the first four games. The Wade Phillips-led group is allowing the fewest points in the NFL with 14, and the 273 yards a game the group has yielded are the second fewest in the NFL.
“You score 14 points on defense, four sacks total, three turnovers, when you’re doing that type of stuff, it’s special,” Kubiak said. “We forced quite a few punts as a defensive football team this year, got to be up there at the top. They’re playing well, and they’re doing it because they’re playing together and playing very hard.”
Second year defensive end J.J. Watt has led Houston’s dominant defense so far. He had two sacks on Sunday to become the first Texan to have multiple sacks in four straight games and has 7 ½ for the season.
As good as he’s been, he sees plenty of room for improvement.
“Yeah, a lot better,” he said when asked if he could improve. “When I watch the film, there are a lot of things I can correct and a lot of things that I watch and want to improve on every single game. I’m just working on improving little things every week, so hopefully by the end of the year I’m playing my best football yet ... I’m obviously not going to sit here and tell you that I’m not having fun and playing good ball because I know that, but I’d be lying if I said I was playing my best ball.”
Watt isn’t alone in his thought that this undefeated team has plenty of areas to improve. Kubiak wasn’t happy with Houston’s performance in the running game Sunday. Arian Foster had 24 carries for 86 yards, but Kubiak didn’t like how the Texans ran the ball in a couple of key situations.
“The thing that’s bothering me the most is in the first half we score on two of four possessions ... we miss third-and-1 and we miss third-and-2 running the ball,” Kubiak said. “We’ve been pretty darn good converting third-and-short, running the football as a team. Arian has been pretty good, and that’s not the case right now. We got to look at ourselves, us as coaches, and what we’re doing and make sure we improve.”
Foster already has 103 carries this season, and his workload could increase this week as backup Ben Tate deals with a toe injury. The Texans aren’t sure of the severity of the injury, and said they’d know more later in the week. Kubiak isn’t worried that they’re relying on Foster too much.
“He can handle it, I know that,” Kubiak said. “You never know how the season’s going to go and what it’s going to take to win each week ... I’m going to play him according to how he’s playing, how he’s feeling, how he’s doing. He makes us go, so I’m not too concerned with that at this point.”
In other injury news, right guard Antoine Caldwell has a sprained right ankle and strong safety Quintin Demps had surgery on Monday to repair a broken left forearm. Caldwell is day to day and Kubiak said he isn’t sure how long Demps will be out.