Ask any defensive coordinator what he's looking for from a great unit, and he's going to mention turnovers and pressure early in the conversation.
By that standard, Wade Phillips has to be very happy with his group.
Against the Tennessee Titans, they repeatedly made explosive plays that tilted the field in their favor. Four sacks, two interceptions and two forced fumbles made it impossible for the Titans offense to get any real traction.
When the Houston offense languished in the middle of the game, it was the defense that took scoring into their own hands, returning both interceptions for touchdowns.
A look at the tape shows just how Houston made so many impact plays in one afternoon.
Glover Quin Sacks Jake Locker
Phillips brings the house at Locker. Quin is lined up over the tight end slot right. He blitzes, as does the linebacker.
The end rushes, but then peels off to cover the back out of the backfield. Locker locks in on the right side and never once sees Quin coming. He pounds the ball, then gets pounded.
There was a hot receiver on the play, but because Quin does a nice job disguising his rush, Locker never looks to him.
Locker is hit full-on in the chest and is knocked from the game. It's a clean but devastating hit.
Credit Phillips with dialing up an outstanding call.
Danieal Manning Intercepts Hasselbeck
With the game still very much in the balance, Manning makes the play of the day with a pick-six.
Taylor Thompson broke open deep just past the left hash. Hasselbeck uncorked an awful throw behind the target, who tipped it up in the air and into the waiting arms of Manning.
Ultimately, the real skill on this play for the defense was on the run back. This is a perfect example of a defense capitalizing on an "unforced error." Returns for a score are essentially random acts, but this one is set up nicely by the vision of Manning.
Though Manning's pick was about being in the right place at the right time, it is interesting that on the play, Kareem Jackson leaves his man when the ball is in the air. Had Thompson not tipped the pass, Jackson would likely have made the interception.
J.J. Watt Sacks Hasselbeck
No one in football is playing better than J.J. Watt, and his skill was on full display here.
There's nothing to this sack other than Watt whipping the guard. He jukes to the outside, uses a nice swim move on Leroy Harris and gets to the quarterback.
A defense becomes explosive when there are individuals who can win their one-on-one matchups and create havoc.
If Watt had a CIA code name, "Havoc" would probably be it.
Antonio Smith Sacks Hasselbeck, Forces Fumble
Smith does a nice job on this play shedding his block and poking the ball free from Hasselbeck, but note the coverage down field.
Even with four men in the pattern, the Texans have everything completely locked down.
Hasselbeck's internal clock goes off, and he tries to break contain just as Smith wriggles free. Hasselbeck reacted just a split-second slow, or he might have had a big gain on the scramble. As Hasselbeck tries to scoot past Smith, he knocks the ball clear.
Watt (who else?) falls on it.
Smith makes a heady play, but it's predicated by the work of his teammates on the back end. This is a turnover caused by everyone doing their job. There's nothing spectacular here, just sound football.
Kareem Jackson Intercepts Hasselbeck
As was the case with Watt's sack, winning the individual matchup is the key to forcing turnovers.
In this case, Jackson reads Hasselbeck's eyes and beats his man to the spot of the throw.
Of course, in his favor was the fact that he was close to the spot than the receiver was.
This is either a terrible route or a terrible throw, but either way, Jackson makes a perfect play on the ball, bumping the wideout as the ball arrives, gaining position.
As his man laid on the ground, Jackson scampered uncontested into the end zone, merely needing to outrun Hasselbeck to score.
Jackson shows excellent recognition, good break and superior ball skills in securing the pick and nailing the coffin shut on the Titans.
Whenever a defense combines solid execution, a smart scheme and talented players dominating their matchups, the result will be big plays.
Sacks and turnovers were the order of the day for the Texans against the Titans. They created their own plays and punished Tennessee for every mistake.