After a scintillating comeback victory over the Kansas City Chiefs in the NFL's Week 6, the Houston Texans sit tied atop the loaded AFC South with a 4-2 record.
While first place after six games is a feat to be excited about for a Houston franchise that's never made the playoffs, the Texans are far from a playoff lock. In fact, given one of the league's most difficult remaining schedules, and playing in not only the NFL's toughest conference but perhaps its toughest division, this is a team that has no time to rest.
Going into their Week 7 bye, Houston has already endured many uneven performances and ups and downs in the 2010 season. If they want to not only make the postseason, but also dethrone the Indianapolis Colts as kings of the AFC South, head coach Gary Kubiak's team needs to play consistent, exceptional football the rest of the way.
Following are game-by-game grades of the Houston Texans as they go into their Week 7 bye.
In what some called the franchise's biggest game ever, the Texans delivered in a 34-24 drubbing of the Colts that was not as close as the score indicated.
First-year starter at RB Arian Foster ran wild over Indy, tallying 231 yards and three TDs on 33 carries. QB Matt Schaub—with his run game proving dominant—played the role of game manager in his team's victory, throwing for 107 yards and a TD against one interception. Houston finished the win with 355 total yards on offense and committed no turnovers.
Despite Colts QB Peyton Manning's gaudy statistics, the Houston defense did a solid job containing the Indy passing game. The Texans totaled just two sacks on the day, but provided constant pressure on Manning, hitting him 10 times.
DE Mario Wiliams got 2010 off to a stellar start, garnering a sack and five QB hits all by himself. The Houston defense held one of the league's most explosive offenses to 24 points, and recovered a fumble in the process.
Offense Grade: 95 (A). Though Schaub put up meager numbers, the Texans rushing offense was absolutely dominant and kept the ball out of Manning's hands.
Defense Grade: 90 (A-). Manning put up huge numbers and Indy out-gained Houston, but the Texans defense made enough plays to hold the Colts to 24 points.
Overall: 95 (A). Houston got their 2010 season off to a rousing start with the victory over Indianapolis, and looked the part of a contender in the AFC.
In Week 2, the Texans went on the road and got a comeback victory in overtime, 30-27, against the Washington Redskins.
Schaub played perhaps the best game of his career for Houston, throwing for 497 yards and three TDs against only one interception. WRs Andre Johnson and Kevin Walter totaled 23 catches, 302 yards and a pair of scores between them. Foster and the run game never got going, but it was hardly needed. Houston racked up a staggering 526 yards of offense and committed only one turnover in the process.
After showing some bend in Week 1 against Manning and Company, the Texans' pass defense was exposed against Washington. QB Donovan McNabb threw for an easy 426 yards and a TD, as the combination of the secondary's sloppy play and no consistent pass rush hurt the Texans.
However, Houston was dominant against the run, allowing only 18 yards on 17 carries. The Redskins totaled 421 yards of offense and the Texans were unable to force a turnover.
Offense: 95 (A). Schaub and Johnson lived up to their billing as one of the NFL's top duos, and Walter provided a devastating second option.
Defense: 75 (C). McNabb shredded the Texans defense, and the Redskins didn't commit a turnover. However, on multiple occasions, Houston held Washington to a FG, which ultimately proved vital in the victory.
Overall: 88 (B+). Though the Houston defense struggled, a road win in the NFL against a quality opponent is always worthy of a stellar grade.
In a battle for the state of Texas, Houston fell to Dallas at home in a game that was not as close as the score indicated.
After two weeks of great play, the Texans offense came back down to earth against the Cowboys. Schaub threw for 241 yards, but also two interceptions. Foster had success on the ground, gaining 107 yards on 16 carries, but lost a costly fumble. Committing three turnovers, Houston managed 340 yards of offense.
QB Tony Romo tore up the fragile Texans secondary, going 23-of-30 for 284 yards and two scores. WR Roy Williams (Dallas' third option in the passing game) had his best day as a Cowboy, catching five balls for 117 yards and both of Romo's TDs.
The Texans again performed admirably against the run, as Dallas garnered just 101 yards on 27 carries. The Cowboys accumulated 385 total yards, and the Texans again failed to register a turnover.
Offense: 70 (C-). Schaub and Foster put up respectable yardage numbers, but each of them committed turnovers. Wins are rare in the NFL when throwing two interceptions and losing one fumble.
Defense: 70 (C-). Romo had his way with Houston, and the Texans gave their offense no help in the turnover battle.
Overall: 70 (C-). In another of the year's most anticipated games, Houston gave a poor performance on both sides of the ball.
The Texans got back on track on the road against the Oakland Raiders, leaving with a 31-24 victory.
Houston managed awesome balance on offense against the Raiders. Schaub threw for 192 yards and two scores, while Foster and reserve RBs Derrick Ward and Steve Slaton gashed the Oakland defense for a combined 248 yards and two TDs.
Even better, the Texans didn't commit any turnovers. In a very good effort against an underrated defense, Houston accumulated 441 yards.
Oakland QB Bruce Gradkowski had 278 yards and two TDs through the air, but also threw a pair of interceptions and lost one fumble. The Texans garnered four sacks and numerous other QB hurries.
The Texans continued their solid play against the run, as the Raiders gained only 118 yards on the ground. Though Oakland managed a respectable 363 total yards, Houston forced three turnovers, a fact that proved instrumental in their seven-point win.
Offense: 95 (A). Schaub didn't throw for a lot of yards, but had two TDs and played mistake-free football. Foster and the run game had their most dominant performance since Indianapolis, controlling the pace of the game.
Defense: 85 (B). Oakland put up acceptable yardage numbers in the pass and run games, but Houston forced three crucial turnovers.
Overall: 90 (A-). Houston got another road victory, though they obviously wish it would have come more easily against an inferior opponent. Still, victories away from home are tough to come by, and the Texans got the job done.
The Texans were embarrassed at home against the (at the time) struggling New York Giants, never competitive in a game they lost 34-10.
Schaub had by far his worst game of the year, completing fewer than half of his passes while throwing no TDs, one interception and losing a fumble. Foster and the rushing attack were equally ineffective, as Houston totaled only 25 yards on the ground.
Quite simply, the Texans were dominated by the New York defense, finishing with only 195 yards.
The Houston defense didn't fare much better, as QB Eli Manning threw for 297 yards and three scores. The Texans' run defense was again respectable, holding the Giants to 117 yards on 32 carries. Despite forcing two turnovers, the Houston defense was exposed in allowing 417 yards and multiple big plays to New York.
Offense: 50 (F). There were no positives to take from the Texans' miserable offensive performance.
Defense: 70 (C-). Houston's defense was bad, but not as poor as their offensive counterparts. They forced a couple turnovers and kept RB Ahmad Bradshaw in check.
Overall: 59 (F). At home, the Texans were absolutely dominated by the Giants.
Against the much-improved Kansas City Chiefs, the Texans completed a stunning fourth quarter comeback and won the game 35-31.
Schaub bounced back with a fantastic performance, completing 25 of 33 passes for 305 yards and two TDs. WR Andre Johnson was arguably the game's best player, catching eight balls for 138 yards and one TD as well as making several crucial plays down the stretch.
The Texans were also effective running the ball, as Foster had scores and Ward added a game-changing 38-yard TD run. Houston committed no turnovers and racked up 421 total yards, despite losing the battle for time of possession.
Much-maligned KC QB Matt Cassel had one of the best games of his career against Houston's lowly secondary, throwing for 201 yards and three TDs. The Chiefs rushing attack was even better, as KC RBs Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones helped the team to a staggering 228 total rushing yards. The Texans also failed to force a TO in allowing the Chiefs 417 yards of offense.
Offense: 95 (A). Schaub, Johnson and the combination of Foster and Ward proved deadly for Houston against KC, as the Texans offense rallied for 21 fourth-quarter points.
Defense: 65 (D). The Texans defense would receive a failing grade if not for their stands on KC's final two possessions.
Overall: 83 (B). Beating the Chiefs is no longer a small feat, though the Texans defense exhibited why many consider Houston nothing more than a fringe playoff contender.
After Week 6, this much is clear about the Houston Texans—they have one of the NFL's best offenses, and one of its worst defenses.
The trio of Schaub, Foster and Johnson is second to none in the league, and Houston's offensive line will only improve when LT Duane Brown returns from suspension. This is the unit that will carry the Texans as the season progresses.
Offense: 92 (A-)
Houston's young secondary has proven to be the league's most ineffective pass defense. QBs like Peyton and Eli Manning putting up big numbers is one thing, but allowing Matt Cassel three TD throws is another. Unfortunately, things only got worse for the Texans on Sunday with the loss of star MLB DeMeco Ryans for the season.
Defense: 68 (D+)
The Kansas City game was a perfect microcosm of the Texans season thus far. The Chiefs dominated the game's first three quarters, shredding Houston's sub-par defense on the ground and through the air. In the fourth quarter, the Texans' offense finally played to its potential, and the defense made two crucial stops.
Finding the combination of successful play by both units will be what determines whether or not Houston is a legitimate threat in the AFC. If they play as they did in the fourth quarter against KC, thE Texans should be mentioned among the likes of Pittsburgh, New England, Baltimore and company as a Super Bowl contender. If not, they will face an uphill climb just to make the playoffs.
Overall: 82 (B-)