Up next: Drastic turnaround for Texans

After three games, the Texans stood 1-2 and their defense ranked last in the NFL, including last against the run. Under first-year defensive coordinator Frank Bush, the Texans were on a pace to allow more yards and more yards rushing than any defense in NFL history.

Three games into the season, the Texans allowed 205 yards a game rushing. After six games, that average has dropped to 125. In their last three games against Oakland, Arizona and Cincinnati, the Texans have allowed 45, 44 and 46 yards rushing. That's the fewest three-game total in team history.

Playing that kind of run defense against Oakland (45 yards) and Arizona (44) is one thing, but doing it against Cincinnati (46) and Cedric Benson is something else.

The Texans went to Cincinnati trying to stop Benson, who entered the game as the NFL's leading rusher. Benson carried 16 times for 44 yards, including a 10-yard touchdown, his longest run of the game.

The Texans' defense was so good against the Bengals that Cincinnati had only 6 yards on nine plays in the third quarter.

Going into the game, the Texans' defense had a league-best 22 three-and-outs. It added five more against the Bengals.

There are several reasons for the defensive improvement, and it comes when the team has only six sacks in six games.

Outside linebacker Brian Cushing, who forced two fumbles and intercepted a pass against Cincinnati, is getting better every week after missing four preseason games because of a knee injury. He brings intensity and toughness against the run.

Cornerback Dunta Robinson is getting better every week after missing the offseason program, training camp and preseason because of a contract dispute. He plays the run as well as any corner in the league.

Cornerback Jacques Reeves has only played in the last two games because of injuries.

Strong safety Bernard Pollard was signed off the street, placed in the lineup 10 days later and has led the team in tackles in two of his three starts. He's a big hitter who plays the run well.

More important, the players are finally adjusting to Bush, new assistant head coach/defensive line Bill Kollar and secondary coach David Gibbs.

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Second-year running back Steve Slaton is being dissected like a lab rat because the running game has been terrible, averaging only 77.3 yards, including 3.0 yards a carry. Slaton has carried 91 times for 274 yards and one touchdown. He averages 3.0 yards a carry.

As a rookie, Slaton ran for 1,282 yards and nine touchdowns, averaging 4.8 yards a carry. He had 1,659 yards from scrimmage. He caught 50 passes for 377 yards (7.5 per catch) and one touchdown.

There are different theories about the drop-off this season. Slaton isn't as aggressive to the hole. The holes aren't there, especially up the middle because both guards, Kasey Studdard and Chris White, are starting for the first time and replacing injured players, and center Chris Myers gets overpowered too often.

Coach Gary Kubiak entered the season wanting a 50-50 sun-pass ratio, but he's not going to get it. To his credit -- and to the credit of offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan -- they've adjusted their strategy.

For instance, in Sunday's 28-17 victory at Cincinnati, Slaton carried 19 times for 43 yards. But rather than use him as a decoy, Shanahan got him involved in the passing game. Slaton had six catches for 102 yards and a 38-yard touchdown on a quick screen.

Slaton is the third-leading receiver on the team with 23 catches. He has 282 yards. That's a 12.3-yard average per carry. A lot of receivers would like to have that average. Slaton also has two touchdown catches.

The Texans will continue to run because play-action is imperative to their bootleg passing game. They ran 31 times against the Bengals for only 87 yards, but it helped quarterback Matt Schaub work play-action and throw for 392 yards.

Interestingly, Slaton ranks 10th in the NFL in yards from scrimmage with 556, 16 fewer than teammate Andre Johnson (572). Slaton is eighth among running backs in yards from scrimmage.

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In their victory at Cincinnati, the Texans had two 100-yard receivers in Andre Johnson (eight for 135) and Steve Slaton (six for 102) for the third time in team history and the first since 2005. Johnson compiled his third 100-yard game this season and the 28th of his career. He leads the team with 36 catches for 572 yards. His four touchdowns are tied with TE Owen Daniels for the team lead.

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The 3-3 start equals the Texans' best in team history. It's the third time they've been .500 after six games.

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Coach Gary Kubiak entered the season stressing the importance of winning on the road. The Texans haven't had a winning record on the road. They've been .500 once. They haven't won more than two games in any of Kubiak's first three seasons. Now they are 2-1 on the road for the first time, and they've won four of six away from Reliant Stadium dating back to last season.

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QB Matt Schaub threw for at least 300 yards for the fourth time this season. He leads the NFL with 14 touchdown passes, one shy of his career best set last season.

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The Texans leading the NFL by forcing opponents to go three-and-out on 27 possessions. The defense has recovered a fumble in five consecutive games, a team record.

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Because of injuries, the Texans have two guards -- Kasey Studdard on the left side and Chris White on the right -- starting for the first time. Studdard was a sixth-round pick. White, a five-year veteran, was a street free agent when the Texans signed him. He made his first start in the 28-17 victory at Cincinnati.

The Texans couldn't run effectively before they were inserted into the lineup, and they haven't run well since. Steve Slaton averages 3 yards a carry on 91 carries. However, offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan isn't abandoning Slaton. He's being used more in the passing game.

At Cincinnati, Slaton had six catches for 102 yards, including a 38-yard touchdown on a quick screen. Through six games, Slaton has 23 receptions for 282 yards (12.3 average) and two touchdowns. His 12.3-yard average is third on the team for players with at least 10 catches.

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The 472 yards generated against the Bengals last week were the third-most in Texans' history.

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PASSING OFFENSE: A -- QB Matt Schaub was 28-of-40 for 392 yards and four touchdowns. He threw one interception and was sacked twice, one of which was his fault. He completed passes to seven receivers. WR Andre Johnson (eight for 135) and RB Steve Slaton (six for 102) reached triple digits. TE Owen Daniels (seven for 78) had two touchdown receptions. Without an effective running game, his passing, not to mention the defense, helped the Texans control the ball for 36:15. One sideline pass could have been returned for a touchdown for the second week in a row, but, unlike Arizona's Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Johnathan Joseph dropped it.

RUSHING OFFENSE: D-plus -- RB Steve Slaton continued to struggle, finishing with 43 yards on 19 carries, a 2.3-yard average. After he lost his third fumble of the season, he was replaced by Chris Brown, who carried nine times for 45 yards, most in the fourth quarter. Part of the blame goes to the offensive line for mediocre run blocking.

PASS DEFENSE: B-minus -- QB Carson Palmer threw for 259 yards and one touchdown. He was intercepted at the Texans' 11 by OLB Brian Cushing, who also forced two fumbles. Bengals WR Chad Ochocinco (five for 103) had his first 100-yard game since 2007. Dunta Robinson allowed a 50-yard completion to Ochocinco.

RUSH DEFENSE: A-plus -- Cedric Benson, who entered the game as the league's leading rusher, was limited to 44 yards on 16 carries. MLB DeMeco Ryans (12 tackles) and OLB Brian Cushing (nine) were the leading tacklers. The defensive players swarmed to Benson and gang-tackled him before he was able to square his shoulders and get going downhill.

SPECIAL TEAMS: C -- K Kris Brown had a field goal blocked for the second game in a row. P Matt Turk had two touchbacks. The coverage teams were outstanding as they have been all season. Jacoby Jones' 30-yard punt return to midfield was wasted by the offense.

COACHING: A -- One of Gary Kubiak's strengths is getting his team to bounce back. Kubiak is the same win or lose. There are no peaks and valleys. Offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan is using the pass to set up the run. Defensive coordinator Frank Bush is forced to call a lot of blitzes to pressure the quarterback.

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