Behind Enemy Lines: Houston

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Texans defensive end N.D. Kalu sat with his teammates Wednesday morning as coach Gary Kubiak rattled off just how ineffective the team has been in the third quarter.

The list went on and on.

After all, the Texans haven't scored a third-quarter touchdown in the last 10 games. They haven't kicked a field goal in the third quarter in the last six games. And they haven't even reached the red zone in the third quarter in the last five games.

"It was eye-opening, but then again, what do you do?" Kalu said. "Do you run extra sprints, so you're not tired? But it's not that we're tired. Maybe we've just got to work on some mental focus. Maybe we should get some psychiatrist in here."

The Texans haven't lined up Dr. Phil yet. They are hoping a simple emphasis on it during the week will lead to a turnaround against Tampa Bay on Sunday.

In the last two games against Cleveland and Tennessee, the defense opened the quarter by forcing punts. The offense couldn't stay on the field. They followed both weeks with three-and-outs and wound up with a 4:56 time of possession.

"It's just alarming what has taken place," Kubiak said. "You could sit here and talk about the fact that a touchdown hasn't been scored in quite a few weeks in that quarter. I tend to look at the last two weeks that have almost carbon copies of each other from the standpoint of in Cleveland and Tennessee, the same thing happened.

"(Sunday), we came out of the locker room, our defense was up, they went three-and-out. That's all you can do. Offensively, we went three-and-out. That's the least you can do. We've been dominated in that quarter."

One other similarity between the last two games is that the Texans ran the ball only four times in the third quarter. They ran the ball 13 times in the first half against Cleveland and 17 times in the first half against Tennessee.

"We just need to go out there and get some of the third downs," running back Ron Dayne said. "We have to keep the defense off the field, stay on the field, and do what we have to do to do that."

The third-quarter numbers are a stark contrast to the Texans in the quarters. For example, Sage Rosenfels has played in five games -- four of which he played the entire third quarter. All eight of his touchdowns, however, have come in the fourth quarter -- tying him for the league-lead in fourth-quarter touchdowns with Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.

Unfortunately for the Texans, their opponents haven't had the same issues.

In the 10 games the Texans have failed to reach the end zone in the third quarter, their opponents have reached it five times. In the six games the Texans have gone with a third-quarter field goal, their opponents have kicked three. And in the five games they haven't reached the red zone in the third quarter, their opponents have sneaked inside the 20-yard line four times.

"I feel great about what we do at halftime," Rosenfels said. "That's not a reason why we've struggled in the third quarter."

That doesn't mean the coaches aren't questioning their halftime routine. After all, it hasn't helped the team with their record. When the team has entered the third quarter trailing their opponent, they are 1-6. In all seven of their defeats this season, they have trailed their opponent at the end of the third quarter.

"It's a very short time in pro ball; you've got 12 minutes (at halftime)," Kubiak said. "By the time you get in there, you're flipping around and coming right back out.

"I've been a part of doing it one way for a long, long time. We've tweaked it from time to time, but obviously we've got to look real hard at what we're doing and find a way to come out of the locker room better."

SERIES NOTE

Second meeting. Bucs lead the series, 1-0. They won the only meeting 16-3 in Tampa Bay in 2003. QB Dave Ragone started in place of the injured David Carr and completed nine of 17 passes for 64 yards. Brad Johnson completed 17 of 28 passes for 237 yards. The Texans only mustered seven first downs in the entire game.

NOTES, QUOTES

--Faced with the possibility of having to make a decision on Ahman Green's status for the remainder of the season, Texans coach Gary Kubiak put the running back to work Wednesday ahead of Sunday's game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Reliant Stadium.

It was the first time in weeks Green saw action on a Wednesday, typically the first day of practice ahead of a Sunday game.

"He took limited reps with the offensive team (and) looked good," Kubiak said. "That's a positive move."

Green, who earlier this year signed a four-year, $23 million contract that included $6.5 in guaranteed money, has missed six games, including the last three, with a lingering knee injury.

If Green is unable to go against the Bucs, Kubiak will consider placing the veteran on injured reserve to open up a spot on the active roster for depth at quarterback, one of two positions (the other being guard) that took a hit over the weekend.

--Mario Williams' 2.5 sacks against Tennessee were a personal best for a game and gave him 8 1/2 for the season, a franchise record. But the second-year defensive end will have to work harder for them against the Bucs, who have allowed just 11 sacks on the season.

"Their offensive line is probably by far the best that I think that we'll face at this point," Williams said. "They're very young but they work very well together and they're very physical, so our hands are going to be full."

And then there's Jeff Garcia, if he plays after missing last week with a lower-back bruise.

"He's a great quarterback and he likes to step up," Williams said. "He's not shy in the pocket. He's not one of the guys that are going to take off because he feels a little pressure so that's another reason to it."

--Texans running back Ron Dayne will be added to the injury report this week. He didn't practice Wednesday. Dayne rolled his ankle during the game. The Texans expect rest during the next couple of days will allow Dayne to play Sunday.

"I'll expect him to be fine and ready to go," Kubiak said.

Linebacker Danny Clark will also be day-to-day again this week with a groin injury. He was inactive against the Titans. Charlie Anderson started in his place.

--Tampa Bay and Houston have met only one previous time in the regular season, but they are familiar preseason foes. The Texans and Bucs usually end their preseason with a game against each other. The Bucs lead that series 5-1.

The Bucs also won the team's only regular-season meeting, 16-3.

BY THE NUMBERS: 0

Touchdowns or field goals the Texans have scored in the third quarter of the last six games. Their last touchdown in the third quarter was in Week 2.

QUOTE TO NOTE

"Our kids are playing extremely hard. I think we played as hard yesterday as we've played all year long. There was tremendous effort on everybody's part. As far as that turnover with (WR) Jacoby (Jones), I spent time with him today. He's a young kid. He's not getting a lot of touches right now because we've had some receivers play extremely well, so his time on the field and his opportunities are kind of limited. To be honest with you, I think it was him being aggressive, saying this may be the last time I touch the ball today, I'm going to go make a play. Looking at it, it wasn't very smart. He has to fair catch that ball and give it to the offense and let's go from there. You love his aggressiveness. You love his want to, but you have to understand how that hurt the football team." -- Coach Gary Kubiak, on if he is worried about his team continuing to fight in the final four weeks.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

The Texans are still monitoring the situation with Ahman Green and trying to make a decision on whether he'll play or be placed on injured reserve. The Texans are also starting a three-man competition at right guard between Kasey Studdard, Mike Brisiel and Brandon Frye. Studdard has the upper hand, but none of the trio has any experience in the regular season. Studdard played just a handful of plays last week at the end of the game, and he struggled. It will take an adjustment for Studdard, who is used to playing on the left side.

Defensively, the Texans will be day-to-day with Danny Clark, who has a groin injury. He was replaced in the lineup last week by Charlie Anderson, who had three tackles in his first start of the season.

PLAYER PERSONNEL NOTES

--G Mike Brisiel was moved from the practice squad to the 53-man roster. He is competing for playing time at right guard. He also has a little experience as a center snapping the ball.

--C Drew Hodgdon was re-signed. He will primarily back up Mike Flanagan at center. He does have experience at guard, though, which gives the team a little flexibility.

--RB Ahman Green made a rare appearance in practice Wednesday, but the coaches are still unsure if Green will play this week. They will wait until he practices a few more days.

--RB Ron Dayne didn't practice because of a sore ankle. But he will be ready to go on Sunday.

--LB Danny Clark (groin) didn't practice. He will be day to day this week.

--QB Matt Schaub (shoulder) didn't practice, and is not expected to be ready to play for at least another week.

GAME PLAN

Offensively, the Texans look to continue to establish that running game. They have done a solid job of it lately, and run defense isn't the Bucs' strong suit. They rank 16th in the league against the run -- as compared to fourth in the league against the pass. The Texans will also try to clean up their second-half performances. They have been starting slow and steering quickly away from the run game. Expect more running in the third quarter. Despite being in two close games in the third quarter the past two weeks, the Texans have carried the ball only four times in the last two third quarters.

Defensively, the Texans must try to rattle the quarterback against a stout offensive line, which has only allowed 11 sacks this season. They must also shore up their run defense. They have given up too many yards on the ground, especially in the second half in the last two weeks. The defensive line needs to return to the level it was playing at earlier in the season.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH

Buccaneers WR Joey Galloway vs. Texans CBs Von Hutchins and Fred Bennett. Galloway is in the midst of a great season, ranking second in the league in yards per catch with 18.2. The Texans have two new, young starting cornerbacks who are still learning as they go. Bennett has three interceptions in the last four games. He and Hutchins, however, each gave up big plays last week. They can't allow Galloway to have much space this week, but he will definitely enter with the upper hand.

Texans DE Mario Williams vs. Buccaneers QB Jeff Garcia/Luke McCown. Williams is coming off a 2 1/2-sack day, but he's unlikely to keep up that pace with the Tampa Bay offensive line separating him and the quarterback. The Bucs have allowed just 11 sacks this season. Williams is on a hot streak, though. Five-and-a-half of his sacks this season have come in the last five games.

INJURY IMPACT

RB Ahman Green (knee) practiced, the first time in weeks Green saw action on a Wednesday. The Texans will evaluate him later in the week to see if he can play.

--RB Ron Dayne (ankle) did not practice, but is expected to play. He rolled the ankle early against Tennessee and continued to play through it.

--LB Danny Clark (groin) didn't practice. He will be day to day this week.

--QB Matt Schaub (shoulder) didn't practice, and is not expected to be ready to play for at least another week.


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