Texans Wary of SD Sack Attack

The Houston Texans consistently fail to protect the quarterback. Porous pass protection ruined the career of No. 1 overall pick David Carr and has new franchise face Matt Schaub in question for Sunday. Gary Kubiak is familiar with the Bolts' pass rush from his days in Denver and is scheming to stop Shaun Phillips and Shawne Merriman.

The Tennessee Titans attacked the Texans offense on Sunday, picking up two sacks and forcing six turnovers. The Titans defensive line lived in the Texans' backfield and kept knocking down Matt Schaub until he couldn't get up any more.

Schaub was replaced by Sage Rosenfels, who threw four touchdowns in the fourth quarter to lead a frantic comeback that fell just short. Of course, much of Rosenfels' success came after the Titans backed off the pass rush and dropped into a prevent defense.

"Going into the game last week, I think we had the fewest amount of quarterback hits in the league," Kubiak said. "After yesterday, I'm not sure we still lead that category. We got hit too much. We take a lot of pride trying to protect our quarterback."

Kubiak still doesn't know which quarterback he'll be protecting on Sunday. Schaub underwent a series of tests and x-rays, all of which were clean. However, he is still walking with a pronounced gimp and in a great deal of pain. Kubiak expects Schaub to be available in some capacity this weekend, whether as a starter or a backup.

If Schaub can't go, Rosenfels will make his third career start and his first since joining the Texans in 2006.

The Texans will try some new tactics to keep the Chargers pass rush at bay. Houston will utilize more shotgun formations, something Kubiak had been reluctant to do because it eliminates the threat of the run. Also, the Texans will try to run the ball more to take the pressure off their quarterback. Franchise RB Ahman Green carried just 11 times against the Titans.

Even that may not be enough to slow a Chargers pass rush that netted six sacks its last time out.

"They're a double edge, a 3-4 team, and they're as good as there is rushing the passer, very aggressive," Kubiak said. "They've been off for a week, so they're going to be nice and fresh. We've got to go out there and figure out a way to protect our quarterback first and then move from there."

Shawne Merriman and Shaun Phillips have combined for 11 sacks -- only two NFL tandems have more. Osi Umenyiora and Justin Tuck have 15 for the New York Giants; Julian Peterson and Darryl Tapp 12.5 for the Seattle Seahawks. Both the Giants and Seahawks have played one more game than the Chargers.

The Shawne-and-Shaun tandem seeks to close the gap on Sunday and history may be on their side.

The Chargers handed the Texans their first loss in franchise history back in 2002, a 24-3 drubbing that included nine sacks by the defense.

The last time the teams met was in 2004, an opening day win by the Chargers that is best remembered for a power outage at Reliant Stadium. This year, Merriman hopes to be the one turning the Lights Out.

Michael Lombardo is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and a long-time contributor to the Scout.com network. He has followed the Chargers for more than 14 years and covered the team since 2003.


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