Around the AFC South

Texans quarterback David Carr gets sacked, but this time by his coach ... The Colt are on a roll and setting records as they get ready to take on the Patriots ... Would the real Jaguars please stand up? ... and Tennessee discovers it's long-lost pass rush.

HOUSTON TEXANS

Coach Gary Kubiak made it clear since the first day he arrived that every player is replaceable. Players that have not performed well have been cut, inactivated or simply turned into backups. Almost every week, Kubiak has made a move with one player or another.

This week, Kubiak made it clear that even David Carr isn't safe. After Carr fumbled for the second time against the Tennessee Titans on Sunday, he was benched. Sage Rosenfels entered the game with under 10 minutes left in the third quarter, but couldn't bring the Texans back in the 28-22 loss at LP Field in Nashville.

Carr stood on the sidelines watching as Rosenfels put together a near-flawless half, orchestrating scoring drives on three of five series.

"At halftime, I told our team that we struggle in the third quarter," Kubiak said. "'For us to have a chance, we are going to have to play the best third quarter we've played all year.' Our football team was very upbeat at halftime. I told David, 'We have to protect the ball. I don't care what happens, we protect the ball in the second half or I am going to give Sage a chance.' That's what I told him I was going to do, and I'm a man of my word."

After the game, Kubiak quickly made it clear that Carr is still the Texans' starting quarterback when the team travels to New York next week to play the Giants. Carr said he is looking forward to an opportunity to redeem himself.

"Obviously I had a chance to think about a lot of things on the sideline today," Carr said. "I realized that he's tough on me. For good reason, though. Obviously I'm not dead. I'm not in the casket. So it's going to make me stronger.

"Standing on the sideline I reflected on a lot of things. I just want to apologize to my teammates and the guys who came down here, Mr. McNair and the coaching staff. It wasn't my best effort."

INDIANAPOLIS COLTS

Indianapolis improved to 7-0 for the second straight season, tying an NFL record that was originally set by the 1929-31 Green Bay Packers. The Colts have now won 21 of their last 23 regular-season games, 29 of its last 40 regular-season games dating back to 2004 and have posted a 90-35 record since 1999. Since 2002, Indianapolis has posted a league-best 27-8 record on the road.

"I have to take my hat off to this group of guys we have," coach Tony Dungy said. "People don't understand. It's been so long, I guess Halloween of '04, since we really lost a regular-season game that we played everyone and had everything on.

"And to do that, and to go on the road time after time into these tough places, it's the mental toughness of our club. And I'm very, very proud of them."

Indianapolis' two-game road trip continues Sunday night as the Colts will venture into Gillette Stadium to face the Patriots in a nationally-televised game. Indianapolis won last season's meeting 40-21 but had lost five in a row to New England prior to that game. Sunday's matchup will take on added significance with the return of Vinatieri to Foxboro.

"Yeah, it will be fun," the Colts kicker said. "They're playing very well and we're playing well. It's one of those things. It's a conference game and it's going to mean a lot later in the year. Every game is important but this one will be a fun one and personally it will be fun for me also."

Dungy, though, knows the road certainly is going to get tougher as the season progresses.

"You get yourself ready to go, you build your momentum and you want to be playing better. And I know our veterans understand that," he said. "Really, you want to play your best football in November and December. If we do that, we're going to be in good shape, because we're winning right now and if we play better in the next two months we're going to be fine."

JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS

Who are the real Jaguars?

Are they the team that lost in Houston for their third loss in four weeks or the team that went into Philadelphia Sunday and stunned the Eagles, 13-6?

The Jaguars remain a puzzling team. A week ago, they seemed to be a team in turmoil and now they look like a team that should be in the chase for a wild card spot after posting their first road victory over the season.

The Jaguars may have saved their season with the victory over the Eagles because they seemed to have a lot of problems last week when coach Jack Del Rio said Sunday that Byron Leftwich's ankle was a reason for his poor performance in Houston, said Monday it wasn't the ankle and then decided Tuesday it was. He finally decided to give Leftwich the week off to rest the ankle and gave David Garrard his first start of the season.

Del Rio also seemed to throw his assistant coaches under the bus when he complained that they should have told him to pull Leftwich.

And a restaurant owner posted a comment on the Jaguars' message board that one of the defensive players came into his place last week and when he was asked what happened in Houston, he supposedly said, "it was the idiot coach."

But Del Rio made all the right moves against the Eagles as they stressed the running game and gashed the Eagles with 209 yards rushing.

Del Rio also seized on the comment by former Eagle quarterback Ron Jaworski, who said on ESPN last Monday that the Jaguars were a "mentally weak" team after losing in Houston last week, to fire up his team.

Del Rio reminded the players about the comment after practice Friday and again at their Saturday night meeting and the Jaguars responded.

Just in case anybody forgot about Jaworski's comments, Del Rio brought them up at his post-game press conference without being asked about them.

"Our team was talked about by Mr. Eagle (Jaworski) here in town," he said.

On using the comments as a motivational ploy, Del Rio said, "As a coach, you'll latch onto anything you can to motivate your guys. It was a nice little thing to remind them of how somebody else saw them."

The players got the message.

Veteran defensive end Marcellus Wiley, who saw spot duty after missing four games with a groin injury, said, "It definitely ticks you off. Those comments definitely jacked us up. That's bulletin board material at its best."

Cornerback Rashean Mathis said, "We're still human. When you get insulted, it bothers you. I'm sure it inspired us a little bit. My college head coach (Alvin Wyatt) always said you never want to wake up a sleeping dog."

Del Rio said he didn't want to discuss any timetable for the return of Byron Leftwich, whom he referred to as the "starting quarterback."

Leftwich said he'll be "full go" to start practicing Wednesday for next Sunday's game against Tennessee, but it remains to be seen if Del Rio agrees with that assessment.

TENNESSEE TITANS

The Titans hope they can pick up next week against the Jaguars where they left off defensively against Houston.

They backed away from any plans to blitz, relying on their front four to rush effectively and got excellent production from the group even as defensive end Antwan Odom (knee) and defensive tackle Randy Starks (ribs) were forced from the game.

Defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch recorded two sacks, three hurries and forced a fumble and had another sack washed away by a penalty against safety Chris Hope.

Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz called KVB's performance "inspiring" and defensive tackle Robaire Smith labeled it "unbelievable."

Vanden Bosch said the line's effort rated as the best he's seen in 23 games as a member of the Titans.

"We were back there in the backfield all day," he said. "It was really, since I've been here, the best pass rush game we've had as a front four."

The Titans are riding a two-game winning streak for the first time since the end of the 2003 season, but as they prepare for their trip to Jacksonville, where they will face a much stouter defense than they've seen in recent weeks.

"I don't know if we've turned a corner," center Kevin Mawae said. "I do know it feels good to win a couple games. I know guys have got a little confidence now. We've built a little confidence. We want to keep going."

The opportunistic Titans got scores from their defense and special teams to beat Houston despite being outgained, 427 yards to 197. To compete in Jacksonville the Titans will likely need to be able to get running back Travis Henry going.

"It's going to be a challenge," said Henry, who ran for 301 yards in two games before getting held to 29 in the win over Houston. "They are good up front. (Against Houston) we struggled a little bit. We've got a lot of things we've got to do. The Jags are going to be tough."

Said Mawae: "They've got a big defensive front. Obviously Marcus Stroud and John Henderson are two mountains of men and they're going to be the challenge for us this week.


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