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October 18, 2012

Texans' offense struggled in 1st loss of season

HOUSTON — The Houston Texans scored at least 27 points in each of their first four games, all impressive victories.

The offense hasn't operated quite as smoothly in the last two games, and looked sloppy in Sunday night's 42-24 loss to Green Bay.

Matt Schaub was sacked three times and threw two interceptions, Arian Foster was held to 29 yards rushing and the Texans (5-1) mustered only 321 yards overall.

"It was just overall frustration that we really didn't get anything going," Schaub said. "We played a good team, and we didn't play up to our standard and our level of expectation that we have for ourselves in this building. We've got to go out there this week and get back to what we do best."

Next up is Baltimore (5-1), which stifled Houston's offense in two wins last season. Schaub was sacked four times in a 29-14 loss to the Ravens during the regular season, and Baltimore intercepted three passes in a 20-13 victory in the playoffs.

"We've played each other a lot over the past couple of years," Schaub said. "There's some familiarity there. You've got to execute the plan, and execute the plays against what they're doing."

Schaub, Foster and Andre Johnson were back healthy at the start of the season, and the offense got rolling again. The running game had some early issues, but seemed fine when Foster rushed for 152 yards in a 23-17 win over the New York Jets on Oct. 8.

The Texans then finished with only 90 yards rushing against Green Bay. Houston still ranks sixth in rushing (134.2 yards per game) and leads the NFL in average possession time (34 minutes, 54 seconds).

Baltimore's banged-up defense may offer the perfect remedy — the Ravens rank 26th against the run (136.5 yards per game) and in total defense (396.7 yards per game).

"Well, certainly we need to do things better," offensive coordinator Rick Dennison said. "Nobody's in panic mode at this point. Our running game will be fine."

Houston was forced to throw after the Packers jumped to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter and a 21-10 lead at halftime.

"We can do better up front," coach Gary Kubiak said. "We can run better, all of those things, call it better. We got ourselves caught in a different type of football game than we want to play. The end result is we're not running the ball very good at all. It's not going to change how we believe and what we think we have to do to win. We've just got to look really hard at it and hopefully change it this week."

Schaub, meanwhile, has had two forgettable games after two of the best performances of his career. He threw four touchdown passes in Denver on Sept. 23, then completed 71 percent of his throws with two more TDs in a 38-14 win over Tennessee on Sept. 30.

He completed 14 of 28 passes and threw an interception in the win over the Jets, and was sacked on each of the Texans' first two drives against Green Bay, setting the tone for a humbling home loss.

Kubiak came out of the Green Bay game mostly worried about the hits Schaub took. The right side of the offensive line, with two new starters, has been a concern since training camp and Kubiak says the whole group needs to improve.

"I don't look at the right side and the left side. I'm looking at the offensive line," Kubiak said. "We didn't protect the quarterback good enough across the board. That's up front. That's the running backs. Matt took a lot of shots."

Left tackle Duane Brown said the Packers attacked with some blitzes that the Texans hadn't seen yet this season. Getting everyone back on the same page is the priority leading up to Sunday's game.

"A lot of stuff we saw on film, we thought we would get," Brown said. "But the way they timed their blitzes, it was kind of hard for us to get flush blocks and sustain our blocks. We just kind of got out of sync with our backs. That's something we've got to focus on this week."

Notes: CB Johnathan Joseph sat out practice with a groin injury. Kubiak said Joseph's status for Sunday's game will be "an end of the week decision," but he was optimistic that Joseph would play. ... Kubiak said RB Ben Tate "had a really good day" as he continues to work his way back from a toe injury. ... The Texans placed DE Tim Jamison on injured reserve with an Achilles injury, and signed rookie DE David Hunter from the practice squad. Hunter played collegiately at nearby Houston.

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