HOUSTON _ The Texans are neither the Super Bowl contenders they resembled by winning at Miami in Week One, nor are they the inept bumblers who fizzled down the stretch at New Orleans last Sunday. Like many things in life, the truth lies somewhere in between. “We played two teams in their home-openers and one game was exactly the way we want to play in the first game against Miami,” coach Dom Capers said. “After watching the game (film from Sunday), it’s a great example of how we cannot play.” For each reason to be optimistic about the Texans there are obvious signals not to get carried away: The offensive line had a spectacular opener when it shut out Miami sackmeister Jason Taylor and kept David Carr upright throughout the 21-20 upset. In the 31-10 loss at New Orleans on Sunday, Carr went down five times in a scene reminiscent of last year when he was dropped a record 76 times. No NFL offensive line will keep its quarterback clean week in, week out, so the Dolphins game should have been seen for what it was: a Herculean performance.In their first six quarters, the Texans held two potential playoff teams to a total of 27 points before imploding in the second half at New Orleans. The Texans defense is no fluke, ranking 16th in the NFL last year and sending defensive end Gary Walker and cornerback Aaron Glenn to the Pro Bowl. They’ve hung in there so far without Walker, out with a left shoulder injury. There are problems, though. Matt Stevens, who lacks the range usually desired in a free safety, has become the favorite target of talk radio callers for missed tackle opportunities that led to big plays in both games. And the lack of depth that wasn’t an issue last year, when injuries were few, looms as a problem with the temporary loss of Walker to a sore left shoulder and the season-ending left knee ligament tear to stalwart nose tackle Seth Payne. Stacey Mack was the conference’s second-leading rusher after his 89 yards in the first week. Then he returned to earth Sunday with 31 yards and the Texans’ inability to move the ball on the ground sent the offense into desperation mode. “We didn’t run the ball well enough. You couple that with too many penalties and what you have is a bad formula,” Capers said. “It puts you in a lot of third-and-long situations.” Bottom line is, this is a franchise 18 games into its history and still right on schedule to be a playoff contender by 2005. It just won’t always be pretty.