HOUSTON_ The first 10 games have shown there is a type of team the second-year Houston Texans can handle with some regularity. That’s something the New England Patriots should heed as they visit Sunday.
There is common ground among Houston’s victories over the Dolphins, Jaguars, Panthers and Bills. All four teams are defensive-minded partially by necessity, because their offenses aren’t exactly juggernauts.
Miami and Buffalo rank among the league’s top 11 defenses in yardage and scoring. Carolina has one of the better scoring defenses but gives up lots of yards. Jacksonville has one of the best statistical defenses, except they give up too many points.
The Texans have shown they can handle such defenses. What hurts them are talented offenses that have used myriad weapons to feast on the Texans’ depleted defense.
Coach Dom Capers _ a former defensive coordinator who believes in stout defense and a run-oriented offense _ has a hard time believing that’s the type of team his Texans have beaten.
“I don’t think so,” Capers said when asked if there is a pattern. “Those teams you’re talking about, they all have winning formulas. I think they all have good defense and the ability to run the football. Probably the things that enable most teams to win.”
Not against the Texans, who have outscored their opponents by a total of 11 points in their four victories. In losses to the Saints, Chiefs, Titans and Colts, the Texans were outscored by a total of 79 points.
The Texans’ were within a touchdown in their two other losses, to the middling Jets and Bengals, the kinds of tossup games that decide who gets wild-card berths and who watches those games on television.
That brings us to the Patriots, arguably the league’s hottest team and coming off an emotional Sunday night win over Dallas that was overshadowed by a perceived grudge between their coaches.
Maybe the odds makers, who have New England less than a touchdown favorite even with Tony Banks quarterbacking the Texans, are seeing a pattern develop, too. The Pats are third in scoring defense, allowing just 15.5 points a game, but their offense is only average.
That’s right, another defensive-minded team with a questionable offense. Just like the Dolphins, Jaguars, Panthers and Bills.
It’s not to say the Texans will win. It’s just that despite their records _ Houston is 4-6 and New England is 8-2 and riding a six-game winning streak _ the Texans for whatever reason seem built to give teams like the Pats problems.
Of course, there are patterns that work against the Texans, too. Foremost is the not-so-incidental fact that they have yet to win back-to-back games in their 26-game history.
You can break it down like this: The Texans are 8-18 over the last two years. That means they are 8-10, or nearly .500, in weeks that did not follow a win. (They’ve won both season openers.) But they’re 0-8 coming off victories.
Capers is ready for the Texans’ first winning streak, although he acknowledges a scorching Patriots squad isn’t the best candidate to help his cause.
“We know this: It’s a heck of a challenge, but it’s a heck of an opportunity,” Capers said. “We’ve got a really good football team coming in here.”
By all rights a team like New England should handle a team like Houston. Then again, the same could be said for Miami and Carolina.