Despite some of the off the field issues regarding cornerback Dunta Robinson, and the early injuries in training camp, the Houston Texans have had a pretty solid camp. Their defense looked considerably improved from a year ago in their preseason opener at Kansas City, and quarterback Matt Schaub has looked the part of a franchise quarterback.
Then the other shoe dropped. The other shoe being the New Orleans Saints, and they dropped their feet directly into the rear ends of the Texans defense in a 38-14 blowout victory Saturday night.
Houston was completely unable to stop the run, as former Texans castoff Mike Bell managed to gain 100 yards on just 10 carries.
"I thought we were not very physical in the football game at all," Texans head coach Gary Kubiak stated following the game. "They ran the ball extremely well on us. I think I'm just sitting here looking at 6.2 (yards) a clip and I don't think that we ran the ball well at all. But in all three phases, they were more physical than we were as a team. We started fast but after they answered that first drive I thought they were the most physical team throughout the game."
The after effects of that game have been felt throughout the week of practice for the Texans, and they vow to play better on Monday night when they will be on a national stage against Brett Favre and the Minnesota Vikings.
"I think it's response more than anything for our football team because we were really having a great camp, progressing along, feeling pretty good about what we were doing and then boom. You get a dose of reality. I want to see us respond to that," the Texans head coach said.
The Minnesota Vikings are a team in which the word finesse does not apply, not even in the preseason. Minnesota believes in a run the ball, stop the run philosophy, and that helped make them NFC North champions a season ago.
"This is a great football team we're playing," Kubiak said of the Minnesota Vikings. "So, there'll be nothing false about where we're at. I'm looking forward to the challenge and I want to see our guys respond."
One of the ways the team must respond is certainly on defense, and it starts with stopping the run. The Vikings have the consensus best back in the league in Adrian Peterson, and if Houston struggled stopping Mike Bell a week ago, Peterson could make for an enormous headache.
"He runs fast and he's a strong guy," Texans defensive captain Demeco Ryans said. "He's definitely one of the top backs in this league."
Peterson faced the Texans defense last November and put up a workmanlike 25 carry, 139-yard performance that included a touchdown run.
The Texans are well aware that they have to be physical if they don't want to be part of a Sportscenter highlight again.
"He is a violent runner," Ryans said of the Pro Bowl running back. "He is a guy you really have to bring it when you're going against him. You can't go over and try to arm tackle him. He's going to run through it. You really have to give him all you have, all you've got when you're going up to tackle."
Although this is just a preseason game and the outcome doesn't matter much in the grand scheme of things, a good showing against the "Fighting Favres" would go a long way in restoring the team's confidence entering what could be a make or break season for much of the team, including the head coach.
"Well, we want to win every time we go out," Texans head coach Gary Kubiak said. "It doesn't matter whether it is a preseason game or regular season game. That's our goal. If you're doing it for any other reason, you're making mistakes—but it's important. It's time to play. It's important. Our starters are playing three quarters against their starters and they've got a fine, fine football team. We know that. So it's very important."