NFL Preview - Houston (2-2) at San Francisco (2-2)|
By Michael Rushton, Contributing NFL Editor
(SportsNetwork.com) - The Houston Texans need a bounce-back victory in the
Something similar to what the San Francisco 49ers pulled off last time out
would do just fine.
The Texans try to snap a two-game slide on Sunday night when they visit the
Niners at Candlestick Park.
Houston jumped out to victories over San Diego and Tennessee to begin the
season, but dropped a 21-point decision in Baltimore prior to last weekend's
23-20 overtime home loss to unbeaten Seattle.
The Texans led 20-3 and had outgained the Seahawks 324-88 in the first half,
but did little with the ball after halftime.
Still, Houston was in position to win after an interception by cornerback
Johnathan Joseph, but Matt Schaub was picked off by Seattle's Richard Sherman
on a 3rd-and-4 play and the defensive back raced 58 yards for the game-tying
score with 2:40 left in the fourth quarter.
Seattle eventually won when Steven Hauschka kicked a 45-yard field goal with
3:19 to play in overtime.
Schaub threw for 355 yards with a pair of touchdowns, but also had an
interception returned for a score for a third straight week. Still, the Texans
are not giving up on their quarterback.
"Everybody has bad games. Everybody has bad runs. This is the NFL. It's not
easy out there, especially at that position. He's our quarterback. He's our
leader. I'm riding with him," said running back Arian Foster, who rushed for
102 yards in the setback.
Still, Houston is now a game off the pace in the AFC South behind Indianapolis
and Tennessee and will try to avoid losing three in a row for the first time
since closing out the 2011 campaign with three consecutive setbacks.
"I don't get too consumed with where we are right now," said Texans head coach
Gary Kubiak. "I get consumed with how we're playing and what we're doing. I
think, obviously, it could be worse right now. It could be better if we won
our game (Sunday). But we've just got to stay focused on our play. It was
very, very good for a good period of time, but not good enough when it was all
said and done."
Things had not been going well for the defending NFC Champion 49ers following
a Week 1 win over Green Bay. They were outscored 56-10 in consecutive defeats
to the Seahawks and Colts before rebounding last Thursday with a 35-11 rout of
the St. Louis Rams.
Colin Kaepernick, held to 277 yards passing with four interceptions and no
touchdown passes in the two setbacks, connected on a pair of scoring throws
versus the Rams. He only passed for 167 yards, but completed 65.2 percent of
his throws (15-for-23).
Kaepernick got a lot of help from his ground game. Frank Gore rushed for 153
yards on 20 carries and scored a touchdown, while fellow running backs Kendall
Hunter and Anthony Dixon also found the end zone.
"I thought everybody did a good job," said San Francisco head coach Jim
Harbaugh. "The energy and toughness was there. It was good team defense, the
coverage was tight and we got turnovers."
Gore and Kaepernick both lost fumbles, the third game in a row with a lost
fumble for the quarterback, but San Francisco forced two turnovers and had
five sacks despite playing without linebackers Aldon Smith (personal) and
Patrick Willis (groin).
Linebacker NaVarro Bowman logged his first career multi-sack game with two
while adding six tackles and a forced fumble.
Sunday marks just the third meeting between the 49ers and Texans, with each
team having won at home. Houston will visit San Francisco for the first time
since a 20-17 overtime setback on Jan. 1, 2006.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
All eyes with be on Schaub as he is starting to see the tide go against him.
He has thrown for 1,193 yards with eight touchdowns this season, but has been
picked off six times and sacked 11.
Schaub knows the only thing he can do is go right back to work on the field.
"It was one play the other day and it was a very important play, but we'll be
better when we get back into that situation again. You just go right back to
work and get right back in the film room, get right back out onto the practice
field and go to the next one," said the quarterback.
Houston is ranked fifth in total offense, but just 19th in scoring as Schaub
continues to make back-breaking mistakes. Kubiak, though, doesn't see it as a
lack of confidence.
"I don't see a lack of confidence. I see some poor decision-making situations,
some that he has to handle and some that we can help him handle. But there are
a lot of good things that are happening too, but the problem when you to play
that position, if there's three or four glaring mistakes, they can be the
difference in winning and losing," said Kubiak.
Not helping Schaub last week as the fact that All-Pro left tackle Duane Brown
was inactive due to a sprained toe, but he did participate in practice on
Houston now goes up against a San Francisco defense that ranks fourth in the
league in yardage allowed and held St. Louis to just 18 yards rushing on 19
The 49ers held the Rams to just 188 yards in the victory despite playing
without two of their top linebackers, though Willis has a chance to return
"They've got a great pass rush, very good defense up front, good secondary,"
said Schaub. "Much like we faced last week and the week before for that
matter. They're a good group and have been for a couple of years. We're going
to have to be at our best come Sunday night in their building."
Waiting for Houston will be safety Donte Whitner, who picked up his first
interception of the season last weekend as well as a fine for an unnecessary
Whitner confirmed on Wednesday that he has in fact filed paperwork to change
the spelling of his last name.
"From here on out until I retire, my name will be Donte Hitner, without the
Kaepernick is also looking to put some struggles behind him and was able to
avoid the big mistake and move the ball down the field at times versus St.
Louis. He hooked up with wide receiver Anquan Boldin on a 42-yard catch while
completing TD throws to the wideout and tight end Vernon Davis.
He awaits another challenge in the form of a Texans defense that has yet to
give up more than 300 yards of offense in a game this season. Houston also had
five sacks and two takeaways versus Seattle.
Linebacker Whitney Mercilus had 2 1/2 sacks and end J.J. Watt was credited
with eight tackles and a half-sack. The two lead the club with 3 1/2 sacks on
the season, while defensive end Antonio Smith has notched at least a half-sack
in four straight games dating back to last season.
In all, Houston's defense is giving up just 254.3 yards per game.
"J.J. Watt is one of the top players in this league," noted Harbaugh. "Strong,
great ability to rush the passer, get passed blocks and then on the
quarterback almost immediately when he's able to that. He's able to run and
use his length. A lot of really good things to his game."
Watt is second on the club with 25 tackles behind only linebacker Brian
Cushing, who has 33 but also left the previous game with a concussion. Kubiak
said that Cushing is doing good and participated in things on Wednesday, but
had yet to fully go through the league's concussion protocol.
Schaub is facing the possibility of going from the frying pan into the fire.
The embattled signal-caller goes up against another defense that can put a
quarterback on his back, though the 49ers don't have a secondary as deep as
the Seahawks. Still, Schaub's decision making will be put to the test by the
It hasn't been as rough for Kaepernick, who has a demeanor that is tough to
crack. He to will have to be on his toes with Watt looking to knock both him
and the ball down.
This should come down to confidence, something the Niners certainly have an
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: 49ers 20, Texans 16
10/03 15:11:26 ET