Normally, those losses would derail a season. But the Texans have not only prevailed, they have enjoyed unprecedented success, winning their first division title and clinching the first playoff berth in franchise history. What's carried them through injury after injury is a fierce, well-disciplined defense.
Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips arrived in the offseason and brought with him a new attitude. Running a traditional 3-4 set, Phillips will throw pressure at the quarterback -- usually in the form of three down linemen plus at least two additional rushers (LBs or DBs) -- but he backs that up with a tight man-to-man coverage in the secondary. The goal is simple: Get the quarterback down or force him to throw into coverage.
And it's working. Through Week 14, the Texans have 36 sacks, they have the third most interceptions in the NFL, and no team gives up fewer yards. While the team will have to overcome another loss (Phillips recently announced he needed to take a medical leave of absence), Houston has ridden its defense all season long and will continue to do so in its first-ever trip to the postseason.