Fast start turning sour for struggling Texans

HOUSTON -- Houston Texans coach Gary Kubiak and his players took turns this time, accepting responsibility for another loss.

Falling short against the San Diego Chargers was one thing. The bigger issue is that the Texans seem to be making more mistakes as the season wears on, and they're running out of time to correct them.

Houston (4-4) has dropped four of six games since a 2-0 start. The Texans play at Jacksonville (4-4) on Sunday, a critical divisional game that Houston needs to win if it's going to back up the preseason talk about earning the franchise's first playoff berth.

Kubiak's tone was mostly positive in Monday's team meeting. He complimented the overall effort and performance, but he lamented the handful of bad plays that cost Houston the game.

"We did a lot of good things," Kubiak said. "We should've been here making 10 or 15 corrections with a win. But we've got to come in here today and try to make them after not getting it done."

Once again, the most glaring errors occurred in the secondary. Rookie cornerback Kareem Jackson gave up two long touchdown passes to Seyi Ajirotutu, and Philip Rivers threaded two more TD passes between defenders to tight end Randy McMichael.

The Texans have allowed a league-high nine pass plays covering at least 40 yards, most of them going to the receiver Jackson was covering. Kubiak defended Houston's first-round draft pick again on Monday, insisting that Jackson is the best player to handle the challenging position.

"He gave up the big plays, and we got beat in man-to-man coverage," Kubiak said. "He has done some good things, too. We could show you a lot of positive things that the young man has done.

"If you play 70 plays, and you play 65 of them pretty darn good, but five of them aren't very good, well, then the five that aren't very good are going to get talked about when you don't win."

And Jackson certainly isn't the only one at fault for the Texans defense, ranked dead last in the NFL.

The pass rush was a non-factor in most of Sunday's game and has only 12 sacks to rank 25th. Houston forced two turnovers -- including an interception by Jackson -- against San Diego, but the Texans have only eight takeaways all season after forcing 27 last year.

"We've got to strip the ball out and try to make some big plays," Kubiak said. "To me, those things come in bunches. If you keep playing hard, you tend to find some. We haven't, so hopefully, in the back half of this season, we get a lot better from that standpoint."

The defense can't talk all the blame for Sunday's loss.

The offense failed to convert two fourth downs in the second half -- one after a questionable decision by Kubiak -- and Pro Bowl receiver Andre Johnson mishandled a pass inside the 10-yard line that turned into a decisive interception.

Kubiak, in his fifth year, owned up to making a poor decision on a fourth-down play from the Chargers' 34 with 3:34 left in the game.

Tight end Joel Dreessen made a sliding catch, just shy of the first-down marker. The Texans hurried to the line, Matt Schaub took a quick snap and was stopped by San Diego's defense on a quarterback sneak.

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"I wish I had it back, but I don't," Kubiak said. "I thought we needed about a half a yard, after I saw Joel go down. We ended up needing a yard, and we didn't get it. I wish I would've called a timeout and went in another direction."

The Texans still had one more chance to win, driving to the Chargers' 28 with less than two minutes left. That's when Johnson made a miscue that might have been the most stunning of all.

He has rescued the Texans with clutch catches throughout his career, he but couldn't corral Schaub's low pass. The ball ricocheted off his knee and Chargers safety Paul Oliver made the interception.

Kubiak encouraged his players to look ahead and forget about Sunday's loss as soon as they could.

"We're 4-4, that's where we're at," he said. "We've got to go get ready for next week, there is a lot of football left. If we keep playing as hard as we played, and keep doing a lot of the good things we did, things will go our way."

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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