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Texans aim to get potent offense back into overdrive

HOUSTON -- The Houston Texans were averaging almost 28 points when they went on a three-game winning streak earlier this season. Since then the offense has slowed down and managed just 17 points in each of the last two close losses.

The Texans know they'll need to get it rolling again this week to have any chance to hand the 10-0 Colts their first loss.

Andre Johnson has an idea why the Texans struggled in Monday's 20-17 loss to the Titans.

"I think we operate well when we're in a rhythm," he said. "I don't think Monday night we were able to get into a good rhythm where we have the long drives and things like that."

The Texans had to settle for a field goal against the Titans after three straight plays from the 8-yard line netted zero yards. In their first meeting with the Colts, also a 20-17 loss, Houston lost a fumble on the 1-yard line.

"It's about us executing our plays," Johnson said. "Hitting a pass here, getting a run there, just making positive plays every time we touch the ball. It kind of gets you in a groove when you have that happen. When that happens for us we go out and play pretty well as an offense."

Houston's offensive slowdown coincided with a season-ending knee injury to tight end Owen Daniels. Daniels was leading all tight ends with 519 yards receiving and had five touchdown catches before his injury. The Texans have used Joel Dreessen and rookies Anthony Hill and James Casey in his absence, but none has established himself as the weapon Daniels had become.

The Texans have had trouble in their running game and rank 30th with 87.4 yards a game. Steve Slaton lost his starting job briefly because of a fumbling problem and has gained just 380 yards this season. Chris Brown and Ryan Moats have both seen action, but neither player has been the answer to Houston's rushing woes.

"We're adjusting as an offense," coach Gary Kubiak said. "Losing Owen Daniels, there's been an adjustment period for us and what we're doing. We're playing a bunch of backs as we search for the one to step up and do the most consistent job for us. But regardless of who's playing, you've got to find a way to move the ball and score some points."

The Texans rank third in the NFL with 284 yards passing per week, but believe establishing their running game will be key to success against the Colts. In Houston's only win in 15 meetings with Indianapolis, a 27-24 victory in 2006, the Texans had 191 yards rushing to eat up the clock and keep Peyton Manning off the field.

"You always want to be able to run the ball," Slaton said. "You need that balance just to get the safeties moving around."

The Texans have been frustrated by their inability to win close games this season. Four of Houston's five losses have been by a touchdown or less and the last two defeats came when Kris Brown missed a field goal that would have forced overtime.

Johnson said the offense should take the blame for being unable to finish games and Kris Brown shouldn't shoulder the responsibility for those losses.

"I think the good teams don't put their kickers in that situation," Johnson said. "We have to go out there and when we have the ball in the red zone we need to get seven points instead of getting three points. That's a big part of us becoming a good football team."

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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