Tough Tampa Bay defense expected to challenge injury-riddled Texans Print
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Thursday, 06 December 2007 13:48
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 HOUSTON (AP) -With a chance to clinch the NFC South title Sunday against Houston, veteran Tampa Bay linebacker Derrick Brooks wants to make sure the younger players don't overlook the struggling Texans.
``We stress week by week the emphasis of what we've been doing all along,'' he said. ``We've never looked ahead, at our opponents' record, we've never looked beyond the week or beyond really the practice itself. We made a real big emphasis about that (Wednesday).''
The Buccaneers take a four-game winning streak into Houston and can secure the division with a win or losses by New Orleans and Carolina.
Tampa Bay quarterback Jeff Garcia is likely to return after being knocked out of the game against Washington two weeks ago with a deep back bruise.
``I believe that I will play,'' Garcia said. ``I'm preparing to play. I'm sure they will leave that somewhat up to me, and as far as I'm concerned I want to be out there playing, and I don't think that I'm risking anything.''
The Texans aren't so lucky, as coach Gary Kubiak said it would take a ``miracle'' for quarterback Matt Schaub to play this week. His left shoulder was dislocated Sunday against the Titans.
``He's out of the sling, which is a good thing,'' Kubiak said. ``He's still hurting pretty good. It's a matter of when he gets comfortable and we know he can protect himself, he can back on the field. But I don't see that right now.''
With Schaub out, the Texans will go to Sage Rosenfels, who has had the most action in his seven-year career this season. He's started one game and filled in during four others, and has eight touchdowns and seven interceptions.
He said getting to play more this season has helped him.
``I think I've done a lot of good things out there,'' he said. ``I've made mistakes also. The more you play, the more comfortable you feel. Usually, you end up playing better when you feel comfortable and confident.''
He'll play behind a makeshift line that will rely on inexperienced players at right guard after veteran Fred Weary broke his leg. Rookies Kasey Studdard and Brandon Frye and Mike Brisiel, who was recently signed from the practice squad, are competing for the job.
Kubiak said he'll probably let the two who perform best this week in practice split time at the position Sunday.
``They're all a little nervous because they understand what's at stake and the opportunity for all of them to step in there and be a player,'' Kubiak said.
Kubiak is probably a bit nervous too, because Houston's only other healthy quarterback is Shane Boyd, who has never played in the NFL. He's on the practice squad, but Kubiak said he'd be signed to the active roster by Saturday.
Houston, which has lost the last two, will be tested against a defense allowing the second-fewest points and the fourth-fewest yards in the NFL.
``They're good, very good,'' receiver Andre Johnson said. ``We have no room for error. We have to go out and play our best football.''
Coach Jon Gruden said the key to their defensive success has been the leadership of Brooks and cornerback Ronde Barber.
``They're not only still very good playmakers, but they're tremendous leaders,'' Gruden said. ``There's a certain code, a certain etiquette in which we prepare and practice and that's to be upheld by everybody, and to not have to do that all the time as a coach, having it come from players just is something special.''
The Texans will see a familiar face on that defense in cornerback Phillip Buchanon. Buchanon has excelled in Tampa Bay after he was released by Houston last season after a disappointing stint.
``He's really been outstanding for us,'' Gruden said. ``He's been a good tackler. He's just a great kid and he fit here with what we want done. I just think it's maybe new scenery, a new change for him maybe, that he's responded to.''
On the Houston's defense, 2006 first overall pick Mario Williams is finally living up to his draft status. The defensive end sacked Vince Young 2 1/2 times last week to set Houston's single-season record with 8 1/2 sacks.
``You watch the kid out here and he enjoys himself,'' Kubiak said. ``Mario has found the love for the game. I think Mario looks at himself and says, 'I can get a lot better. I can be a great player.' I think the light has come on for him.''
Gruden noticed Williams' development and called him the ``real deal,'' and added he's impressed with the progress of the entire defense.
``Defensively, their front four is tremendous,'' Gruden said. ``They have a great middle linebacker (DeMeco Ryans) and they do a great job in mixing their scheme. They are a much better team than 5-7 and I think they know that.''

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