With stellar effort in Bears' den, Texans defense proves it can carry team

by | Senior NFL Columnist
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CHICAGO -- Some teams talk about signature victories, but the Houston Texans aren't one of them. They do what they do and don't act surprised when they produce a victory like their 13-6 defeat of Chicago on Sunday night.

Only a surprise it was.

Because Houston not only got past one of the league's best ballclubs; it overcame one of the league's best defenses in improbable fashion -- with a defense of its own.

I know, the Texans entered the game as the league's third-ranked unit, so it's not as if they were unknowns. But they didn't have the Bears' notoriety.

I mean, it wasn't Houston that led the league in takeaways. It was the Bears. And it wasn't Houston that had eight returns for touchdowns. It was the Bears. And it wasn't Houston that had Brian Urlacher, Lance Briggs, Julius Peppers and Charles Tillman. It was the Bears.

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But it was Houston that sidelined Jay Cutler with a concussion, forced four first-half turnovers, allowed eight first downs and held the Bears to a season-low six points -- and one week after they scored 51.

In short, it was the Houston defense that dominated. Not the Bears.

"I think we wanted to come out and show everybody we can play defense, too," cornerback Kareem Jackson said.

Well, then, mission accomplished.

Houston short-circuited the Bears by minimizing big plays, with only one -- a 45-yard strike to Brandon Marshall -- longer than 20 yards. It minimized the damage by star running back Matt Forte, too, holding him to a total of 36 yards, with no gain longer than 8. And it took Cutler out of the game, sidelining him with a concussion at the end of the first half.

A year ago, Cutler bowed out when the Bears were 7-3, and we all know what happened then: They unraveled, winning only one more game. No one knows what's next this time, because no one knows how long Cutler is out ... if, in fact, he is. But this we do know: He was beaten by a better defense, one that held him to a 16.7 passer rating and intercepted him twice in the first half.

Afterward, coach Gary Kubiak said he had "never been more proud of a team," and it's easy to see why. The Texans wanted to show a nationwide audience they're Super Bowl worthy, and after getting waxed by Green Bay earlier this season ... at home, no less ... this was the perfect opportunity.

"We definitely had something to prove," defensive end Antonio Smith said. "We made no secret about it. Our goal is to be the No. 1 defense in the NFL, and we were facing the defense that everybody said was better than ours. So we wanted to go out and make a statement."

They did that, too, and it's high time we recognize the Texans for what they are -- a team not only headed for another division championship but someone capable of running the table in the AFC and maybe, just maybe, capable of conquering the NFC, too.

I know, I know, that Green Bay loss is troublesome. Hey, it happens. But it's the only loss Houston suffered this season.

"I'm still not all the way sold that we played our best game," said safety Danieal Manning, who had an interception and forced fumble. "Our expectation is so high, we expect to dominate."

Maybe he's not sold, but the millions that tuned in to the Sunday night telecast should be. And so should the Bears. Because the Texans won without Matt Schaub producing big numbers and without Andre Johnson producing more than 35 yards in catches and without the offense doing much of anything beside Arian Foster scoring on a 2-yard catch.

But that's why I would call this a signature victory. The Texans not only proved they can play with the heavyweights; they proved they can overcome them, even when they're not at their best ... and the reason is simple.

Defense. It can win for them just as it can win for Chicago.

"I think it's important your team believes it can win a lot of ways," Kubiak said. "I think you gain confidence when you know you're able to do things three ways and that you're not just built one way."

I do, too. That's why this was more than just another victory, despite what the Texans tell you.

"Some people may think it's a statement," Jackson said, "but, for us, we just go out and do the things we do every week. We go out and play tough defense."

And sometimes, that's enough.

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