Texans need win over Colts to clinch AFC South

Tuesday - 12/11/2012, 6:26pm EST

By KRISTIE RIEKEN
AP Sports Writer

HOUSTON (AP) - Houston's blowout loss at New England exposed a variety of flaws, leaving the Texans with plenty to work on before they host Indianapolis on Sunday in a suddenly critical AFC South game.

With a win, the Texans (11-2) can clinch their second straight division title.

"We've got issues," coach Gary Kubiak said Tuesday, a day after the 42-14 drubbing by the Patriots. "We've got to stop people better, we've got to move the ball better, and we've got to get rid of penalties on special teams ... we've got to play better than we've played."

Cracks in Houston's once dominant defense have surfaced in the last month. The Texans defense looked good last week in handling the struggling Titans in a 24-10 win. But Houston has given up a combined 1,402 yards and 110 points in its three other games this month, which also included overtime wins against the Jaguars and Lions.

They expected to get a boost Monday with the return of top cornerback Johnathan Joseph , who returned after missing two games with a hamstring injury. Instead, the secondary allowed Tom Brady to dominate the game by throwing for 296 yards and four scores.

The Texans hope Monday night's game will help them in the future.

"It's a teaching moment," rookie linebacker Whitney Mercilus said. "This is a good team and we can't slack off. Too many penalties and things like that, beating ourselves. We've got to be able to ... get to the passer and help out our secondary. We can't get gashed in the run. We've just got to get better."

Kubiak agreed and noted that the major difference in Monday's game was that New England took advantage of all of its opportunities for big plays, and Houston failed at almost all of its chances.

"It's part of the learning curve, I guess," he said. "It was a tough lesson to learn last night."

Kubiak didn't like the way his offense played in the second half last week against Tennessee, and was disappointed that the unit continued to struggle Monday night. Houston finished with 323 yards against the Patriots, but had trouble finishing drives.

"My biggest disappointment right now offensively is our inability to stay on the field on third down," he said after his team was just 4 of 14 on third down tries Monday. "You have to step up and make those plays, regardless of whether it's a catch, a throw, a run, whatever it is, to stay out there."

Houston has played three straight road games and is looking forward to playing at home for the first time since Nov. 18.

Instead of hanging their heads after their most lopsided loss, the Texans, who still have the AFC's best record, are looking forward to their next challenge in facing talented rookie quarterback Andrew Luck and the Colts.

"We're 11-2 and we still control our destiny," defensive end J.J. Watt said. "We control everything. We are going to go back and focus on winning the division and locking that up. Everything is still in front of us."

Kubiak is confident his team will bounce back this week because of everything that is at stake. Houston responded with a resounding 43-13 win over the Ravens a week after their only other loss _ a 42-24 defeat by the Packers.

"Fortunately, we've only had this trouble twice this year, where we've had to turn around and go back after getting beat," he said. "That's a good thing ... we've got a great opportunity ahead of us and we need to stay focused on that."

NOTES: Tight end Garrett Graham, who missed Monday's game with a concussion, should return this week. ... Kubiak said that OT Derek Newton, out for the last two games with a knee injury, is doing well, but he isn't sure if he'll be ready to play on Sunday.


(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)