Following an uncharacteristic performance, the Houston Texans‘ defense won’t have much time to prepare for another challenge.
The Detroit Lions own of one of the league’s most prolific offenses, but history isn’t on their side.
The AFC-leading Texans try to extend their four-game win streak when they play a Lions team trying to win its first Thanksgiving Day game in nine years.
Houston (9-1) ranks among the NFL’s best defenses with 18.0 points and 299.2 yards allowed per game, but struggled to contain woeful Jacksonville in a 43-37 overtime victory Sunday.
The Texans, who hadn’t allowed a touchdown in their previous two games, needed record-setting performances from Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson to help them rally from a 14-point deficit in the fourth quarter.
Schaub passed for 527 yards, tied for the second-most in an NFL game, and a franchise-best five touchdowns. Johnson posted career highs of 14 receptions and 273 yards — the most in the league since 2000 — and scored the winning touchdown in the extra period.
The Texans, though, also gave up a season-high 458 yards with Jacksonville’s backup quarterback Chad Henne throwing for 354.
“We obviously didn’t play up to our standard,” coach Gary Kubiak said. “We gave up big plays. We had a few assignment issues, which is unusual for us. That’s something we’ve got to fix.”
Houston might have another test against the Lions, who rank second in the league with 401.7 yards per game. Those efforts, though, haven’t translated into many wins.
Detroit (4-6) is coming off Sunday’s 24-20 loss to visiting Green Bay, its fifth defeat by eight points or fewer. Matthew Stafford completed a season-low 43.6 percent of his passes (17 of 39) and one of his two interceptions was returned for a touchdown. The Lions, who have lost eight in a row on Thanksgiving since beating Green Bay in 2003, had four turnovers in all, bringing their season total to 18.
“Obviously I have to play better to give us a chance to win,” Stafford said.
Stafford finished with 266 yards with five passes to Calvin Johnson accounting for 143. Johnson has 24 catches for 479 yards and a pair of touchdowns in his three games this month and might not have to face Pro Bowl cornerback Johnathan Joseph in this one.
Joseph had to leave Sunday with a hamstring injury and he’s expected to be a game-time decision for Thursday’s visit to Ford Field.
“He’s got a strain, but it’s a slight strain,” Kubiak said. “It’s just (dependent on) how he reacts to it.”
The Texans won’t have to worry about covering Titus Young as he’s being benched for what Detroit coach Jim Schwartz deemed as “unacceptable behavior” in Sunday’s loss.
“He’s been a distraction the last few weeks whether just not being fully prepared or not showing up to things when we have things on the schedule — him not being there on time,” Calvin Johnson said. “It’s just him not being a professional.”
Detroit left tackle Jeff Backus, who has started 186 consecutive games, might have to sit out due to a hamstring injury, and first-round draft pick Riley Reiff could take his spot. The Lions, though, might get safety Louis Delmas back from a knee injury, which he suffered in a 28-24 win over Seattle on Oct. 28.
“There’s nothing like having the leader or your defense, a guy who is literally the heart and soul of our defense, and a guy that’s been experienced and played well in our defense,” Schwartz told the team’s website.
The Texans, meanwhile, are hoping to take some of the rushing load away from Arian Fosterby getting Ben Tate back from an ailing hamstring. Foster’s 949 yards rank fourth in the NFL, but he has a league-high 249 carries — 37 more than Seattle’s Marshawn Lynch in second place.
“I think (Tate) has a good chance (of playing),” Kubiak said.
While seeking to match its franchise-best win total from a year ago, Houston will also try for its first victory in Detroit. The Texans lost 28-16 there during their only visit in 2004, but prevailed 28-21 over the Lions four years later. Schaub threw a pair of touchdowns to Owen Daniels and completed 26 of 31 passes for 267 yards in that victory.
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