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Michael Strahan and the Giants pass rush have been causing opponents all kinds of problems during New York’s four-game winning streak. That could spell trouble for Houston Texans quarterback David Carr, who has had trouble holding onto the ball all season.
Strahan tries again to become the franchise’s all-time sack leader when the Giants host the Texans for the first time Sunday.
First-place New York (5-2) has compiled 18 sacks during its run, including three by Strahan. The Pro Bowl defensive end did not have a sack in last week’s 17-3 victory over Tampa Bay and remains tied with Lawrence Taylor with 132 1/2 sacks.
“I’m worried about winning,” Strahan said. “In the course of that, if I can get a quarterback, that’s great. I’m working at it every day here at practice and I’m definitely working at it in the games. Eventually, it will come (if I) stay healthy enough to stay out there.”
There’s a good chance the record-breaker could come against Houston (2-5). Carr has been sacked 20 times this year and has fumbled a league-high 10 times, losing five of them.
He lost two more fumbles and had three turnovers in last week’s 28-22 loss at Tennessee, and was replaced in the third quarter by Sage Rosenfels in Houston’s 11th straight road loss. The Texans have 10 turnovers in their three road defeats this year.
“I think a lot of it is a mentality,” coach Gary Kubiak said. “Everything is harder on the road.”
Despite that performance, Kubiak will stick with Carr, who leads the NFL with a 70.5 completion percentage.
“If that’s the worst thing that happens to David Carr throughout his career he’s going to be fine,” Kubiak said. “I think it’s a process where he’s got a chance to mature and grow through it. I’ve seen some great ones go through it. I was with Steve Young in this very situation. I expect David to respond very well.”
Carr may have a tougher time responding if Giants Pro Bowl defensive end Osi Umenyiora returns to the right side opposite Strahan on Sunday. Umenyiora, with a team-high five sacks, is hoping to be back after sitting out with a hip injury suffered in a 36-22 victory at Dallas on Oct. 23.
The Giants, who have lost linebacker LaVar Arrington for the year, are hoping linebacker Brandon Short will be healthy after he injured a quadriceps muscle in last week’s win and didn’t return. Rookie Gerris Wilkinson stepped in and played well, and New York signed veteran Chris Claiborne this week to provide depth.
“Chris is a smart guy, and he’s played all of the positions,” Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. “I think he’s done a pretty good job over the time we’ve spent in the classroom with him, bringing him up to date. The terminology has not been a real difficult factor for him, so I’m hoping that he can grasp it and be in a position where he can make a contribution.”
In addition to the Giants pass rush, Carr will be facing a defense that has intercepted nine passes, tied with Arizona for the most in the NFC. Compounding the problem, he could face difficult conditions to throw in if the weather at Giants Stadium is anything like last week, when winds gusted to more than 40 mph.
The wind would also have an effect on New York, which is averaging 19.0 points at home compared to the nearly 31 they are putting up on the road.
The Giants were limited to a season-low 251 total yards last week in the blustery conditions, as Tiki Barber had his streak of three straight 100-yard efforts snapped with 68 yards rushing on 26 carries.
New York’s defense has dominated in the team’s two wins at Giants Stadium, outscoring Washington and Tampa Bay by a combined 36-6.
One challenge that Coughlin faces this week is keeping the Giants from looking ahead to next week’s showdown with undefeated Chicago.
“We don’t think about that at all,” he said. “This next game is the most important game of our schedule, OK? I don’t even want to entertain questions about that. The next game is the most important game that we’ll play, and that’s against Houston.”
Sunday’s game will be only the second between Houston and New York. The Texans won 16-14 at home as an expansion team in 2002.