After forcing four turnovers and limiting Chicago to 249 yards in the Texans' 13-6 victory at Soldier Field, there is a debate in Houston: Is Wade Phillips' defense playing better this season than last season when the Texans ranked second, including fourth against the run and third against the pass?
This season, the Texans are 8-1 and tied with Atlanta for the NFL's best record. The defense is ranked second, including third against the run and third against the pass.
Since their one bad game -- the 42-24 home loss to Green Bay -- the Texans have allowed one touchdown in victories over Baltimore (43-13), Buffalo (21-9) and Chicago (13-6).
They've yet to allow a rushing touchdown.
"I think we picked up where we left off in the playoffs," coach Gary Kubiak said. "We played so well in the playoffs, and I think it's continued."
In a 31-10 playoff victory over Cincinnati last season, the Texans surrendered 300 yards. In the 20-13 divisional loss at Baltimore, they gave up 227 yards. The Ravens had nine punts and 11 first downs. They scored only three points in the last 46 minutes of the game. But they forced four turnovers.
Last season, the defense lost outside linebacker Mario Williams, who had five sacks in his first five games, with a season-ending injury. This season, they lost inside linebacker Brian Cushing, their leading tackler, in the fifth game against the New York Jets.
"I think against Green Bay we went through a little shock of losing a great player," Kubiak said. "Then we overcame it and got that confidence. That's part of this league because you're going to have some bumps in the road.
"They knew what they were facing (at Chicago). They knew the type of defense our offense was facing. They knew how big they were in the game, and, boy, did they rise to the occasion."
Last season, the Texans kept nine opponents to 14 or fewer points. They allowed 17.4 per game. This season, they've limited six to 14 or fewer points. And they're allowing 15.8 points per game.
The defensive performance allows Kubiak to make offensive calls that he might not always make when trying to protect a fourth-quarter lead.
"That's a tremendous luxury when you're sitting there with four minutes left in the game and feel like I don't have to try to do something that could hurt our team," Kubiak said. "It's third-and-13, and we ran the ball.
"We're going to give it back to you. We're going to make you beat us because we're playing good defense. It not only gives me a lot of confidence as the coach, but it gives our team a lot of confidence. That's something that filters throughout everybody."