MIAMI – Through two games this season, the 2-0 Houston Texans have allowed the fewest yards (271 per game) and points (20) in the NFL. That is nothing short of remarkable, even if the Texans have had the benefit of playing offensively challenged teams such as the Indianapolis Colts and Miami Dolphins.
This week, however, Houston gets a tougher test when it faces the New Orleans Saints. Last year, Houston ranked 29th in points allowed (26.7 per game), 30th in overall defense (376.9 ypg) and was dead last against the pass, allowing 267.5 passing yards a game. So far this season, the Texans have allowed only 162 yards passing a game under new defensive coordinator Wade Phillips. Much of the reason has been the play of defensive lineman Antonio Smith and linebacker Mario Williams(notes), who each have two sacks. During last Sunday's win in Miami, Williams, who has switched from defensive end as Phillips converted the team to a 3-4 scheme, was crucial with one pass defensed and a hit on quarterback Chad Henne(notes) that created an interception.
Williams, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2006 NFL draft over Reggie Bush(notes) and Vince Young(notes), talked about the impact of Phillips and the mantra that Houston has adopted this season as it tries to make the playoffs for the first time in its 10 years of existence.
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This team was 2-0 last year. Is there any reason to believe this start will make you serious contenders after what happened last season?
This is a new year and we're 1-0. That's all that matters each week, that we're 1-0.
What do you mean by 1-0? The team is actually 2-0. What's the "1-0" thing?
That just started this season. We're trying not to repeat what happened last year, so we're doing everything we can to take it one game at a time and just focus on that. Everybody else can talk about us being 2-0; our focus is on being 1-0 next week. That's it. We're 1-0. Those two games are behind us. That's our mentality, that we're 1-0. We're just trying to win that one game that's in front of us and just be 1-0 each week. That's it. … Tomorrow we'll wake up, come in and try to be 1-0 again. I'm just excited because we have so much to learn still. Me and Antonio, we're talking about how we have a lot of things we can work on to play off one another. We're both up-the-field guys, we're both power guys, we do it all. The problem is that we do it all at the same time. A lot of the time we're both trying to get up the field or powering at the same time and we need to learn when one guy is going to do one thing so the other can do something else to take advantage of that. We just have to learn to play together.
Speaking of that, how much are you enjoying the position switch and what kind of things did you have to adjust in your game to make it work?
I'm loving it, it's fun being able to switch it up and go against both (offensive) tackles and that's the biggest thing … in terms of what I do. My whole thing is about speed, speed, speed. I got some pretty good rushes on both tackles, so it's really about defensive effort. The whole system allows for a lot more spontaneity. Having the coaches pushing us, that's another thing that's funny. You never know what those guys are going to say. They're saying all kinds of stuff.
So it's all good with Phillips?
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Wade is not the crazy one, (linebackers coach) Reggie (Herring) is the crazy one. Reggie Herring is Wade's voice. Reggie is the go-getter. That sums up everything. I don't even think Wade talks to Reggie out loud, he talks to him mentally, like they have some mind-reading thing going on. I love playing for Reggie.
Are they doing the good cop, bad cop routine with you guys?
No, they're both bad, it's just that one is vocal. It works out good that way.
A lot of the offensive players are saying that the defense has really done the work in winning the first two games. After how last season went, how does that feel?
It feels great, it's a new year for us and we're just trying to make plays and help the team win. We were able to come out there and get stops on four downs right at the start of the game, so that was all good for us. … It shows that things are coming together for the team and that hasn't happened in the past. I think Coach Phillips, what he has resolved in us is to win every play, play 60 minutes of football, and every time we had to go out there at the end of the game to get the ball back for our offense, we did that. That's the biggest thing we're doing right now. … At the end of the game, when we had to stop them, we did that. We were all over them. Antonio got a sack. We were all over them. What was great is that our line is getting a lot of respect now. There were things (the Dolphins) tried to do to minimize us, but we were able to overcome that. They had their tight end (Anthony Fasano(notes)) staying in to block us and that's one of their main guys, so that shows we're getting after them.
Against the Dolphins, you got a chance to face Bush, who most people thought the Texans were going to take in 2006 instead of you with the No. 1 overall pick. There was also a lot of push among fans to take Young since he grew up in Houston and played at Texas. Is there any satisfaction to play this well when you face one of those guys, especially when you are still with the Texans and both of them have been let go by their original teams?
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I don't play them, I don't cover them, I don't pass rush against them. No, I'm the type of guy who is trying to win on every play. I'm not trying to worry about what happens to somebody else or what's going on with some other player. That's not productive.
Your run defense had some lapses against the Dolphins, allowing more than 100 yards. What happened and is there a major concern with that?
That was frustrating because it shouldn't have happened. What made it worse is that you could tell when they were going to run certain things. They run really simple draw plays and we just didn't react that well in this game. That's one of those things we're picking up. We ran out of gaps and we have to fix that.
New Orleans likes to run plays quick, get rid of the ball quick, play a high-tempo. That's different than what you faced (in Week 2). How big a challenge is that?
Look, I'm just trying to get to the quarterback. That's all I can say. That's what it's all about. I don't worry about whether they get rid of it quick, I just have to get there. We play twice a year against Peyton Manning(notes). There's nobody quicker than him getting rid of it.