Texans try to regroup after latest tough loss

HOUSTON Instead, their seventh loss in eight games has guaranteed another losing season.

"We've lost some tough football games, so it's very disappointing," coach Gary Kubiak said. "We've still got a lot to play for these last two weeks and we need to find a way to man up and play better."

The Texans were 4-2 entering their bye week and have since dropped to 5-9 and eliminated from the playoffs for the ninth straight year. Still, Kubiak insists that fact shouldn't change his team's intensity as it wraps up the season.

"You play for your pride," he said. "You're a pro football player, you're a coach, you're paid to do a job. Obviously the stakes change for you but ... it should not change the way we go about our business or do our job."

Whether those stakes include Kubiak's job has been the subject of much speculation in Houston. Bill Cowher, who retired after the 2006 season, reportedly could be interested in coaching the Texans if Kubiak is fired after the season.

Kubiak, who is in his fifth season in Houston, bristled when asked if expressing interest in someone's job while they still have it broke an unwritten code.

"Well, he's a (darn) good coach," Kubiak said of Cowher. "I can't do (anything) about what he says. I don't have a handbook that has a code. I don't know. I have no idea."

Kubiak said he is far more concerned about how his team can win its last two games than who may be interested in his job. Players and coaches agree that the key to winning these last two games, starting with Denver, will be to start fast after being outscored 96-36 in the first quarter this season.

The problem was perhaps the worst on Sunday when Tennessee jumped out to a 21-0 first quarter lead in a 31-17 victory.

"I think it has been a combination of things," Kubiak said. "It's not one area. It hits all areas. When you go four and out and three and out and you give up three touchdowns in the first three touches of the ball, the team is not going to play well."

Receiver Andre Johnson was at a loss when asked why Houston has had so much trouble in the first quarter this season, but he did have an idea of why they can't seem to win lately.

"I don't think we've been very consistent as a team," he said. "I think if you look at the first six games we were pretty consistent, making plays, when bad things happened we were able to overcome them. After that we haven't been able to do that. We haven't made plays and when bad things happen we haven't been able to dig ourselves out of the hole."

Johnson, who was drafted before Houston's second season in 2003, believed this would be the year the Texans finally reached the postseason. The team's dive after such a good start was particularly disheartening to him.

"You have expectations and you don't reach them so it's frustrating," he said. "Especially when you know you have a team that's very talented. We just haven't been able to do what we need to do to get to where we want to be."

Linebacker Brian Cushing, who missed the first four games after violating the NFL's policy on performance enhancing drugs, can't believe what has happened to the team after such a solid start.

"(It's) unexpected," he said of the skid. "Definitely something we didn't want to be. If you said 5-9 after 4-2 at the bye week I would have said: 'No way. Absolutely not.' This was a team was very competitive ... we just haven't played the kind of football that we know we're capable of playing."

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