Tennessee Titans quarterback Jake Locker (10) tackles Houston Texans inside linebacker Tim Dobbins after Dobbins intercepted a pass by Locker on Sunday in Nashville, Tenn.
HOUSTON — The Houston Texans are the only NFL team that hasn’t lost on the road this season.
The Texans, 6-0 away from Houston, will face a big test Monday night when they travel to New England, a place where a visitor hasn’t won in December since 2002.
The Patriots have won 19 straight home games in December, with their last loss at Gillette Stadium in the month coming in a 30-17 setback to the New York Jets on Dec. 22, 2002
The Texans are one of the many teams the Patriots have handled during that streak, with Houston losing 40-7 on Dec. 17, 2006 in its only visit there.
Coach Gary Kubiak said the Texans are playing with confidence and don’t panic on the road. He preaches a simple mantra before each road game.
“It’s about how you play,” he said he tells them. “It’s not where you play.”
The Texans (11-1) have already secured a playoff spot, and need a win over the Patriots combined with a loss by the Colts to clinch their second straight AFC South title.
Kubiak likes how Houston has handled the noise on the road and thinks the team pulls together a bit more when faced with such adversity.
“It’s really kind of your 53 against 80,000 when you show up,” he said referring to the road crowds. “I think they take that as a challenge and they take it personal and they know if they protect the football our team is going to have a good chance to win.”
The Texans have had a great turnover margin away from home this season. They’ve lost the ball just six times and forced 15 turnovers on the road. Their best performance in that area came last week against the Titans when they didn’t turn the ball over and forced Tennessee to cough it up six times.
Monday night’s game will be the last of three straight road games for Houston. Although the Texans have won all of their road games, they haven’t been without some drama. Four of the six wins have been by a touchdown or less, including their controversial 34-31 overtime victory over the Lions on Thanksgiving.
Officials missed the call on an 81-yard touchdown run by Justin Forsett in that one. But Detroit coach Jim Schwartz threw the challenge flag so the play couldn’t be reviewed, the touchdown stood and Houston held on for the win.
Houston receiver Andre Johnson said people talk about how close they’ve come to losing on the road, but that he doesn’t listen to any of that.
“We’ve been able to go out on the road this season and win games no matter the circumstances,” he said. “When they ask you your record, they ask how many games you’ve won and how many games you’ve lost, not what was the score or anything like that. So whatever we need to do to go in and get the W that’s what we’ll do.”
A win over the Patriots, who have already clinched the AFC East, would help the Texans maintain the top record in the AFC and move them closer to a coveted first-round bye and homefield advantage throughout the playoffs.
But facing Tom Brady and Wes Welker with a banged up secondary will be one of Houston’s toughest challenges to date. Top cornerback Johnathan Joseph has missed the last two games with a hamstring injury. He returned to practice in a limited capacity on Thursday. Kubiak said how he looks in practice in the next two days will determine whether he plays Monday night.
Along with Joseph’s injury, the Texans are also dealing with the loss of nickel cornerback Brice McCain, who had surgery on his left foot on Monday. Alan Ball, who filled in for Joseph two week ago, missed last week’s game and is still struggling with a sore foot and didn’t practice Thursday.
They signed veteran cornerback Stanford Routt, who was released from the Chiefs last month, to shore up the group. Kubiak said he “has no choice” but to suit him up on Monday night, but knows it will be difficult for him to absorb the entire playbook in less than a week.
“He’s got a lot of skill,” Kubiak said. “In our situation right now he’s a veteran player that could help us quickly, and pick up what we’re doing quickly. He’s covered a lot of good players in this league.”MORE IN Sports WireSome things to watch in the Big Ten on Saturday:
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