Colts defense eager to prove itself against Texans

Updated: October 25, 2003, 2:06 AM ET

INDIANAPOLIS -- The Indianapolis Colts are angry.

For two weeks, they've agonized over the tape and the haunting images that kept reappearing in their mind -- the missed tackles, missed assignments and missed opportunities.

On Sunday, the Colts' defense hopes to erase any reminders against Houston.

"You certainly think a lot about the loss," defensive end Chad Bratzke said. "What's refreshing is being mad when you're 5-1."

Through the season's first five weeks, the Colts seemed to do everything right.

When Edgerrin James wasn't running the ball, Ricky Williams and James Mungro proved capable replacements. Peyton Manning was throwing touchdowns instead of interceptions. The Colts found more receivers in their offensive cadre than just Marvin Harrison.

Special teams units made big plays and the defense produced turnovers.

It was a perfect script.

Then came a 23-20 overtime loss to Carolina game and a bye week to reflect on everything that suddenly went wrong.

Now the Colts are bent on fixing the problems, upset they let one slip away and determined to prove against the Texans (2-4) that their only loss of the season was an aberration.

"It left a nasty taste in our mouths," linebacker Marcus Washington said. "We've got to get back to doing what we've been doing through fundamentals. I don't think many teams can come out and beat us up."

In a copycat league, there's little doubt Houston will try.

With David Carr left standing more frequently this season and the addition of wide receiver Andre Johnson, the Texans' offense has improved dramatically. Last week, Houston even found a ground game when Domanick Davis ran for a franchise-record 129 yards in a 19-14 loss to the New York Jets.

If there's an area Houston could exploit, it would seem to be on the ground, where the Colts have allowed 131 yards per game and are coming off their worst performance in almost three years.

Texans coach Dom Capers hopes his team can compound the Colts' problems.

"If you can't stop the run and run the ball, it's tough to win consistently," he said.

First, though, Houston must score a touchdown, something it has not done in its previous two games against Indianapolis.

To prevent that, Colts coach Tony Dungy has spent extra time emphasizing discipline and tackling, and illustrated his point by putting the Colts back in full pads this week.

The bye didn't just give the Colts a chance to regroup, it also gave them a chance to get rejuvenated.

James, the NFL's rushing champ in 1999 and 2000, has practiced this week and expects to play for the first time since Sept. 21, when he broke two bones in his lower back.

Right tackle Ryan Diem, who also missed the last three games, could return from his high ankle sprain, and if left tackle Tarik Glenn can play with a strained ligament in his left knee, the Colts' offense would be at full strength.

For Houston's defense, which is run by former Colts defensive coordinator Vic Fangio and has struggled all season, that would be a nightmare.

"I don't think their running game has been up to par, so you know with Edgerrin coming back it's going to be there," cornerback Aaron Glenn said. "You can't sit back and play a seven-man front, because Edgerrin will do the job against you, and he'll kill you."

The Colts may not be the only problem for the Texans' defense.

Glenn might start despite his groin injury. Starting linebacker Charlie Clemons might not because of a left foot injury, and if he can't go, rookie Antwan Peek will likely replace him.

Against Manning, James, Harrison and the Colts' potent offense that could be trouble.

But what the Colts want to see is a better performance from their defense, which the Panthers battered for 189 yards rushing.

Dungy does not anticipate a repeat and neither do the players, who simply want to put behind a bitter loss that has lingered for two weeks.

"We couldn't wait to get back and play, especially on defense," Washington said. "It's time to move forward."

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index