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Texans turn to defense for all of their offense

12/8/2002

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- No NFL team ever played worse offensively and
won. What made the difference was very few teams -- much less an
expansion one -- have played a game like this defensively.

Question on the Texans: Do you see them already making big strides for next season?
They'll be better next season. On offense, they'll get their injured offensive tackles back. Defensively, the Texans have played well enough to be .500. CB Aaron Glenn has especially impressed this season. He studies and prepares well, and it pays off with games like today (two picks returned for TDs).

Question on the Steelers: What has happened to the touchdown drives -- just one in the past two weeks?
This week, I felt coach Bill Cowher brought Tommy Maddox back too early. The Steelers could have benefited by starting Kordell Stewart another week. Anytime a player is injured as seriously as Maddox was, there are aftereffects -- psychologically and physically. If Maddox isn't ready, the Steelers might need to ride Kordell the rest of the season.

Eric Allen played cornerback for 14 NFL seasons with the Eagles, Saints and Raiders.

Aaron Glenn scored twice on long interception returns and the
Texans scored the first three defensive touchdowns in their
history, all off Tommy Maddox turnovers, to stun the Pittsburgh
Steelers 24-6 Sunday.

The Steelers (7-5-1) were 6-1-1 in their previous eight games,
the NFL's best record over that span except for Atlanta's 7-0-1,
yet lost to a first-year team that completed only three passes and
had only three first downs. The Texans were outgained 422-47, the
fewest yards ever by a winning team in NFL history.

"To hold a team to 40-some yards, that's incredible,'' Steelers
tackle Wayne Gandy said. "But to get 400 and some yards and still
lose? I've never heard of such a game.''

Remarkably, the Steelers lost to an expansion team in its first
season of existence for the third time since 1995. The Steelers
lost to Cleveland 16-15 in 1999, only weeks after beating the
Browns 43-0, and to expansion Jacksonville in 1995.

"We're not the typical expansion team,'' Glenn said. "We're
not going to lay down and say, 'Oh, we're not supposed to win,
we're an expansion team.' We have nothing to lose, we're trying to
be a spoiler.''

Pittsburgh's unexpected loss and Cleveland's last-play 21-20 win
at Jacksonville cut the Steelers' AFC North lead over the Browns to
a half-game.

"To come into Pittsburgh in December and play a first-place
team is not an easy task,'' said Houston coach Dom Capers, a former
Steelers defensive coordinator. "This was our best defensive game.
They stifled us, but we talked all week the No. 1 thing was we had
to take the ball away.''

Maddox couldn't have had a much worse day in his first game
since being briefly paralyzed by a hit Nov. 17 in Tennessee,
despite throwing for 325 yards. His fumble was returned 40 yards
for a touchdown by Kenny Wright on Pittsburgh's first possession,
and Glenn's 70-yard interception return for a TD the next time the
Steelers had the ball made it 14-0.

Later, after the Steelers couldn't turn a Jabar Gaffney fumbled
punt in the fourth quarter into any points, Glenn sealed it with a
65-yard interception return touchdown -- the fifth of his career.

"This game was as simple as three plays,'' Maddox said. "False
starts, holding penalties, they don't kill you. What kills you is
turning the ball over and giving them touchdowns.''

The Steelers have eight turnovers in Maddox's last two starts,
and coach Bill Cowher said of his performance, ``It wasn't very
good.''

But he didn't put in Kordell Stewart, who led Pittsburgh to
victories in its previous two games, and didn't say whether Stewart
could start next week against Carolina.

All of Houston's points came on defense or special teams. Former
Steelers kicker Kris Brown kicked a 43-yard field goal that made it
17-6 after Antwaan Randle El also fumbled away a punt in the fourth
quarter.

"They didn't even try to test us,'' Steelers safety Brent
Alexander said. "Their quarterback was sacked more times (four)
than he completed passes (three). We stopped them, and still they
continued to try to run. It was almost like they were waving the
white flag.''

Quarterback David Carr agreed, saying, "I have mixed feelings
right now; we won 24-6 but we didn't do anything. We were playing
not to lose.''

The Texans (4-9), who also upset the Giants two weeks ago, have
become accustomed to generating little offense -- they came into the
game with only 16 touchdowns -- but this was dismal even by
expansion standards.

The offense crossed midfield only once until Randle El's fumble,
and then only because of a penalty. Carr had so little time to
throw he barely bothered, going 3-of-10 for 33 yards. Jonathan
Wells ran 10 times for 12 yards; James Allen gained 19 yards on 13
carries. Jeff Reed kicked field goals of 40 and 31 yards, but missed a
43-yarder that would have made it 14-9 following Gaffney's fumble
at the Texans' 25 with 8{ minutes remaining.

Game notes
The Steelers led 24-3 in first downs. ... Gandy left in the
fourth quarter with a calf injury that required a postgame MRI. ...
Hines Ward's nine catches gave him a team-record 98, four more than
his 94 of last season. ... Gaffney was in the game only because
Jermaine Lewis left with a sprained ankle. ... Carr has been sacked
68 times, four short of Randall Cunningham's record 72 for
Philadelphia in 1986.