The lead stands at a too-close-for-comfort 14-7 and the Houston Texans offense is having more trouble than expected moving the football. Another sold-out Reliant Stadium crowd is growing a tad impatient.
Who you gonna call?
How about Danieal Manning? The strong safety often gets overshadowed on the Texans' Bulls On Parade defense by stars like J.J. Watt and Johnathan Joseph, but he's clearly an impact player. And on this Sunday, Manning played difference maker, kick starting a Houston team that has clearly established itself as the best team in the AFC. And likely all of football.
The only other undefeated teams in the NFL? The Atlanta Falcons needed a field goal with five seconds left to edge a 1-3 Carolina Panthers team 30-28 at home Sunday. The Arizona Cardinals needed a 15-yard touchdown pass from former University of Houston star Kevin Kolb on fourth down to even get to overtime and pull out a 24-21 win over a 1-3 Miami Dolphins team.
The Texans? They don't need such drama.
These Texans have now outscored their opponents by an NFL best 70 points this season (try 126-56). Can you say dominance lives here?
Manning's interception and weaving, cut-back 55-yard touchdown return — one that shows off all the moves that can make Manning such a devastating kick returner — completely breaks open a close game and starts the Texans rolling to a 38-14 win over an overmatched Tennessee Titans team.
"Danieal's return is the play that changed the game," defensive coordinator Wade Phillips says. "The one where you knew we'd win the game after that."
Say hello to 4-0.
These Texans have now outscored their opponents by an NFL best 70 points this season (try 126-56). The next highest margin in the league is the Falcons' 48-point advantage.
Can you say dominance lives here?
On this Sunday, the explosive run — and the Texans have gone on one in every single game — starts with Manning's pick of backup Titans Matt Hasselbeck, who is in the game because free safety Glover Quin knocked Jake Locker out of it on a first-quarter blitz. After Manning's score with 9:21 left in the third quarter, the Texans offense quickly takes its next possession and goes 75 yards in seven plays, pushing the lead to 28-7 on a 28-yard touchdown pass from Matt Schaub to tight end Owen Daniels.
The Titans (1-3) would never be a serious threat again. And now likely won't be heard from in the AFC South again this season.
The Texans defense has now given up 17 points total in two home games. It's good to cheer for these Bulls.
"Our defense is amazing to watch," running back Arian Foster says. "They're the best in the business. It's incredible to see them just take over a game. They're warriors."
Especially J.J. Watt, who followed his NFL morning show blitz with another dominant game (two more sacks, another fumble recovery). Defensive end Antonio Smith forced that fourth-quarter fumble, the second of three turnovers the Texans caused in the second half. Once-embattled cornerback Kareem Jackson plucked off the last turnover, taking a Hasselbeck interception back 63 yards for another defensive touchdown.
Phillips' Bulls On Parade defense has now forced nine turnovers in four games, while Watt boasts eight sacks in four games.
"They just can't control him," a happy Texans owner Bob McNair said of Watt in the locker room.
On a day when Matt Schaub and Houston's offense wasn't dominant, it didn't have a single turnover of its own. Instead, Schaub spread the ball around to seven different receivers in Gary Kubiak's hard-to-pigeonhole offense. This week, Daniels (six catches for 72 yards, including that touchdown when he shrugged off three would-be Titan tacklers as he twisted away and eventually dove into the end zone) found himself featured. And tight end/fullback James Casey was worked into a prominent role with the do-everything man catching five passes, including the game's first touchdown.
The AFC's only undefeated team rolls on, with a high-profile Monday Night Football game in New York (OK in New Jersey, but against the Jets) on tap next. Yes, the Texans' Super national profile is going to be rising even more.