A day later, Texans loss still bugs coach

Originally Published: August 23, 2004
Associated Press

HOUSTON -- Houston Texans coach Dom Capers wasn't afraid to vent after his team's sorry exhibition performance at Pittsburgh.

A day later, reviewing the game film hadn't changed his first impression of the 38-3 loss to the Steelers.

"I was upset because I expected us to go in and play better," Capers said Sunday after the Texans failed to match their 18-0 domination of the Dallas Cowboys in the exhibition opener at home. "I was hoping we could go on the road and do the same things, but obviously we weren't ready to do those things."

Capers, who told his players exactly what he thought of their performance after Saturday night's game, said his team failed to match Pittsburgh's mastery of fundamentals such as running the ball and stopping the run.

The very same momentum that starters and reserves were able to maintain against the Cowboys just a week before swung to the Steelers after they took an early 14-0 lead and stayed there, Capers said.

"In our first game against Dallas we had the right winning formula and (Saturday) we played a Pittsburgh team that had the right formula," he said.

This came from a coach who puts far more emphasis on preparing and evaluating players than winning exhibition games. The problem wasn't that they lost, rather it was how they lost.

Although starting tailback Domanick Davis was out with a sore left ankle, Capers said he expected more out of backup Tony Hollings than the nine yards on 14 attempts that he got. Rookie receiver Kendrick Starling was the leading rusher with one 28-yard end-around run.

"Probably the biggest negative (offensively) was the inability to run the football," said Capers, who watched the Steelers consistently get to Hollings before he reached the line of scrimmage. "The Steelers did a good job of playing the run."

Meanwhile, the Texans defense allowed old warrior Jerome Bettis to look years younger, running for 48 yards and a touchdown largely against Houston's first-team unit. Every ball carrier behind him poured it on, and Pittsburgh ended the night with 205 yards on the ground.

"We have to become a more disciplined football team," Capers said. "Last night caught me a little by surprise because I expected to play a good game there, and we didn't."

There was a little experimentation happening on defense. Outside linebacker Kailee Wong started on the inside in place of Jay Foreman, and second-year player Antwan Peek lined up on the outside.

But Capers said the configuration, which Houston might employ on passing downs this season, was not to blame for the Texans' woes.

Wong, whose start on the outside was a one-game phenomenon, wasn't pleased with his performance.

"I was a lot more tentative than I would have liked," Wong said. "I was seeing the plays from a new perspective and I'm excited to get better every week."

On the bright side, Capers said his rookie starters -- cornerback Dunta Robinson and outside linebacker Jason Babin -- got a glimpse of several new things and were forced to react to them on the fly because Houston didn't game plan for the Steelers at all.

"Now they've seen some of these things and they've got something to draw from," Capers said.

^Notes:@ ILB Marcus Bell and CB/KR Vontez Duff both suffered shoulder injuries in the game, although neither is thought to be serious. RB Tony Hollings, who incurred a crushing hit, might be limited in practice Monday. ... The Texans break training camp Monday afternoon, meaning they can leave the Reliant Stadium-area hotel where they've been sequestered for the last three weeks and return to their Houston residences.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press

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