HOUSTON – Houston coach Gary Kubiak presented Arian Foster with the game ball after his record-setting game against Indianapolis. Foster immediately handed it to his offensive linemen, saying they deserved the credit.
Kubiak said Monday that just about everyone merited some praise after the Texans' convincing 34-24 win over the defending AFC champions.
"It was a good, solid effort by our team," Kubiak said. "Our effort was very good, our conditioning level was very good, the things you worry about going into the first game. Our guys responded."
And then some. Foster ran for a team record 231 yards against the Colts, the second highest rushing total in history on the opening weekend. The offensive line paved huge holes for him, and Kubiak said fullback Vonta Leach had his best game in four-plus seasons here.
The Texans defense pressured Peyton Manning all day and sacked him twice. The linebacking corps played well without 2009 Defensive Rookie of the Year Brian Cushing, and the young secondary held up and forced a key turnover.
The Texans had boldly talked for months about challenging Indianapolis in the AFC South, even though the Colts won 15 of the first 16 meetings. Houston dominated both lines on Sunday, and hung onto a fourth-quarter lead this time to earn one of the biggest wins in the franchise's eight-year history.
"A lot of our offseason was geared toward trying to achieve something as a team," Kubiak said. "A lot of things we've been working on came up, and we handled it pretty good. There's a long, long way to go, but it's a dang nice start."
The Texans (1-0) play at Washington (1-0) on Sunday. This week, Kubiak said the team will look for a free agent defensive end after Connor Barwin was lost for the season with a broken right ankle. Barwin was Mario Williams' backup and will have surgery on Wednesday.
Houston contacted Aaron Schobel during training camp, but the former Bills defensive end retired.
"Anybody who's out there as a free agent is a possibility," Kubiak said. "I think all doors are open. We continue to listen to every possible avenue."
Barwin had the only significant injury for the Texans. Tight end Owen Daniels, seeing in his first action since the eighth game of last season, played about 40 snaps and said his surgically repaired knee held up fine.
Daniels and Leach helped the offensive line dominate the Colts up front. Houston finished with a team record 257 yards rushing.
Kubiak said center Chris Myers had his best game as a Texan, Antoine Caldwell and Mike Brisiel ably split duty at right guard and former first-round pick Duane Brown held his own at left tackle against Colts All-Pro Dwight Freeney.
The Texans hardly needed their passing offense, which was the best in the NFL in yards last season (291). Matt Schaub completed 9 of 17 passes for 107 yards, his lowest totals since joining the Texans in 2007. All-Pro receiver Andre Johnson made only three catches for 33 yards.
"You've got to do what you've got to do to win," Kubiak said. "There was no doubt, once we started the second half and throughout that first drive, we had some momentum running the ball. We weren't going to stop."
One of Kubiak's main concerns before the opener was his secondary, where rookie Kareem Jackson was making his debut and Glover Quin was starting only his second season.
Manning had a huge day, throwing for 433 yards and three touchdowns. But while the Colts scored 24 points, they went just 4-for-12 on third-down conversions.
"When you play this group, you don't worry about the yards," Kubiak said. "They're going to move the ball, he's going to complete passes. You worry about big plays, you worry about third downs, you get off the field and you make them punt. Do you gain a possession during the game with a turnover? Those are the things you worry about."
Safety Bernard Pollard forced a fumble in the fourth quarter, and Quin recovered. Foster broke a 42-yard run on the next play, and scored two minutes later to virtually secure the victory.
"I was impressed with what we did," Kubiak said. "I won't let those guys get caught up in the passing yardage. I worry about the final result."