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HOUSTON – The Houston Texans limited their mistakes while winning their first two games.
That changed in a 30-17 loss to the New York Giants that has the Texans focused on cleaning things up before hosting Buffalo on Sunday.
Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, who had not thrown an interception in the first two games, was picked off three times against the Giants while running the offense without injured running back Arian Foster.
"We can't have penalties," Fitzpatrick said. "We can't have turnovers. We've got to be better on third (down). Stay in third-and-manageable. All of those different things, we've just got to do a better job of being effective at that and that will help our consistency."
Fitzpatrick took the brunt of the criticism for the loss from outside of the team, but coach Bill O'Brien said many people need to do more to make things easier for the quarterback.
"We've got a do a better job of protecting him," O'Brien said. "We've got to do a better job of calling plays for him. The guys around him need to play to the best of their ability around him."
The Texans had trouble in the running game without Foster, who had more than 100 yards rushing in the Texans' two wins. Rookie sixth-round pick Alfred Blue started in his place and had 13 carries for 78 yards. But a big chunk of those yards came on one long run and he struggled against New York's defensive front.
It's unclear if Houston will get Foster back this week. He said Monday that his status is day to day and talked about the frustration of dealing with a hamstring injury.
"I've played through a lot in this league and hamstrings are the hardest thing to gauge because you don't know how it's going to fatigue, how it's going to react to a certain cut," Foster said. "You've just got to let it rest ... having things heal on their own time. You can't push it or it'll relapse on you."
Of course, Houston's problems on Sunday weren't limited to offense. The defense had no answer for Rashad Jennings, who had a career-high 176 yards rushing and a touchdown for the Giants.
"We have to stop the run better," O'Brien said. "No question about it."
The performance by Jennings dropped the Texans to 25th in the NFL in run defense and they're giving up 141.7 yards a game. Middle linebacker Brian Cushing knows they'll have to shore things up in that area if they want to get back on track.
"I'm a little concerned about it because obviously it's not a good thing and the game ended up in a loss," he said. "So it's something that we have to obviously correct. I'm concerned about it, but I know we will (correct it)."
Houston's trouble on Sunday also involved special teams, with the Giants blocking a punt. Veteran punter Shane Lechler, who threw a pass for a first down on a fake punt in the first quarter, injured his hip on the block in the fourth quarter.
O'Brien didn't provide any details of the injury on Monday, but said he will also be listed as day to day this week. If he can't play the Texans would likely have to sign someone to fill in.
"Maybe you bring some guys to take a look at in a workout, or maybe you have someone in your team that has done it in the past," O'Brien said. "But we're not at that stage yet where we have to decide because Shane, being the pro that he is, he's going to let us know how he feels and what he can do."
Despite all of their struggles this weekend, the Texans remain confident and believe they will bounce back this week. They insist they aren't worried about what happened last season when they also started 2-0 before losing their last 14 games.
"We don't think about last year at all," left tackle Duane Brown said. "It's a new year. We have a new team. It's a totally different organization ... we're not getting used to this feeling."
"We're not thinking about losing again or going into this game thinking about not losing," he said. "We're going into this game thinking about winning and correcting our mistakes and playing the type of football we know we're accustomed to playing."
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