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INDIANAPOLIS – Wade Phillips has had tougher temp jobs.
He replaced his father, Bum, for the final four games of the Saints' 1985 season.
He took over for an old friend, Dan Reeves, when the Falcons coach walked away with three games left in 2003 rather than finish the season as a lame duck.
Earlier this year, Phillips stepped in at halftime when Gary Kubiak was taken away in an ambulance, and now Phillips is back for his second round as Texans interim coach. No, it's not easy being The Replacement, but Phillips knows it's a job that must be filled.
"It's pride, and people are playing for their jobs and coaching for their jobs, obviously, so that's part of it, too," he said. "But it's not five wins, it's just one win. One win at a time, that's what you have to . you know, your goal is that week and to prepare yourself as well as you can and get the players prepared and get them to play as well as they can play."
In Houston, that hasn't been happening this season
A franchise-record 11 consecutive losses have turned a preseason Super Bowl contender into the late-season front-runner for the No. 1 draft pick. The Texans (2-11) have changed quarterbacks and now coaches, but little has changed and the losing continues.
Now, they're heading back to a city, Indianapolis, where they are 0-11 all-time and couldn't even beat the 0-13 Colts two years ago when they were cruising to a division title.
The Colts are one of the few teams in league history to have improved with a midseason coaching change.
They rebounded from 2-14 and the early-season shock of losing their head coach so he could fight cancer to reach the playoffs, thanks largely to the steadying influence of last year's NFL Coach of the Year, Bruce Arians. This year, Indy (8-5) has already clinched the AFC South title most expected Houston to win, and it's one of the prime reasons Phillips is now trying to make a late-season surge to keep this job.
The last time he was in a similar situation, 2003, the Falcons lost at Indy. But at least Phillips is well-versed in the new job's requirements.
"It's a very difficult situation," Phillips said after calling this season a nightmare. "You have personal relationships with the head coach and it's sad for everybody as far as the coach is concerned, as far as somebody having to leave, especially at the end of a season."
Here are five things to watch for Sunday:
COLTS' OFFENSIVE LINE: Last week, Andrew Luck was not sacked for the first time all season. This week, they get the always menacing J.J. Watt. Despite all of the problems, Houston has had the defense is still ranked No. 3 in the NFL and should pose a strong test in a playoff tuneup for the Colts.
ANDRE THE GIANT: Andre Johnson is one of the league's top receivers and has played incredibly well in December over the years. When these teams last met, Johnson torched the Colts for nearly 200 yards and three TDs in the first half. That's when Kubiak left. In the second half, Johnson was not targeted as much and the Colts rallied. How will Houston use Johnson this week?
THE SCOREBOARD: Players and coaches say they won't keep track of other NFL games. Fans will. Though the Colts appear locked into the No. 4 seed in the AFC, it will be hard not to watch to see if the Colts can move up in the standings. Houston faces a similar situation as it battles with three three-win teams for the No. 1 pick in next spring's draft.
CLOSE CALLS: Separating the top two teams in the AFC South comes down to just a couple dozen points. Luck continues to pull off second-half rallies, even when Indy doesn't win. Houston has lost the last six games by a total of 28 points. The team that fares best late Sunday probably wins.
DOUBLE PLAY: Colts fans attending will get a rare treat: seeing two Hall of Fame running backs go into the team's Ring of Honor. Marshall Faulk returns to the city where his NFL career began, and Eric Dickerson returns to the place where his career ended. It should make for a memorable ceremony.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org