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Sports

January 12, 2013

Texans defense healthier for rematch against the Patriots

HOUSTON — The first time Houston faced the Patriots, top cornerback Johnathan Joseph played while still struggling to get healthy, and outside linebacker Brooks Reed sat out with an injury.

That game turned into an embarrassing 42-14 loss to New England. Now both are back to full strength, and the Texans believe that makes their defense much stronger this time around.

“Right now, I can probably say this is the best I’ve felt all year,” Joseph said.

He was slowed by a hamstring injury that kept him out the two games before the first matchup against the Patriots.

“Obviously, back then I was good enough to play but I wasn’t at my best,” he said. “Right now I can say I’m 100 percent.”

Joseph, who often shadows the opponent’s best receiver, knows that he and the rest of the secondary will have their hands full. Not only must they deal with New England’s wide receivers, but also its tight end duo of Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski. Gronkowski didn’t play in the first game against Houston.

“They can place the ball on his back side or throw it up top and those guys both have great hands where they can make the difficult catch in traffic,” Joseph said. “For us, it will be a task, but I think that we have the guys here that are up for the challenge. It’s just about making plays.”

Reed, a second-year player, started 12 games in the regular season. Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips called him a “physical force.”

“He’s obviously a good player, but I think just his physicality really helps us as far as our mental toughness overall as a defensive unit,” Phillips said.

A frustrated Reed had to watch the team struggle against the Patriots and not be able to help out.

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