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Chargers at Texans Week 4 Notebook: Not Losing Faith

After a late-game benching in Chicago, the Houston Texans are not giving up on rookie running back Dameon Pierce.

HOUSTON — Rookie running back Dameon Pierce made a disastrous mistake that ruined a memorable day in his young career. 

He rushed for a career-best 80 yards on 20 attempts and scored his first NFL touchdown amid the Texans' 23-20 defeat to the Chicago Bears on Sunday. But Pierce will remember the Week 3 loss to the Bears for a more somber reason. 

He committed his second fumble of the game late in the fourth quarter. Offensive lineman Tytus Howard recovered the ball to prevent a turnover. But coach Lovie Smith pulled Pierce in favor of Rex Burkhead for the final 10 plays of the game. 

As the Texans went through their preparations ahead of their Week 4 match against the 1-2 Los Angeles Chargers, Pierce spent extra time with running backs coach Danny Barrett to enhance his ball security.

"Coach and I have been getting it right before and after practice — D.B. and I are always working on something," Pierce said. "I have probably beaten myself up more than any coach. I am young and still learning. But that is no excuse for me to lose the ball." 

Smith reassured Pierce's role as the Texans' starting running back despite his blunders at Soldier Field stadium.

The Texans will need Pierce in hopes of recording their first victory of the season. After Joey Bosa sustained a groin injury in a 38-10 defeat to the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Chargers gave up 151 rushing yards in the loss. 

"That meant a lot to me," Pierce said. "Every coach came up to me and told me not to worry about it. Just brush it off and keep this thing moving forward." 

Davis Mills is a better quarterback at NRG Stadium

The last two weeks have not been kind to second-year quarterback Davis Mills. He played a role in the Texans' inability to sustain drives in the 16-9 defeat to the Denver Broncos on Sept. 18. A week later, Mills threw a pair of costly interceptions that resulted in a loss to the Bears. 

Mills has only completed 55.7 percent of his passes over the previous two games. But by returning to NRG Stadium for the Texans showdown against the Chargers, Mills' performance could take a complete 180. 

Mills has been a better quarterback at home when compared to the subpar production he showcases on the road.

"The biggest thing is that you’re comfortable at home," Mills said. "You’ve played here before. You don’t have to deal with the crowd noise on offense and that’s a big thing on the away games, just being able to communicate pre-snap and handle everything."

In eight career home games, Mills has completed 68.3 percent of his passes for 1,965 yards with 14 touchdowns and one interception. Following his road performance at Soldier Field stadium, Mills has completed 60.9 percent of his pass attempts for 604 fewer yards with 11 interceptions and five touchdowns.

Mills' best home performance came during a Week 16 victory against the Chargers in 2021, where he completed a career-best 77.7 percent of his passes en route to the Texans' 41-29 win.

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"I don’t think really the philosophy changes," Mills said. "Obviously we still have to protect the football. I didn’t know that stat was so lopsided, home and away, interception rate. My job stays the same, just got to execute at a high level regardless."

Texans secondary could be in for a long day against the Chargers

Houston's front seven had one of the worst defensive productions in franchise history. Rookie running back Khalil Herbert rushed for 157 yards on 20 carries, as the Texans gave up 281 yards on the ground.

Stopping the run will not be a daunting challenge against the Chargers, but Los Angeles' wide receiving corps creates a formidable match-up for the Texans' secondary.

The Chargers' wide receivers have averaged 303.3 receiving yards through the first three weeks of the regular season.

Los Angeles has relied upon several receivers to help fill the void of an injured Keenan Allen (hamstring), which could result in Steven Nelson and Derek Stingley Jr. having a significant impact on the game.

"Extremely impressed with Sting [Derek Stingley Jr.]," Texans cornerbacks coach Dino Vasso said. "Most impressed by his demeanor on gameday, his ability to put plays behind him — be it good or bad. He’s a guy that deals with success and adversity extremely well."

QUICK HITS

- The Houston Texans will be without tight end Brevin Jordan for the second consecutive game due to an ankle injury. 

With the loss of Jordan, veteran tight end Jordan Akins will receive his second call-up from the practice squad. Akins caught three balls for 31 yards and one touchdown during the Texans' defeat to the Bears. 

- The Texans are entering Sunday's contest as the worst team in the league on third-down conversions

"We’ll do whatever we need to do to be better on third-down-and-short," Hamilton said. "We come up with different ways from week to week that we feel like based on film study, we can get a yard, and we’ll do a better job."


You can follow Coty M. Davis on Twitter at @CotyDavis_24

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