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Texans vs. Bears Week 3 Notebook: Homecoming For Lovie Smith

Will the Houston Texans' porous run defense against the Bears spoil coach Lovie Smith's homecoming in Chicago?

HOUSTON — When coach Lovie Smith walks into Soldier Field stadium on Sunday, it will be the second time in his career to do so as an opponent. 

Smith's first chance came during the 2014 season when he was the head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Quarterback Josh McCown spoiled Smith's return to Soldier Field by leading the Chicago Bears to a 21-13 victory over the Buccaneers.

If there were any emotions ahead of Smith's homecoming in Chicago, it would have taken place eight years ago. 

Instead of reminiscing about the past, Smith is concentrating on helping the 0-1-1 Houston Texans win their first game of the 2022 campaign in a game against the 1-1 Bears.

"I get a chance to have my dream job here based on starting there," Smith said. "A lot of great times, we still have a home there, friends. My wife is from Chicago. All positive, appreciative of everything that happened there during my time."

Chicago is where Smith established himself as one of the best defensive-minded coaches of his generation. He spent nine years as the head coach of the Bears, where he notched an 81-66 record.

The 2006 campaign would go down as one of the best seasons in franchise history. Smith led Chicago to Super Bowl XLI following a 13-3 regular-season record, where the Bears' year came to a disappointing end with a loss to the Indianapolis Colts.

Since Smith's jettison in 2013, the two respective parties have yet to replicate the level of success they experienced together. Chicago went 10-6 during Smith's final season in 2012. 

Over the past decade, the Bears have had only one winning season (2018) since his departure. Following his release from the Buccaneers in 2015, Smith had a short stint as head coach of the Illinois Fighting Illini from 2016-2020.  

 "I spent a lot of time in Chicago — some great years," Smith said. "But there’s an opponent on the other side."

Will the Texans' run defense prevent a win in Chicago? 

If not for the offensive mishaps, the Texans could have entered Soldier Field stadium undefeated due to the play of their defense. But if there is an area of weakness within Houston's defensive performance, the Texans' ineffective run defense could result in the Bears staying undefeated against their former coach. 

The Texans have given up an average of 163 yards on the ground. Running back David Montgomery will be a significant issue for the Texans' run defense, but second-year quarterback Justin Fields may provide a more daunting challenge. 

Fields can use his legs to will the Bears to victory. During a Week 8 loss to the San Francisco 49ers, Fields' versatility was on display when he threw for 175 yards and rushed for 103 amid a 33-22 defeat. 

Defensive line coach Jacques Cesaire believes the key to containing a dual-threat quarterback like Fields is to rush with four and to win one-on-ones. 

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"For the most part, they pay the running back to run the ball," Cesaire said. "They pay the quarterback to throw the ball. We have to be ready to address both. Whatever they decide to do, we have to be ready to address what they’re trying to get done."

Can Davis Mills turn his inadequate season around? 

Smith was displeased with the Texans' passing game during their Week 2 loss against the Denver Broncos. And a bulk of Smith's disappointment came as a result of Davis Mills' performance

Mills failed to eclipse over 200 passing yards against the Broncos. He recorded 177 yards while completing 50.0 percent of his pass attempts. After the game, Smith said the Texans need more from Mills moving forward.

Mills is entering the third game of his sophomore season, completing 56.0 percent of his passes for 417 yards. He has thrown only two touchdowns so far this season — tight end O.J. Howard was the recipient of both passes. 

"It starts with me, I’ve got to make all the throws, and I know that," Mills said. "I Just got to keep pushing for what we’ve been training for. I think we’re ready to perform. We’ve just got to do it."

QUICK HITS

- The Houston Texans will be without tight end Brevin Jordan against the Bears. Jordan sustained an ankle injury during the Texans' loss to the Broncos and missed an entire week of practice.

With the loss of Jordan, veteran O.J. Howard will play a large role for the Texans. Howard, who joined the team following his release from the Buffalo Bills, has scored the lone two touchdowns of the year for Houston.

- Pep Hamilton gave an honest self-evaluation of his first two games as offensive coordinator for the Texans. Hamilton said he believes his playcalling hasn't been good enough because the Texans have not been able to score enough points. 

Through the first two games of the season, the Texans have averaged 14.5 points per game.

"You always go back and self-evaluate, that’s what we all do," Hamilton said. "There are some situations where I would like to have the opportunity to call a different call, but I think we’re a few plays away from having the opportunity to feel different after two games."


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