It's Football Time in Houston
Here we are in exactly the situation that I was hoping to avoid -- playing the Patriots on their home field in the playoffs (rather than at Reliant Stadium). Still, even though the Texans were embarrassed in their last visit to Foxborough, and even though the experts virtually unanimously favor the Pats, I'm optimistic. Here's why.
Texans - Patriots, Monday Night December 10, 2012 RememberedNot a pretty sight! The young Texans lost their composure, got behind early (21-0 by halftime), and, as a result, could not play "Texans football."
At their best, the Texans offense runs the ball effectively, stays "on schedule," passes primarily off play-action, and controls the clock. Ten play drives are routine; 15-18 play drives are not unusual. At their best, their time of possession is often 35 minutes or more. In their recent playoff win over the Bengals, their TOP was almost 39 minutes; they had one game this year where it was over 43 minutes! In the December game, it was 29:11....
To be at their best, the Texans defense must be well rested. They need to get off the field on 3rd downs, and the offense must control the ball so that the defense is fresh when they are on the field.
How Might Sunday Be Different? - Texans on OffenseIn December, the Texans' running game was virtually non-existent. To run more effectively this time, they have to a) stay in the game, and b) control Vince Wilfork.
The right side of the OL is very young. Another month of experience for guards Ben Jones & Brandon Brooks will help. Derrick Newton, our young starting RT did not play in the December game because of injuries; having him back will help as well. Brooks and Newton could be key since both have great size, and have a better shot at controlling Vince Wilfork who dominated our OL the last time around.
Garrett Graham also missed the last game. Two and three tight end sets are an important part of the Texans offense that was missing in December. Graham's presence could significantly improve the running game, especially in short yardage and the red zone.
How Might Sunday Be Different? - Texans on DefenseLast game, the Texans were missing OLB Brooks Reed. It's critical that the Texans put more pressure on Brady; Reed will help. Our best CB, Jonathan Joseph was just coming back from a hamstring injury. He'll be more effective this game, as will nickel-back Brandon Harris, a young player who was getting his first start.
Even with some key players missing or below par, once the young Texans settled down, the Texans D played reasonably well. With Reed, and Joseph at full strength, the defense will be better. And, assuming the Texans offense can run the ball more effectively, the defense will be fresher.
On the other hand, the Patriots were missing Gronk. Not this time. That will be a challenge. Plus, we're now down to our 4th string inside LB.
Miscellaneous: Special Teams, etc.The Texans' special teams will need to be better this time around. Wes Welker had me worried on a couple of his returns. For the Texans, Manning has replaced Martin on kick returns; he has a proven track record.
More importantly we'll need better luck on penalties and turnovers. Last game, there were three critical red zone plays that did not go the Texans' way: Kareem Jackson's failure to recover a Pats fumble; JJ Watt causing a Pats fumble that the Pats recovered in our end zone for a TD; and the Pats intercepting a pass in their own end zone. In addition, there was at least one important and very questionable pass interference call on Manning that ultimately led to a Pats TD. We'll need better luck on turnovers and penalties this time.
In SummaryIf the Texans play Texans football, they can win this game! In their defeat of the Pats, the 49ers dominated the Patriots for most of the game. If I remember correctly, the keys were a strong running game, and tough defense. The Texans are built very much like the 49ers. In fact, I think our running game is even better than theirs is. (Unfortunately, our pass rush is not....)
The Texans are still a young team, just learning how to win big games. The Patriots deserve to be favored. However, the Texans are definitely capable of winning. The keys will be:
- maintaining their composure
- establishing the running game
- pressuring Brady, and
- getting a few turnovers/breaks.
This could be fun!
Houston Texans 2012 Kickoff
My All Ex-Houston Texans Team
The Houston Texans Strategy is Paying Off
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