AFC South All-22 Review: Houston Texans Go Passive in the Red Zone

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AFC South All-22 Review: Houston Texans Go Passive in the Red Zone
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Another short throw coming from Schaub.

The chorus of voices displeased with Gary Kubiak's play calling and strategy have gotten louder.

One of the best pieces on the topic was written by Paul Kuharsky of ESPN.com who detailed just how often Matt Schaub checked down in the red zone.

It's an excellent piece and worth a click, so by all means check it out before continuing.

Building on Kuharsky's observations, let's look at a few of the decisions Schaub made against the Bengals.

 

Second Quarter, 13:55

3rd-and-8, Bengals 14

Schaub throws for five yards setting up a field goal. There's absolutely no value to this throw. The odds of Shayne Graham making a 31-yard field goal are no worse than the 27-yarder he hit.

Here's what Schaub saw:

Why does Kubiak take criticism? There are five men in the pattern and three of them aren't even running to the sticks. This shot is a milisecond after Schaub threw.

In this situation, there's no great consequence if the pass is incomplete or even if the quarterback is sacked. The odds of hitting the short field goal don't fluctuate greatly from 25 to 40 yards.

Schaub had a low-percentage fade set up on the right, and a double covered target in the middle of the field. Though the fade would have been a better choice, throwing to a double covered Walter for a short gain wasn't much worse than his other short targets.

 

Fourth Quarter, 14:21

3rd-and-goal, Bengals 11

Schaub checks down to Foster turning a 28-yard kick into a 24-yard kick. Again, there as no value at all to this throw.

Here's what Schaub saw:

Facing light pressure, he made no attempt to buy time. Again, a sack in this situation is inconsequential. By the time he releases to Foster, no Texan has even made it to the end zone.

There's no effort made to extend the play. There's no attempt for a fade to the corner. Schaub takes a quick, short throw which adds nothing at all to his team's chances of winning.

 

When Kubiak gets slammed for conservative coaching, route combinations like the first play are part of the issue. When Schaub takes heat for giving up on plays early, quick check downs like the second are part of the reason why.

Sacks are not always bad. There are places on the field where it's better to take a sack trying to make a play than it is throw the ball away or dump it off.

As for Kubiak, he has to call plays that have some chance of resulting in touchdowns and first downs. Protecting short field goals that are already virtual locks simply will not get it done.

It's fine for heavy favorites to play conservative, but the Texans are now big underdogs in New England. Underdogs succeed with high-variance strategies. That means if Houston wants to pull off an upset in Foxboro, they will have to take some chances and be more aggressive.

Maybe they'll even run some routes into the end zone.

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