Texans vs. Patriots Take 2: Johnson and Foster Couldn't Do It Alone
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As most expected, the Pats ripped through Houston 41-28, advancing to the AFC Championship game.
Was there anything the Texans could have done differently to prevent this outcome?
A second look at the tape tells the tale.
The Real Story
While much of the talk surrounding this game will center around the play of Matt Schaub, the truth is that while he didn't play well, there were much bigger factors at work.
The strength of the Texans coming into this season was supposed to be a deep linebacking corp capable of rushing the passer. That simply was not the case.
Injuries hurt, of course, but it is also clear the Texans were not nearly as talented in the middle of the field as was initially thought. Houston had trouble matching up with the Patriots over the middle and struggled to get any kind of pressure on Tom Brady.
J.J. Watt was effective for a half, but the Patriots did a nice job against him in the second half. Outside of Watt, none of the Texans looked dynamic. The defense has its share of serviceable players, but there weren't a lot of difference makers lining up against the Pats.
Even with strong games from Andre Johnson and Arian Foster, the Texans simply couldn't keep pace. The season ended with the Texans finishing exactly where they deserved, as the third- or fourth-best team in the AFC.
Danieal Manning struggled in coverage, but his returns were a revelation. Considering how bad he looked against Cincinnati, it was amazing to see the production he generated.
Arian Foster accounted for 153 total yards and two touchdowns, continuing his fantastic run of postseason play. There were times in 2012 when he looked slowed and overworked, but he was full-strength down the stretch. He's a real Houston hero.
As always, Andre Johnson proved difficult for the Patriots to handle. He never had any home run plays, but no one will argue with eight catches and 95 yards and a two-point conversion.
Schaub played very average. He wasn't as good as his stat line indicated, and the interception he threw in the third quarter was the back-breaking play of the day.
Bradie James looked lost on defense. Granted, a lot of Texans did, but he stood out as looking particularly slow.
One of the reasons Schaub took heat down the stretch was his conservative play and decision making.
This was on full display in the third quarter against the Patriots.
With the Texans already trailing 24-13, Houston faced 3rd-and-5 in Pats territory. Schaub took pressure from the right and rolled out, narrowly avoiding a sack.
Once he had cleared the rusher, however, he had plenty of time to set his feet and make a viable throw downfield. Instead of either attempting to run for the first down or making a throw, he chucked the ball out of bounds.
This was a terrible decision at a time in the game when the Texans were on the verge of getting blown out. If ever there was a moment to take a risk, this was it.
The Texans punted inside Patriots territory twice in the first half. The worst was a punt from the 43 on 4th-and-7. The punt netted just 23 yards, and the Pats had a touchdown seven plays later.
Once the game got out of hand, Kubiak went for it on fourth down four times with the Texans converting three of them.
He also called the onside kick correctly.
While Kubiak takes justified heat for his play calling and antediluvian scheme, his overall performance in this game wasn't why his team lost.
Keep an Eye On
I've already covered what the Texans will do next, so the big issue for Houston fans will be the rest of the division.
Houston will likely come back to the pack some more in 2013, but the good news is that the Colts significantly overachieved in 2012 and likely won't get the same breaks they did this past year.
The division is still right there for the taking. With improvement from some key spots and better health, the Texans could be back in the playoffs for the third straight year.
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