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New England Patriots vs. Houston Texans: Breaking Down Houston's Game Plan

FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 13:  Shayne Graham #17 of the Houston Texans celebrates with Connor Barwin #98 and Wade Smith #74 of the Houston Texans after kicking a 55 yard field goal at the end of the second half against the New England Patriots during the 2013 AFC Divisional Playoffs game at Gillette Stadium on January 13, 2013 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images
Matt GoldsteinContributor IINovember 28, 2013

Reality has finally sunk in. Before last week, the Houston Texans abysmal season had seemed out of place, almost like a fluke.

But after last week's pathetic loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars, the truth was finally revealed for even the most optimistic fans: the Houston Texans are terrible.

And things aren't looking much better for the wayward franchise. This week, the New England Patriots—hot off a massive come-from-behind victory over the Broncos last week—are rolling into town. Not only are the Texans expected to lose, but it is very realistic that the game could turn into a devastating blowout very early on.

The Texans, though, despite their record, still have some very talented players on the roster, and there are some who can lead their team to victory and regain some dignity for the fallen franchise.

In order for this to happen, the game plan described in the rest of the article must be executed to perfection.

 

Stop The Run at All Costs

When playing a team with a quarterback as talented as Tom Brady, most of the focus is almost always centered on stopping the passing game.

HOUSTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 29:  Brooks Reed #58 of the Houston Texans celebrates  with Whitney Mercilus #59, Darryl Sharpton #51 and J.J. Watt #99 after a a defensive stop at Reliant Stadium on September 29, 2013 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty
Bob Levey/Getty Images

The Patriots, though, are certainly not averse to running the ball and establishing their will on the ground. After observing how easily the Jaguars dominated the Texans on the ground last week, it is almost certain that the Patriots will come out running.

If the Texans are unable to at least slow down the Patriots' rushing attack, their defense could be in for a long, long day, as Brady will try to use play-action to rip apart a Texans defense should it have to commit extra defenders to the box to stop the run.

The Patriots are at their most efficient when their running game can take pressure off of Brady, so Houston defensive coordinator Wade Philips must have his defense ready to shut down the rushing attack right away. The best result would be that the Texans' rush defense plays so well that the Patriots eventually abandon the run, forcing the New England offense to become a one dimensional.

 

Pressure Tom Brady With Only Four Pass Rushers

The best way to beat elite quarterbacks—or any quarterback for that manner—is to pressure them and hit them, repeatedly.

And most teams generate pressure by blitzing, sometimes sending a high number of defenders to rush the quarterback. 

The problem with such an approach against Brady, however, is that one of his greatest strengths is diagnosing the blitz and immediately getting rid of the ball.

HOUSTON, TX- NOVEMBER 17: Darryl Sharpton #51 of the Houston Texans celebrates J.J. Watt #99 of the Houston Texans sack on Matthew McGloin #14 of the Oakland Raiders on November 17, 2013 at Reliant Stadium in Houston, Texas. Raiders won 28 to 23.(Photo by
Thomas B. Shea/Getty Images

Brady lives to be blitzed, he can make life a waking nightmare for defenses that dare to send extra defenders after him, as there are fewer defenders back in coverage.

Brady, though, is even better when he's not pressured at all, and this places defenses in a very tough position.

The fact of the matter is that the only way to definitely shut down Brady is to pressure him with only four defenders. That way, Brady would still have to get rid of the ball quickly, but there would be a respectable number of players in coverage.

The issue with this is that the Texans struggle to generate any type of pressure at all—even when blitzing—so it will be even more difficult to touch Brady with only four pass-rushers.

J.J. Watt, Antonio Smith, Earl Mitchell, Whitney Mercilus and Brooks Reed all need to play at very high level for the Texans to even have a chance at disrupting the Patriots' aerial attack.

 

Protect Case Keenum

For the past two weeks, Case Keenum has struggled to return to the exciting form that he displayed against the Colts. While some of this regression is Keenum's fault, many of his problems have originated from poor protection and shoddy play-calling.

The Texans' offensive line has been the equivalent of a turnstile for opposing defenders, and occasionally pass-rushers reach Keenum before he even has a chance to start going through his reads.

In other instances, the offensive line actually manages to give Keenum at least two seconds to diagnose the defense and make a decision as to where to throw the ball, but the play-calling has been so poor that the offense sputters regardless.

HOUSTON, TX - NOVEMBER 24:  Case Keenum #7 of the Houston Texans gets knocked to the ground in the second half of the game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Reliant Stadium on November 24, 2013 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
Scott Halleran/Getty Images

Kubiak too often dials up long passing plays for Keenum, and since these plays take so long to develop, Keenum usually has to focus first on avoiding immediate pressure before he can even think about hurling the all deep.

If the Texans could simply have their primary targets run shorter, more precise routes, Keenum would have a much better chance at surviving in the pocket.

In order for the Texans to keep up with the Patriots high-octane offense, Keenum must be protected at nearly all times.

 

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