Houston Texans vs. Tennessee Titans: Breaking Down Houston's Game Plan

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Houston Texans vs. Tennessee Titans: Breaking Down Houston's Game Plan
Scott Halleran/Getty Images

This Sunday, the Houston Texans face off against the Tennessee Titans in their last game of a miserable season, looking to avoid dropping a 14th straight game.

Coincidentally, the last time the Texans managed to win a game was way back in Week 2 against the very same team they're playing this week. That game featured incredible late-game heroics from both Matt Schaub and DeAndre Hopkins, two players who nearly disappeared from the Texans' offense at the end of the season, for various reasons.

Back during those optimistic times, the Texans' jaw-dropping comeback victory was seen as a stepping stone to another great season. It seemed like the Texans were about to hit their stride and make a run for the championship that had been so effective at avoiding the city of Houston.

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Instead, the Texans took all of the momentum generated from that heart-pounding game and threw it all away. They lost their next 13 games, and now they sit here at the bottom of the league.

Back then, the Super Bowl was the ultimate goal. Now, a No. 1 pick in the upcoming draft seems like the best thing that can happen to the collapsing franchise.

This week, though, the Texans have a shot at redemption, a chance to prove that their team is not truly as horrendous as it has seemingly become.

If the Texans still have the desire to grind out a victory, here are the offensive and defensive keys to their final game of a season gone wrong.

 

Find a Way to Protect the Quarterback

With the Texans final game of the season looming, there is still no clear indication of who will start at quarterback, and all three Texans quarterbacks have a shot at running the offense for the last time in 2013.

And while the Texans' offensive game plan will vary greatly depending on which quarterback starts, one thing remains clear: The quarterback must be protected somehow.

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This has been a major problem with the Texans during their nearly season-long losing streak, and both Matt Schaub and Case Keenum have crumbled under continuous pressure.

It has led to the downfall of both quarterbacks, and yet, none of the Texans' offensive play-callers has done anything to fix the problem.

While it is clear that the Texans' offensive line must do a better job of giving its quarterbacks more time in the pocket, there are still other ways to buy quarterbacks some time.

For example, the offense could call up some well-timed screen passes to force opposing defenses to slow down their use of blitzes. Also, short, precise receiving routes will help any of the Texans quarterbacks to quickly get rid of the ball before pass-rushers even get the chance to get close to them.

It is not difficult to combat defensive pressure, yet the Texans have shown no ability to do anything about it. If this trend continues, then the Texans will surely lose this week and tie a franchise-worst record.

 

Create Pressure from Nickel and Dime Defensive Sets

The Texans secondary, particularly from the safety position, has struggled mightily in coverage this season. 

Since the Texans' four-man fronts have not been generating any semblance of pressure, the defense has been forced to send extra defenders after the quarterback. This has put an unnecessary amount of pressure on the secondary, making it extremely tough for them to keep up with their assignments.

Scott Halleran/Getty Images

The defense needs to give up its fixation of one-on-one press man coverage and give its struggling secondary a chance to not get gashed by opposing quarterbacks.

The only way for the Texans to commit extra defenders to coverage, however, is for their primary pass-rushers to step up and consistently pressure the opposing quarterback.

That means J.J. Watt, Antonio Smith, Whitney Mercilus and Brooks Reed will need to wreak havoc on Ryan Fitzpatrick this Sunday, allowing the defense to drop extra defenders back into coverage.

If they cannot, look for another mediocre quarterback to make mincemeat of a supposedly elite defense.

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