Texans look for improvement before playoffs

The Houston Texans clinched the AFC South with a 29-17 win over
the Colts to help erase the memory of a blowout loss to New
England.

Coach Gary Kubiak still sees plenty of room for improvement
after Sunday’s game and is challenging his team to play better with
gaining home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs still
within reach.

San Francisco’s win over New England on Sunday night left the
Texans needing just one win in their last two games to secure
home-field advantage.

”It’d be huge for this team because playing at home in this
league and having the benefit of your crowd and getting off on
cadence and all those types of things, it’s a big, big factor in
success in this league,” Kubiak said. ”We worked hard to get to
the playoffs. We worked hard to win a division and now we got to
continue that same effort to try to find a way to possibly be a one
seed in this playoff hunt.”

One of Kubiak’s biggest concerns is Houston’s inability to
finish drives lately. Houston was just one of five on red zone
opportunities on Sunday.

The Texans scored their only offensive touchdown on their second
drive, and settled for field goals the rest of the way.

”It was disappointing because we could have really put some
points on the board,” Kubiak said. ”You only get so many
opportunities in this business and boy, you have to take advantage
of them.”

Houston ran for 178 yards on Sunday, led be a season-high 165
yards from Arian Foster. But Foster and the Texans didn’t fare very
well running the ball in the red zone against the Colts.

Foster managed just 2 yards on a third-and-4 from the
Indianapolis 13 to force Houston to kick a field goal on its first
drive. Houston had a second-and-10 inside the Indianapolis 20 when
Ben Tate lost 4 yards on a run, forcing the team to settle for
another field goal two plays later.

Houston’s red zone production was also hindered when Matt Schaub
was sacked for a loss of 7 yards on second-and-8 in the third
quarter.

There has been some criticism of why Houston didn’t go to Andre
Johnson more in the red zone after he scored its only offensive
touchdown early in Sunday’s game. Johnson leads the AFC with 1,360
yards receiving.

Kubiak said it often doesn’t make sense to force it to Johnson
in those situations because the defense is focused on stopping
him.

”A lot of that has to do with how much attention is paid to him
down there,” Kubiak said. ”People double him, doing those types
of things.”

While Kubiak’s main focus is fixing Houston’s flaws, he did take
time Monday to discuss some areas he isn’t fretting about.

He is excited about the development of some of his young
players, and believes their development will help the team as it
moves closer to the playoffs.

Rookie receiver DeVier Posey, who hadn’t caught a pass until
last week, had three receptions for 46 yards against the Colts. On
defense, rookie Whitney Mercilus has helped Houston deal with
numerous injuries to its linebackers. Mercilus has six sacks and
has forced two fumbles despite starting just three games.

”I think what’s happening right now is some of our young
players on our team are giving us a chance to continue to
improve,” Kubiak said. ”We’re watching some young guys really
contribute to this team … and it is very encouraging.”

Kubiak also raved about the work of defensive end J.J. Watt, who
is tied with San Francisco’s Aldon Smith for most sacks in the NFL
with 19 1/2.

Watt led the team with 10 tackles, forced a fumble and sacked
Andrew Luck three times on Sunday. He needs just three sacks to tie
the NFL single-season record of 22 1/2.

”He’s been exceptional,” Kubiak said. ”The game he played
yesterday, and you all know how he’s played all year, was probably
his best this year. Usually a lot of linemen have a specialty,
defensive linemen, whether it’s rushing the passer, playing the run
(but) this kid does everything well.”

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