Houston looks to improve and clinch home-field

The Houston Texans blew a chance to clinch home-field advantage

throughout the AFC playoffs with Sunday’s ugly loss to

Minnesota.

They’ll get another opportunity to do it in the regular-season

finale at Indianapolis next Sunday. But a loss could drop them to

third in the AFC.

If Houston loses to the Colts and both Denver and New England

win, the Texans could fall to the third-seed and lose not only

home-field advantage, but also a first-round bye. If Indianapolis

beats Houston and Denver loses or New England loses or ties,

Houston will still get a bye.

They can also get home-field advantage with a loss if the

Broncos lose and the Patriots lose or tie.

”We know what it takes,” defensive end J.J. Watt said. ”We’re

going to get focused, and then we’re going to come out there and

earn ourselves home-field advantage.”

To do that, coach Gary Kubiak will need to correct many problems

on his team. The biggest one, he says, is improving on third downs.

Houston (12-3) has struggled in that area recently. Against the

Vikings was the worst yet as the Texans converted 1 of 11

chances.

”Obviously, we’ve got a problem on third downs right now,” he

said. ”It has not been good the last three weeks. If there was one

problem, we’d go address that. There’s many, many issues going on.

But there is one consistent issue and the consistent issue is

third-and-long.”

A glaring reason why there’s been so many long-yardage

situations is the inability to run well on first and second downs.

Nine of Houston’s 11 third downs were 8 yards or longer Sunday. Of

those nine, five came after Houston had running plays for no gain

or negative yardage on first or second down.

”That’s not the type of play we’re accustomed to having,” left

tackle Duane Brown said. ”We’ve got to get 5 and 6 then bust out a

big one. When have those 2-yard runs and set up a third-and-8,

third-and-7, it’s tough. Against a good defense it’s going to be

hard to convert those third and longs. We just continue to put

ourselves in those situations.”

Houston has converted 10 of 38 third down attempts in its last

three games, which included two losses. Some have blamed

quarterback Matt Schaub for the third down woes. But Kubiak said

he’s only part of the problem, and that the running backs, linemen,

receivers and even the coaches have to get better for things to

change.

The success of Kubiak’s offense is predicated on running the

ball well. So he was troubled when he reviewed the game and

realized they didn’t have a single running play on third down

against the Vikings.

”For us to do what we do best, there’s a percentage of those

that we need to be in position to line up and run the football, and

we haven’t done that in the last month,” Kubiak said. ”Getting

back to that is a big point of emphasis. Now that’s a lot easier

said than done, so we’ve got to look at ourselves hard to make sure

we can get that done.”

The Texans had a season-low 34 yards rushing on Sunday. Their

running game was hurt by Arian Foster playing little more than a

half before leaving with an irregular heartbeat. Foster, who had a

season-worst 10 carries for 15 yards on Sunday, underwent tests

Monday and is OK.

”I appreciate all the concern and support,” Foster tweeted.

”I am doing well. Saw a cardiologist today and everything is back

to normal.”

Kubiak expects him to play Sunday.

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