Texans look for improvement before playoffs
HOUSTON (AP) -- 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.
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.
"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."