Field goals won’t cut it against Patriots

Field goals won’t cut it against Patriots
January 7, 2013, 8:00 am
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Texans ready for a rematch in Foxboro

The Texans outgained the Bengals 420-198. They doubled them in first downs (24-12). And nearly doubled them in time of possession (38:49-21:11).

The Texans dominated the Bengals on Saturday.

And won by six points.

That won’t be good enough to beat the New England Patriots in Foxboro. It won’t be good enough on Sunday to beat a Tom Brady team that led the NFL in points per game this season with 34.8.

The Patriots are going to score. The Texans just have to make sure they do too.

“We have to get touchdowns,” left tackle Duane Brown said. “Get in the red zone, playing New England, we have to get touchdowns. You’ve got to do a better job up front, whatever play is called. Run play, we can throw 2nd-and-2, 3rd-and-2. We have to convert those, can’t settle for field goals. Everyone was pretty disappointed and that was a good thing. We’re disappointed we got field goals and that’s a sign of a great team, great offense, and we’ll look at it and see what corrections need to be made.”

The Texans made it into the red zone four times on Saturday. One time, Arian Foster punched in a one-yard touchdown but on the other three, they settled for Shayne Graham field goals. On all three drives, they made it inside the 10-yard line before the drive stalled.

One of the closest plays they had in the red zone was in the second quarter, when Matt Schaub’s pass to Andre Johnson was just out of reach. It looked like Johnson might have been able to make the grab but he wasn’t.

Seven points turned into three. Twenty one points turned into nine.

Against the Bengals, that was good enough but the Texans know that won’t cut it against the team that spanked them 42-14 a few weeks ago.

“Well, you know you can always improve as a team,” said Arian Foster, who on Saturday became the first running back in NFL history to rush for at least 100 yards in each of his first three career playoff games. “That was obviously our Achilles heel today and I think when you get in the red zone, especially against a team like New England, you have to score touchdowns. You can’t kick field goals because they like to put up points and they like to put up points in a hurry.

“I have a lot of faith in our defense, but that man behind center over there (Brady), on that side of the ball over there, he’s a great player. He’s a first ballot hall-of-famer. You have to keep him off the field and you have to capitalize anytime you get the opportunity.”

The Texans actually weren’t bad in the red zone during the regular season. They ranked 12th in the league in red-zone offense, scoring touchdowns on 56.1 percent of trips.

But the Patriots were the best team in football in that category this season. They scored touchdowns on 70 percent of their red-zone drives. Their 49 red-zone touchdowns were 10 more than the next closest team.  

“I can tell you right now we actually do have to beat those guys to be a Super Bowl worthy team,” J.J. Watt said. “But it’s a great challenge, it’s a very good team. They know what they’re doing in the playoffs. They’ve been there many times before. They know what it takes so it’s going to take everything we have and we’re really excited about that challenge.”

In the first game against New England, the Texans scored every time they made it into the red zone. The problem was they only made it there twice – two touchdowns in the second half when the game was already well out of reach.

They did make it inside the 30 one other time, on their second drive of the game, when Schaub threw an interception on a pass intended for Kevin Walter. That just serves as a reminder: when they have chances against the Patriots, they need to convert.

“No question. When you face a team like New England that scores a lot of points, you have to take advantage of your opportunities down there,” tight end Owen Daniels said. “That will be a focus this week obviously. Something that we can definitely improve on, something that we can take away and improve on from this game. But I’m feeling pretty good about our defense right now with the way they’re playing. Hopefully they bring that to the table next week.”

And the Texans’ defense did play well. In fact, they were the reason they won. Really, the Texans won in spite of their sputtering offense. The Texans’ defense gave up six points on Saturday, while the offense gave up seven on a pick-six.

The Texans beat the Bengals because they held them to 13 points. Don’t expect them to do that against Brady and the Pats. The Patriots haven’t been held to 13 points since Sept. 20, 2009 against the Jets – that was 67 games ago.  

But the playoffs are different, right? The Patriots are 16-6 under Bill Belichick in the playoffs and have scored an average of 24.8 points per game.

“We understand the challenge that we have,” head coach Gary Kubiak said. “That is what is awesome about this league; it’s the ultimate challenge. They’ve been there for a long time. We had a rough trip up there last time, but we’ve earned our right to go back. We want to go back and play a heck of a lot better than we did. We will enjoy this victory today and we’ll get back to work. It’s a challenge that we all work for. That’s why we’re here.”