The Texans had emphasized creating third and manageable for their offense for the last month. On Saturday they were able to do it in their wildcard win over the Bengals.
“First of all, they were manageable," Gary Kubiak said. "You go back, we have 17 third downs, and we are 8-of-17, so that’s a little less than 50 percent. But, I think the biggest thing you’re going to find, is that out of those 17, we ran the ball maybe six times. We’ve been in some games lately, we’ve had 12 third down plays, and we haven’t run the ball once because we haven’t had a third-and-1 or third-and-2. We can’t play that way. We were more on schedule today with what we were doing.”
Of the Texans 17 third downs, 10 were 3rd-and-3 or shorter and only five of Houston's third downs were longer than four yards.
“Yes, that is what we stressed," Matt Schaub said Saturday. "We stressed that we can’t shoot ourselves in the foot with third and long. That is tough to overcome. We did a good job today. I think we were close to 50 percent. That is pretty good in this league. We have to continue to do that and we have to stay on the field.”
“Yeah, when you’re able to keep your third downs manageable, then you’re able to keep moving the chains and maintain the ball," Andre Johnson said after the game. "I don’t know what the time of possession as, but I’m pretty sure that they didn’t have it very long.”
To be specific, the Texans won the time of possession 38:49 to 21:11. By halftime the Texans led in time of possession by a glaring 22:53 to 7:03. But third down is always a microcosm of what a team can do on first and second down.
"Lots of times, third down is a glaring stat out there but that only stems from situations we get ourselves into on first and second down when we don’t perform well," Owen Daniels said. "We were a lot better with that today. I think we were in a lot more manageable third down situations and we did a pretty good job converting today.”
“We’ve got to stay in that situation, that’s been preached," James Casey said. "Our offensive staff and offensive coaches have been telling us we have to stay within third-and-manageable. You have to do well on first and second downs."
The Texans converted just six third downs in their previous two games. It always helps to create third and short when you're averaging five and a half yards a play like the Texans did Saturday.
“That’s something we emphasized in practice," Arian Foster said. "The last month of our season we were not good in third downs. We kind of slipped in the red zone, so we just have to keep improving on what we feel our weaknesses are and let them become strengths. We’re really good in the red zone all season, and we want to get back to that.”