Three keys for Texans and Patriots

Three keys for Texans and Patriots
January 12, 2013, 8:00 am
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Kubiak on Pats: 'We know what we're walking into'

With the big game on tap for Sunday, CSNHouston Texans writer Dave Zangaro and CSN New England Patriots Insider Tom E. Curran take a look at the three biggest keys for the game.

First up, the Texans

1. Get Arian Foster going

Against a team like Tom Brady and the Patriots, a good offense might be the best defense. It's at least what the Texans are going to try to do.

Foster ran for just 46 yards the last time the two teams met, mostly because the Texans fell behind early and needed to go to the air. But in his other seven road games this season, he averaged 100.7 yards per game. Last week Foster became the first player in NFL history to rush for at least 100 yards in each of his first three playoff games.

But Foster running the ball isn't just important for the Texans' offense, it's important for the defense too. While the offense moves down the field on their typical 12-play, eight-minute drives, the defense rests. No matter how good Tom Brady is, he can't throw touchdown passes from the sideline.

2. Another target needs to emerge

Andre Johnson has been great this season. He's returned to Pro Bowl form, catching 112 passes for 1,598 yards. After speculation that Johnson had lost a step early this season, he responded and had one of the best seasons of his 10-year NFL career.

But Johnson won’t be enough. The Texans’ offense, and Matt Schaub, just work better when there are more targets in the passing game. Really, the Texans need one other player to have a big game in the receiving game.

Maybe that will be Kevin Walter. Walter’s best game this season came against Baltimore, when he caught four passes for 74 yards and a touchdown. But at times this season, Walter has been invisible. Walter did have four catches against Cincinnati last week, which was the most he’s had since Dec.

DeVier Posey has been the team’s third option at wideout but the rookie doesn’t seem ready to have this big of a role in a playoff game. He didn’t have a catch against the Bengals but is a dark-horse candidate.

The most-likely guy to fill that second receiver role? Owen Daniels. Daniels had a big game, setting the team’s playoff franchise record for catches with nine against the Bengals. It was a great sign for the Texans because Daniels has battled injuries all season and didn’t have that big of a game the entire regular season.

3. Get to Tom Brady

Easier said than done. In Week 14, the Patriots managed to do something most teams in the league have failed at miserably: they made J.J. Watt look human.

In that game, Watt (who finished the season with 20.5 sacks) didn’t have one. In fact, the Texans as a unit had just one sack vs. Brady. But it’s not just sacks, the Texans need to make Brady uncomfortable, which he certainly wasn’t a few weeks ago.

The Texans’ defense isn’t fancy. Wade Phillips doesn’t like to use a whole lot of exotic blitzes. What you see is what you get. And the entire defense is predicated on getting a push up front. Against most teams in the league, this wasn’t a problem. Against the Patriots, Brady just got rid of the ball too darn quick.

The Texans have two good corners in Johnathan Joseph and Kareem Jackson. They’re going to have trouble covering Wes Welker, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, but then again, who doesn’t? They might be able to mask their deficiencies there if they’re able to get to the quarterback. If they can’t, it might be a long, long day for Houston fans.

Now for the Patriots

By Tom E. Curran
CSNNE.com

Most times, a team's keys to victory involve things it does in a given game. But for the Patriots on Sunday, the keys may just be reacting to
things the Texans may throw at them:

1. Be aware that the Texans are treating this game like they're the underdog

Onsides kicks, attack mode all the way through . . . whatever Houston has to do to catch New England by surprise, it probably will do. The Pats will
have to be ready for anything.

2. Be prepared for the Texans to go different offensively

Having seen the success the 2-14 Jaguars had against the Pats -- New England barely squeaked out a 23-16 victory -- by giving them looks they
didn't expect, the Texans may do the same thing. They should go empty in the backfield, use five wide receivers, do anything they need to do to
attack the Patriots with stuff they're not anticipating.

3. Watch for the Texans to forego the blitz and clog the defensive backfield

This is something that's totally out of the Texans' defensive DNA. But when Tom Brady sees blitz, he kills defenses; he hasn't thrown a pick all
year against a blitzing defense. If I'm the Houston Texans, I drop everybody into coverage except J.J. Watt and company up front.

Bill Belichick often says: Do what you can in the game that's in front of you to get to the next level. If the Texans adapt that philosophy and come
at the Patriots differently than they did last time, this could be an interesting late afternoon/early evening at Gillette Stadium.