What a difference a week makes. Texans fans went from tears to cheers in just a matter of days after the Houston Texans handed rookie quarterback sensation Andrew Luck and the Colts a 29-17 loss, wrapping up their second straight AFC South title.
Now, with two regular season games left, including this Sunday's crucial home game with the Minnesota Vikings, homefield advantage throughout the AFC playoffs is completely in Houston's control. Texans owner Bob McNair enjoys being in this position.
“I’d like to get used to it, but I’m proud of our team and we still have a lot of work in front of us and a lot of things we need to correct,” McNair says.
I’ve heard a lot people calling local sports radio stations saying Kubiak’s style of play calling won’t work against better teams. Well, it’s worked in 12 games this season . . .
The Colts entered the AFC South matchup with a 9-4 record. Not bad for a team that finished at the bottom of the league in 2011. Of course if you’ve read anything I’ve written you know I think every team in the NFL has to be taken seriously. You know the mantra: “Any Given Sunday…”
However, like McNair says, the 12-2 Texans have some things to fix if they’re planning to still be playing in February.
Andre Johnson, J.J. Watt and Arian Foster led the team on and off the field in the win over the Colts. The hiccups were the missed opportunities an occasional blown coverage and of course the nine penalties. When asked if he started being conservative by going for field goals, Texans coach Gary Kubiak said his decisions are always based on getting the win.
“We had third-and-18 from the 18, I’m going to try and do the right thing and I thought the right thing to do was not make a mistake with the ball,” Kubiak says. “One time we threw the ball away, the next time I didn’t think it was very smart to make a mistake with the ball. I thought the field goal was big in that one situation.”
It’s kind of hard to argue with his success. The Texans are 12-2. That means Kubiak definitely deserves the right to call it the way he sees fit. I’ve heard a lot people calling local sports radio stations saying Kubiak’s style of play calling won’t work against better teams. Well, it’s worked in 12 games this season . . . so there you have it.
Offensive question, defensive focus
The Texans were one for five in the red zone against the Colts as far as touchdowns produced. A stat that even in victory draws a little warranted concern. With two regular season games left and likely a bye week to start the postseason, Kubiak and company might be able to tweak the offense a bit. However, don’t expect any major changes from the sideline.
“The first time down there, we should make that play,” Kubiak says. “We had a really good play that we should make. We had a third-and-14, third-and-15, which you put yourself in about as bad a position as you can put yourself in. The last one doesn’t bother me, I think we’re doing the right thing to win the football game.”
Of course that’s what it comes down to . . . winning football games. The defense allowed unknown Colts tailback Vick Ballard to rush for 105 yards last week. The Bulls on Parade did do a good job of containing Colts receiver Reggie Wayne, but gave up a 61-yard touchdown pass to T.Y. Hilton. Texans safety Danieal Manning says there a lot of things to correct defensively.
“Sometimes you have to motivate those guys even when they’re down and you’ve just got to find the happy median in that," Manning says.
“It’s a lot of focus,” Manning says. “Those plays that teams are able to get on us and being inconsistent because we aren’t focused. When you come in the game lacking that, it’s hard to make up for it. It’s not something you can get back, you have to have it the entire week.”
Manning blames the lack of focus on the players as much if not more than the coaches. He includes himself in that group.
“Sometimes you have to motivate those guys even when they’re down and you’ve just got to find the happy median in that," Manning says. "Once we’re able to put our finger on that and be able to get everybody on that page again it shouldn’t be a problem for us to be able to play that defense that we played at the beginning of the year.”
Now would be a good time to get that defense back on the field. Especially with the NFL’s leading rusher — Vikings running back Adrian Peterson — coming to town. A Texans win Sunday will wrap up homefield advantage throughout the playoffs, rendering the last regular season game against the Colts largely meaningless.
Slowing down the league’s leading rusher would be a great sign of focus for the defense.
Kim Davis is a journalist with more than two decades of experience covering sports, news and politics in television, radio and print. Kim does weekly "Chalk Talk" segments on Fox 26 Morning News. Follow her on Twitter @kimydavis.