The Houston Texans bowed out of the playoffs in disappointing style against the New England Patriots this past Sunday night. Despite performing better than they did against the same team in the regular season, the Texans were still comprehensively swept aside as their offense couldn’t keep up with the Patriots’ high-octane ability to move the football down the field. Even though the away side’s defense gave up over 40 points and the offense scored 29 in Foxboro, most of the scrutiny has been directed at Matt Schaub and his teammates in the aftermath of their season coming to a close.
Schaub didn’t perform as well as he could, and probably should have. Schaub threw the ball 51 times for 343 yards and two touchdowns, but also had an interception as well as a fumble, although he did recover his own fumble to prevent the turnover. Schaub’s statistics aren’t overly impressive, but they’re not disastrous either.
The real issue with his outing in Boston was his performance. Unlike his counterpart for the Patriots, Tom Brady, Schaub wasn’t able to take control with his arm and consistently expose the Patriots’ deficiencies on defense.
Although Schaub didn’t do enough to help his team win, the whole blame can’t be placed on him for the offense’s inability to move the ball. The Texans have an exceptionally designed offense, but it is a limited one when it comes to the playoffs. During the regular season they averaged 26 points per game, good enough for eighth in the league, while acquiring 372.1 yards(seventh overall) per game, 239.4 yards(11th overall) passing and 132.7 rushing yards(eighth overall) rushing yards. The offense scored over 40 points twice and 31 or more against five more teams. However, once the playoffs began, those statistics became irrelevant because matchups are important in the playoffs, opposed to statistical girth.
The Texans’ offense based it’s success on their zone-blocking scheme upfront and play-action based off of it. Even though Schaub was able to accumulate over 4,000 yards in that offense, he was never the primary option as Arian Foster led the way all season. Much of Schaub’s completions came off of Foster’s play-action when he would be able to complete passes consistently to tight ends running less complex passing routes.
Andre Johnson had over 1,500 yards for the Texans, but their second most productive receiver was tight end Owen Daniels, who had 62 receptions for 716 yards. Including James Casey and Garrett Graham, the Texans finished the season with 1,309 yards, which severely overshadows the 841 yards they got from the team’s other four receivers surpassed Johnson on the depth chart.
In fact, outside of Kevin Walter, the Texans’ next most productive receiver ranked eighth in overall team production. When it came to touchdowns, the Texans’ receivers only accounted for eight in the regular season, the tight ends alone ranked for 12 and Foster added in two more.
Those may just be numbers, but they do reflect the structure of the Texans’ offense and how it limits the team’s passing attack. Unlike the Patriots’ offense, a unit that can both spread the field with a vertical passing attack and overpower front sevens with their rushing attack, the Texans are overly reliant on their rigid structure. In today’s NFL, passing attacks lead the way. The Atlanta Falcons, Baltimore Ravens, Patriots and San Francisco 49ers may not all be pass-first teams, but they are each able to win with a more expansive approach.
It’s not just enough for the Texans to have already drafted players such as Lestar Jean, DeVier Posey and Keshawn Martin to revamp their passing attack. The whole offense has to schematically put those players in position to succeed, while trusting their ability to carry the football. Instead of making Foster the focal point of the offense, they need to make him just another weapon amongst a deep and versatile arsenal.
The Patriots lost Danny Woodhead and Rob Gronkowski on Sunday, but they were able to put their replacements in position to succeed with their contemporary offensive design. The Texans’ offensive design and ideal is still stuck in the past. You can no longer rely on a rushing attack to carry you to the Super Bowl. You can continue to win in the regular season, but that winning won’t translate to January anytime soon.
The Texans have the defense to win a championship, as well as the talent around Schaub to succeed in the playoffs, but Gary Kubiak needs to revamp the identity of that whole side of the football. If not, he will be surprised to find out just how quickly fans can become disgruntled with just appearing in the playoffs, even though they were so appreciative of a first division title only last season.