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Red Zone Offense - This is an area that is going to get hammered all week long. The Texans drove into the red zone 5 times, and Neil Rackers came out to hit 4 field goals. That’s not good enough against one of the elite teams in the NFL. I took a look at the play-by-play of all the drives, and everything got tougher past the 20. Ben Tate couldn’t run the ball as well, and the passing game seemed to be stifled by the lack of space.
If you want one reason to root for Arian Foster to return, this is it. The Texans were fine in the red zone last season, and a large part of it was the success he had down near the goal line. Nothing against Tate (who has played well), but he hasn’t made any extra yardage in this area. In a couple of instances, I also thought the play-calling was a little too conservative.
Pass Defense - The Texans allowed 354 yards passing to the Saints, which I’m sure for many will conjure up images of 2010. I don’t believe the D is as bad as it looked late Sunday; when an offense like New Orleans’s gets on a roll, things become very dicey.
My biggest issue is that the coverage has to be tighter along the outside. If Kareem Jackson is playing 8-10 yards off WRs, he has to be willing to contest them a little bit. There are too many easy 5, 8, and 10 yard plays against this pass defense. There’s literally no way you can defend Drew Brees playing some of the coverages like that.
On the bright side, Jimmy Graham is already one of the better TEs in the NFL, and I believe there aren’t many quite like him. He torched the Houston D in the 4th quarter, especially when he ran past Glover Quin for a 30 yard touchdown. If you can’t cover Graham with Quin, who is Wade Phillips supposed to put on him?
Pass rush - Probably one of the most underrated elements in how the Texans lost this game. I know Antonio Smith and JJ Watt had sacks, but the pass rush seemed to disappear late in the game. That hurry-up, spread attack is very hard on a DL, but there’s no way this (or any other) secondary can cover for more than 4-5 seconds.
The reality of the NFL in 2011 is that a ton of QBs are putting up huge yardage and TD numbers every week. The only thing that can tilt the playing field is pressure from the front 7. Frankly, I think Mario Williams needs to make way more plays than he did on Sunday.
Matt Schaub - On the stat sheet, Schaub had an excellent day (22/39, 373 yards, 3 TDs), but the 1 INT was costly. After the Saints go up 26-24, he forced one to Andre Johnson that was picked off by Jabari Greer.
On the TV broadcast, Dan Dierdorf hated the throw, but I thought Schaub had a better shot if he lofted the ball instead of drilling it on a line. Either way, that was a mistake the offense couldn’t afford in that scenario. The D was dead as soon as it came on the field.
I know Schaub has his detractors in this city, but the reality is that this franchise is wedded to him. Andrew Luck, Landry Jones, and Matt Barkley are not walking through that door (with no guarantees on them, either). Schaub is definitely good enough to win with, but there’s no doubt he needs to start getting some signature W’s.