Gary Kubiak Won't Be Coaching for His Job Next Week, But He Should Be
Photo by Groovehouse
Another troubling trend is the reluctance of the Houston staff to take any sort of risk. In less-than-a-yard scenarios, the most efficient play by far is the quarterback sneak. But after Schaub's foot injury on a sneak in Tampa Bay last year (more accurately, an Albert Haynesworth bellyflop), the Texans have almost entirely avoided the play this year.
On Sunday, the Texans had three chances from the Minnesota one on which a single yard or less would have brought them within six points. They didn't sneak it a single time.
Against playoff-caliber defenses, this is incomprehensible. It gives very good linemen and linebackers one less option to think about and forces the Texans to take the ball behind the line of scrimmage. On two of the three plays Sunday, the Texans lost yardage.
The most sensible option would be to accept that Schaub's incident was a freak injury and unlikely to be repeated. Don't believe that? Fine. Consider building an extreme "goal-line package" around T.J. Yates. Denver has a similar package with backup quarterback Brock Osweiler in very limited circumstances.
But to almost remove the QB sneak from the playbook is not a logical choice.
Another bizarre decision came midway through the fourth quarter, with the Texans opting to punt on fourth-and-a-foot despite trailing by 10. Yes, the ball was on Houston's own 11. But what matters most is that at that point in the game, there was not a reasonable path to winning that involved a punt on that drive. Whatever the odds of converting the fourth down were, they were a lot better than the Texans expeditiously stopping the Vikings and then scoring twice, all in the last 10 minutes.
Appropriately, the Vikings immediately marched down the field for the game-clinching touchdown.
Opportunity for redemption
Nothing has been done that can't be undone, of course. The Texans still control their own destiny for the number one overall seed, needing only to win at Indianapolis -- a team the Texans throttled a week ago in Houston and one that will likely rest a few regulars with its number five playoff seed locked in.
Lose, though, and the Texans will complete one of the biggest collapses in Houston football history, having needed only one win against middling Minnesota and Indianapolis to clinch homefield.
If the Texans blow a gift-wrapped scenario like this one and ultimately lose in the AFC playoffs, how can anyone reasonably expect the Kubiak-Schaub regime to ever win a Super Bowl?
Kubiak wouldn't actually be fired, of course. Owner Bob McNair loves him, plus the back-to-back division titles will keep fans flowing into Reliant Stadium and merchandise flying off the shelves.
But for the end game of a Super Bowl? If the Texans can't get this done -- especially if the offense, which doesn't have the excuse of losing Brian Cushing, is to blame -- it's very hard to envision when they can.
In six days, we'll arrive at what finally and truly is the "biggest game in franchise history."