Of all the things to be critical of after the 34-7 defeat of the Colts, I find the "Gary Kubiak didn't shove their faces in their own feces and run up the score because 35-3!" argument the most confounding. Yet, there is a rather sizable contingent of the fan-base upset the Texans didn't run up the score, claiming it shows "weakness" on Kubiak's part. Obviously, I couldn't disagree more, and after the jump, I'm going to lay out my arguments about why Kubiak played the second half dead-on perfectly.
First of all, let's break down the play-calling to start the second half offensively. From Yahoo!:
1st-10, HOU20 11:54 B. Tate rushed to the left for 2 yard gain
2nd-8, HOU22 11:20 M. Schaub passed to A. Johnson to the left for 6 yard gain
3rd-2, HOU28 10:47 M. Schaub passed to J. Casey to the right for 13 yard gain
1st-10, HOU41 10:00 B. Tate rushed to the left for 5 yard gain
2nd-5, HOU46 9:22 B. Tate rushed to the left for no gain
3rd-5, HOU46 8:40 M. Schaub incomplete pass to the left
4th-5, HOU46 8:23 B. Hartmann punt, touchback
Three passes, three rushes. Balanced. If Kubiak/Rick Dennison would've called for four passes and two rushes, there would've been clamoring to run the ball more. This, however, was hardly a conservative second half opening drive, especially since we were up 34-0 at the time. Next drive:
1st-10, HOU20 5:30 S. Slaton rushed to the left for 13 yard gain
1st-10, HOU33 4:54 M. Schaub passed to S. Slaton down the middle for 6 yard gain
2nd-4, HOU39 4:54 Houston committed 5 yard penalty
2nd-9, HOU34 3:46 S. Slaton rushed to the left for 1 yard loss
3rd-10, HOU33 3:03 M. Schaub passed to J. Jones down the middle for 25 yard gain
1st-10, IND42 2:17 B. Tate rushed to the left for 3 yard gain
2nd-7, IND39 1:34 M. Schaub passed to J. Jones down the middle for 8 yard gain
1st-10, IND31 0:57 M. Schaub rushed to the left for 3 yard gain
2nd-7, IND28 0:22 B. Tate rushed to the right for 18 yard gain
1st-10, IND10 15:00 B. Tate rushed to the right for 1 yard gain
2nd-9, IND9 14:33 M. Schaub incomplete pass down the middle
3rd-9, IND9 14:17 G. Brackett intercepted M. Schaub for 27 yards
Conservative! Where's the jack-booted knife to the throat like in a Steven Seagal movie with Chuck Norris dressed as a ninja Nazi with freaking lasers???
Sarcasm aside, that's an 11 play drive, burning 6:15 off the clock, as your JUGGERNAUT moved the ball, in fairly easy fashion, 71 yards. In addition, that's five rushes and six passes while we're up 34-0. Conservative? No, that's ball control and balanced while you're up big, burning clock (which is your primary concern heading into the 4th quarter), and you're making smart plays. Of course, Matt Schaub kinda, sorta, and completely made a poor decision throwing the pick to Gary Brackett (though, to be fair to Schaub, there was a second defender between he and Slaton. Wait, that's not fair at all. I'm just being a jerk now. And why am I still in this parenthetical? I have no idea. Women are like beer.). Next possession, STILL up 34-0 after Adam Vinatieri missed a field goal.
1st-10, HOU27 10:27 B. Tate rushed to the left for 4 yard loss. B. Tate fumbled. P. Angerer recovered fumble and returned for 10 yard
Oops. Of course, Kubiak's play-calling could've been more aggressive. We could've gone for a big play to really stick it to them there Colts. Something like this, perhaps? GO FOR THE THROAT!!! And it was finally when we got the ball back after the Colts scored their touchdown, with 9:17 left in the game, your JUGGERNAUT up 34-7, and the Colts with a lesser chance to win than I have with Allison Brie, did Kubiak and Dennison finally go fo' realz conservative:
1st-10, HOU20 9:17 B. Tate rushed to the right for 2 yard loss
2nd-12, HOU18 8:32 B. Tate rushed to the right for 2 yard gain
3rd-10, HOU20 7:49 B. Tate rushed to the left for 6 yard gain
4th-4, HOU26 6:57 B. Hartmann punt, no return
I do hope it's OK your Texans burned out the clock on their last drive:
1st-10, HOU16 4:49 B. Tate rushed to the left for 12 yard gain
1st-10, HOU28 4:05 B. Tate rushed to the left for 4 yard gain
2nd-6, HOU32 3:21 B. Tate rushed to the left for 3 yard gain
3rd-3, HOU35 2:39 B. Tate rushed to the left for 5 yard gain
1st-10, HOU40 2:00 M. Schaub rushed up the middle for 1 yard loss
2nd-11, HOU39 1:17 M. Schaub rushed up the middle for 1 yard loss
3rd-12, HOU38 0:38 M. Schaub rushed up the middle for 1 yard loss
Before the final, game-ending drive, the Texans called passing plays nine times and ran the ball 11. Conservative play-calling? Not so much. Intelligent play-calling? Sweet old Korean lady? Yup.
Looking beyond the basic play-calling, though, there are additional reasons why it wasn't a swell idea to run up the score. First of all, do we really need to expose Andre Johnson to more hits? By this point in the game, Kubiak already knew that Kevin Walter was injured, and there was absolutely no need to expose GOAT to additional risk, though he did tally a catch early in the third quarter.
Most importantly, would it have been a good idea to antagonize the Colts by running up the score? Are these not professional athletes who don't need additional locker-room fodder to take out on us the next time around? Fact is, this isn't Steve Spurrier-esque college ball we're talking about here, where running up the score means something. We were able to rotate players on both sides of the ball, keeping our starters fresh for when they're needed most later in the season. From the beginning, it was blindingly clear the Colts would struggle to move the ball.
For all the criticisms of Kubiak over the years, the not "twisting the knife" conspiracy while we were up 34-0 confuses me. Theoretically, if Schaub doesn't throw the gimme pick, we're up 41-0. If Ben Tate doesn't cough up the ball a little later, there's no reason to believe we don't once again march down the field, if the previous drives were an indicator.
When you're up 34-0, it's the time to make smart decisions, not unnecessarily take chances. Kudos to Gary Kubiak for calling a well-balanced, intelligent game.