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Red Zone Play: Overcoming Negative Yardage

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The Texans took it on the chin in New England last week. It's time they showed what kind of team they really are.

Benardrick McKinney was possibly the only Texan with a good game last week
Benardrick McKinney was possibly the only Texan with a good game last week
Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

In our metaphorical Red Zone, the Texans lost yardage last week when they let the New England Patriots blow them out in Foxborough in front of a national audience. When you boil it down to a snapshot of the team’s history, the Texans were first and goal and gave up a ten-yard sack.

No matter what angle you take, the Texans resembled the 1977 Tampa Bay Buccaneers more than a team turning the corner and heading for greatness.  Last Thursday night, we saw:

  • Terrible play calling and clock management.
  • Two fumbles on special teams inside their own 20-yard line.
  • Another early interception by quarterback Brock Osweiler.
  • Total failure by the offensive line to consistently pave the way for the running game.
  • Multiple missed tackles by Pro Bowl caliber players.
  • A defense that looked gassed by halftime after spending way too much time on the field.

From the top down, the team performed like garbage.  But every team has a moment of put up or shut up. A game, or a series in a game, that catalyzes the transformation from average to great.

Could this last game be that moment for Houston?

Of course it could.

But it requires real effort, determination, hard work, and a commitment from every man and woman in the organization to do their best.

Last season turned on a moment such as this at halftime of the Miami Dolphins game. The defense came out of the locker room and clamped down on the Dolphins' offense, preventing them from scoring in the second half. This time, it’s going to take the rest of the team to make the same commitment.

While arguments can be made for New England’s Bill Belichick knowing how to outcoach his former staffers/players (Texans’ head coach Bill O’Brien, offensive coordinator George Godsey, defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel and special teams coordinator Larry Izzo), the fact that this team failed to put points on the board twice in a four game span cannot be logically defended.

This is true particularly when you look at the amount of talent general manger Rick Smith brought in during the offseason. Sure, it takes time for the new players to gel and learn this system, and the offensive line is one band-aid away from the emergency room, but not even getting a pity field goal at the end defies even the staunchest homer defense.

This team has talented coaches, talented players, and depth players that would be starters on many other teams. As the saying goes, however, hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.

An argument can be made that the physical demands the win against Kansas City placed on the players made a difference, worsened by a long flight and long bus ride to get them to Foxborough (anyone who has ever traveled when they were sick or injured can relate). In the world of professional football, excuses are meaningless and not something winners make.

In fact, excuses aren’t allowed in the red zone. You either score, or you lose.

What happens now? The team was first and goal and lost ten yards. They can throw in the towel and decide this year is over and they’re doomed to be losers – or – they can use that as motivation, work harder, try harder, and make sure the next fifteen (yes, I wrote fifteen) games have a decidedly different outcome.

It helps that the AFC South division punching bag Tennessee Titans are coming to NRG this weekend. It helps that the Texans will have ten days to prepare for them. It helps that this team has a lot of pride that was brutalized last Thursday.

Some of the things winners have in common: drive, discipline, competitiveness, self-confidence, aggressiveness and focus.

These are all traits we can accurately use to describe the current Houston Texans.

Now it’s time to take all that and use it. Use it to climb the mountain.  Use it to get this team to where they belong and remove the stigma that they’re no better than their expansion sibling Cleveland Browns once and for all.

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