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Red Zone Play: Houston Texans Are First And Goal Again

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While they’ve been here before, the Texans might finally be in the franchise red zone for good.

New England Patriots v Houston Texans Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Three things really needed to happen this season for the Texans to take the next step and contend for king of the hill in the AFC.

  1. Bill O’Brien needed to allow some creativity to take advantage of the offensive talent.
  2. Houston needed to beat the best the AFC had to offer.
  3. They need to advance beyond the AFC Divisional Round in the NFL Playoffs.

So far, while the Texans aren’t there yet, things are looking up.

ONE: The Houston Texans’ offense got creative.

In the 2000 NFL season, there was a special play by Troy Brown of the New England Patriots that blew the doors open on a game. That play was the landmark, turning point, shot across the bow of the rest of the NFL that Bill Belichick meant business and his team was going to be a force. The Pats won the three of the next four Super Bowls.

Last Sunday night at NRG Stadium, Bill O’Brien called a play that Deshaun Watson, DeAndre Hopkins, Duke Johnson and who knows who else seemingly drew up in the dirt in a pick-up game somewhere in a Sugar Land sandlot.

The base play, a hand-off with the threat of a reverse, was run multiple times prior to the payoff. Every time they called it, you could tell O’Brien was setting the Patriots’ defense up for something. With O’Brien’s reputation as a very vanilla play caller, no one saw this coming.

#1 - CHECK.

TWO: The Texans knock Chiefs and Patriots off the hill.

When the schedule for the 2019 season came out, everyone circled the Chiefs and Patriots on the calendar as tough match-ups. On October 13th, your Houston Texans went into Arrowhead Stadium and decisively defeated the team nearly everyone had labeled a Super Bowl contender when they beat the Chiefs 31-24. Oddly, that still didn’t get the Texans the respect they deserved at the national level.

Then last Sunday night happened.

Tom Brady looked average. The Patriots “NFL Best” defense looked weak and New England offensive coordinator and major Bill O’Brien rival, Josh McDaniels, looked frustrated. Meanwhile, Deshaun Watson looked like the Michael Jordan of football.

It wasn’t just Houston’s offense, but their much maligned defense that got it done. Newly acquired cornerback Bradley Roby had two interceptions (although one was called back, it still had to have gotten into Brady’s head) and a sack. Chances are Brady won’t be eager to challenge Roby the next time they meet.

Better still, Jacob Martin, one of the guys Houston landed in the Jadeveon Clowney trade, finally showed up and made a huge impact on the game. When Brennan Scarlett got dinged up, Martin answered the next man up phone with 1.5 sacks against Brady and 2.5 sacks in the last two games.

Bill O’Brien:

All I know about Jacob Martin is he plays 100 miles an hour, and he’s a great teammate. He’s awesome in the locker room, meetings, you should see the way the guy practices.”

He practices, he’s out there every day. He doesn’t complain about it. He just goes to work. I think when you have that type of work ethic, you’re to going to get better, and I think that’s what Jacob does. He tries to approach every day and tries to get better.

#2 - CHECK.

THREE: Can The Texans Make A Run To The Super Bowl?

Now, it’s common for teams who have an emotional win like Houston had last weekend to come out flat the week after. A team can peak too early when facing a huge challenge. Unfortunately, the Texans have come out flatter than their management system more than once in the last few seasons.

With a visit from the struggling Denver Broncos coming up next, then two of the last three games against the Mike Vrabel led Tennessee Titans, the Texans aren’t out of the woods yet. Should they manage to win out, it will be only the second 12-4 season in Texans history. With the Titans just one game back and the Colts two games in the rear view mirror, Bill O’Brien’s biggest challenge is going to be keeping the underdog fires burning in the players hearts.

Should the Texans and Titans split and Houston loses one other game, they’ll land at 10-6.

If the Titans win all but one game against Houston, they’ll be 10-6 as well.

The Texans are currently 3-1 against the division, while the Titans are 2-2.

Tennessee is facing the flailing Oakland Raiders this weekend, a team that’s been utterly demolished by a total score of 74-12 over the last two weeks. Seems like a trap game for Tennessee, but conventional wisdom scores this one as a win for the Not-The-Oilers. Meanwhile, the Denver Broncos barely escaped with a win last week and got run over by the Buffalo Bills the week before.

#3 - Reply hazy, ask again later .

If the NFL Playoffs started today, the Texans would face the Pittsburgh Steelers in a Wild Card game, then presumably face either the Baltimore Ravens or New England Patriots in the divisional round. That’s where the final test will happen.

But a lot can happen in the next month. The Patriots face the Chiefs and Bills in that span. Baltimore also faces the BIlls and then the Steelers. At the moment, there are a lot of teams that hold their destiny in their collective hands. The Texans are one of those teams. Thankfully, they’re back in the red zone, pushing opponents’ defenses and showing the ability to score at a moment’s notice.

What do you think? Are the Texans finally for real? Was last week’s win a landmark turning point or a fluke? Are you already buying plane tickets to Hard Rock Stadium for the 100th NFL Championship (a/k/a the 54th Super Bowl)?