Lance Zierlein

I'm here to fix the red-zone woes for the Texans

The Texans were much better in the red zone in 2017. Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

Is there anything worse than not being able to finish something that you really want to finish? It’s one of the worst feelings in the world. It’s happened to you before. Just think about it. Let me give some examples and see if any of these sound familiar.

  1. Jumping up to dunk the ball (choose 8 foot goal or 10 foot goal or Nerf goal according to your athletic abilities) and having the rim block your dunk.

  2. Starting a sneeze and then having it abruptly stop.

  3. Having someone at your table say “No thank you, just the check” when the waiter asks if you want dessert.

  4. Being in the middle of passionate moment with your wife and then having your kids bang on the locked door demanding to know what mom is doing and preventing things from… finishing.

  5. Getting hung up in the red zone and settling for field goals (or interceptions, or missed field goals).

Look, I’ve experienced all five of those if I can count the Texans red zone inadequacies as my own source of aggravation for “not finishing”. All of them suck, but probably #4 and #5 suck the hardest.

Texans Gross in the Red Area

There is no way you can hear about how bad the Texans are in the red area and not have some type of joke bubbling up in your head about a rash. However, we are talking about the spot also known as the red zone which is everything from the opponent’s 20-yard line and in.

Last season, Deshaun Watson was incredible in that most important area of the field. That’s the money zone and Watson cashed all the checks last season. Granted, it was a limited sample size, but his rate of 13 passing TDs on just 27 attempts inside the 20-yard line in 2017, was unmatched by any quarterbacks with Wentz coming the closest on touchdowns per percentage of attempts with 24 TDs on 59 attempts.

This season? The Texans are next to last in the NFL scoring a touchdown on just 36% of their trips inside the red zone. That’s it! That’s the equivalent of them falling on the ground before they even get to the basket to try and dunk. That’s like realizing you left your wallet at home in the middle of the meal before they even offer you dessert. That’s like zipping yourself up in your own pants before the romance starts.

Fix-A-Flat

The Texans red zone offense has a big flat tire and it’s time to fix it. So let’s diagnose the problems. Let’s start off with the quarterback. Patrick Mahomes is so good near the goal line because he has an absolute rocket launcher for an arm, so he can fit throws into the tightest of spaces. Watson doesn’t have that same ability, so he can’t just sit and wait for guys to get open.

The Texans need Watson to make pre-snap reads on where he wants to go with the football based upon coverage and matchup. Once he starts doing that, he can begin to target who he wants to throw to before he even snaps the ball which will allow him to throw with much better anticipation. Throwing with anticipation is the key to success in tight quarters.

Secondly, and most importantly, Bill O’Brien absolutely, positively MUST do a better job with not only his play-calling, but his play design near the goal line. Remember that first touchdown where Keke Coutee caught the flip toss on the jet sweep action and scored a touchdown? Yeah, me too. It was awesome. So where did that play or a counter to that play go?

Misdirection, counters, and quick-hitting plays are the way of the world now. Hell, go turn on a Chiefs game and watch how “instant” their goal line offense is. They hit you as quickly as possible before you know who has the ball and where it is headed. Speed headed in all directions keep defenses guessing and on their heels. Let’s see if the Texans can figure this out and stop making Houston such a Factory of Field Goals.

Drew Brees and the Saints escaped with an ugly win. Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

The Saints have effectively wrapped up the NFC South with their 25-14 win over the Tampa Bay Bucs. Here's how I saw things:

The Good

-Michael Thomas got himself going this week after a subpar performance against the Cowboys last week. He finished with 11 catches for 98 yards. More of note was his record of most catches in first three seasons. He surpassed Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry on his second catch, his 289th of his career. I hope people take notice and realize how great of a player he is.

-Taysom Hill once again proved his worth as just a football player. He blocked a punt the Saints recovered at the Tampa 30 yard line. It helped set up their first touchdown. Hill is listed as the third string quarterback, but plays running back, wide receiver, and special teams. He also drew a double team penalty on a kickoff.

-Drew Brees is known for his pinpoint accuracy throwing the ball. However, his athleticism is underrated. He notched his fourth rushing touchdown on a 4th and goal play in which he leapt over the line and extended the ball across the plane. The Saints took the lead early in the fourth quarter on that play.

The Bad

-Right before the half, Brees threw an interception that set up Tampa's second touchdown. When this team is rolling, they are the ones scoring before the half when they're getting the ball back after the half.

-They totaled just three rushing yards in the first half on nine attempts. The longest run was from fullback Zach Line at four yards. Another component of this team's success is predicated on the run game.

-Alvin Kamara was held in check. He was limited to 87 yards on 17 touches. His 76 yards on three kick returns were a help, but this team needs him to get going running and catching passes in order to operate at full capacity.

The Ugly

-This was the second game in a row that the Saints failed to score a touchdown in the first half. It could be a sign of teams catching up to them, or it could be a sign of a team that's feeling complacent. Either way, they need to get their offense going again to start games. 24 plays and 104 yards of offense that produced only three points in the first half.

-On their opening possession of the second half, Brees was stripped in the pocket and the Bucs recovered. The pressure came from the left. Missing starting left tackle Terron Armstead is becoming more and more of a glaring issue.

-Brees was limited to less than 270 yards passing, while they also totaled less than 130 yards rushing. Being held below their season averages on offense and still winning is the definition of winning ugly.

The Saints are now 11-2 and firmly in second place in the NFC. Now, they sit back and hope the Rams drop another game down the stretch. They own the tiebreaker over the Rams and need to finish with the same record to get homefield throughout the NFC playoffs. Saints fans will be Bears fans tonight, as well as Eagles, Cardinals, and 49er fans the rest of the season. This is what happens when you drop games you should've won.

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