By: Russ Goldman
Looking forward to the Divisional Round Playoff game between the Patriots and the Texans on Sunday, there is a question I have for the Texans and their head coach Gary Kubiak. Can the Texans not be predictable against the Patriots?
During the Belichick era, the Patriots have feasted on teams that have the approach “we do what we do”. In most cases, this is a recipe for disaster against the Patriots. The Patriots have to be one of the best prepared teams in the NFL each and every week. If you are not willing to change things up and disguise your defenses, you are just asking for trouble.
Tom Brady has had a huge amount of success against the Pittsburgh Steelers partially because he knows what is coming. The Steelers last season actually changed things a little bit on defense, and caused problems for Brady. If the Texans want to beat Brady, they will need to disguise coverages, and change their defense often during the game.
It is not just about being aggressive, which the Texans are under defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, they need to mix it up against Brady, and sometimes play more for coverage than a heavy pass rush. It all comes down to not being predictable.
On offense, Kubiak runs an extremely predictable offense that basically screams out “stop us if you can”. Well, the last time the Patriots played the Texans, they did just that by containing Arian Foster who really is the engine for there offense.
Foster ran for 46 yards against the Patriots with a 3.1 yards per carry average which is poor. The Patriots took away Foster, but Kubiak was stubborn in his play calling, and kept going to him.
Here is a perfect example of the Texans being predictable on offense. On five drives against the Patriots, Foster ran the ball on second down. In four of five of these drives, the Texans were forced to punt on fourth down. The Patriots did a great job of limiting yards on runs by Foster on second down.
I understand why Kubiak runs on second down, because he is trying to set up a short third down conversion. The problem with this philosophy is that it is conservative and predictable. If I can figure out what is coming on second down, I am sure Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia is ready for a run from Foster.
To beat the Patriots on both sides of the ball, you have to think outside of the box, and give the Patriots something they are not expecting. For example, in Super Bowl XLII against the Giants, the defense against Brady showed him several things he was not prepared for, and it took a long time for the Patriots offense to make adjustments.
When San Francisco recently beat the Patriots, they came in not only aggressive, but definitely not predictable. On offense, the visitors threw on many occasions that were running downs, and probably kept the Patriots defense off-balance. They also had a fake punt that went for a first down.
So, this all goes back to the approach of the Texans head coach against the Patriots. If Kubiak decides to play it safe, and not change things up on both sides of the ball, they will have serious problems beating the Patriots on Sunday. In concluding, unless the Texans are unpredictable against the Patriots, they could be having a very long trip back to Texas thinking about what went wrong, and why their season just ended.