- Paul Kuharsky, ESPN Staff Writer
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The first two questions Gary Kubiak fielded at his Monday news conference were about the team’s red zone offense.
In each answer, he mentioned checking the ball down.
First: "We had a lot of second-and-nines down there from that standpoint, but we got to make the small plays whether you check a ball down on a three or four-yard pass. You’ve got to do that so you’re giving yourself a legitimate chance."
A chance at what? A closer field goal?
Second: "We got played the other day in a bunch of quarters defense, people sitting on the goal line makes it tough to get behind people, those types of things. If people are going to play you that way, you got to run the ball efficiently. You’ve got to check the ball down efficiently."
If you're already in field goal range, what's the benefit of super-efficient checking down, exactly? To prove to a defense you know how to answer the coverage they are calling to keep you out of the end zone by calling plays that keep you out of the end zone?
I encountered way too many fans who were upset with Kubiak for not being more aggressive in the win over the Bengals. He coached a winning game, and I thought he called some plays intended to protect a quarterback in Matt Schaub who came into the game lacking confidence. I've got no issues with that.
But to talk about throwing short stuff in the red zone as if it’s the solution strikes me as crazily conservative.
Checking down isn’t going to get the Texans in the end zone. Andre Johnson catching a ball just inside the goal line he had to stretch to reach but let go off his fingertips, that would have produced a touchdown. A better throw from Schaub on that late second-quarter play, that would have produced a touchdown.
Here, I get the fans' frustrations.
I just re-watched all 15 plays the Texans ran from the Bengals 20-yard line or closer on Saturday. The Texans ran it eight times and threw it seven times. And one of those throws -- one -- was actually into the end zone. Two of those seven throws -- including the one into the end zone -- were thrown far enough to gain a first down.
That’s way too conservative overall.
I don’t care what kind of coverage anyone is playing. You have Andre Johnson who can beat virtually any coverage to get free and catch a pass in the end zone. You've got Owen Daniels and Arian Foster who can win, too. You’re already in field goal range. Your quarterback has to be able to make throws that are either touchdowns or incompletions.
Don’t let the coverage dictate everything. Do some dictating.
Say: “If we run Andre Johnson on this route, protect well enough and make an accurate throw, there is no way you hold us to three points on this trip.”
I’m sure New England’s going to play coverages that tell you not to throw into the end zone when you’re in the red zone Sunday.
If you don’t throw into the end zone, you won’t be able to win.