Stats & Info: Houston Texans

Brady beats the blitz ... eventually

December, 1, 2013
Tom Brady has beaten the Houston Texans’ blitz before.

This time, it just took him a little longer to figure it out.

The Texans’ blitz gave Brady problems in the first half, holding him to 2 for 7 passing (with an interception and a sack) when sending at least five pass rushers.

But Brady was much improved in the second half against the Texans’ blitz, which Wade Phillips dialed up almost twice as often as in the first two quarters. The chart on the right illustrates the difference.

Brady’s two most notable passes against the blitz in this game were the touchdown throw to Shane Vereen that gave the Patriots their first lead of the game, and the third-down 17-yard completion to Rob Gronkowski to the Texans 43, which led to the eventual game-winning field goal.

The change in approach came in how far Brady threw the ball when he was blitzed. He elected to throw shorter passes.

Brady’s average throw against Houston’s blitz was 15.0 yards downfield in the first half and 8.5 yards downfield in the second half.

Brady beat the Texans’ blitz last year in both games he faced the Texans. Brady was 25 for 38 for 356 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions in Week 14 and the Divisional Playoffs combined when Houston sent at least five rushers.

Brady did have one notable streak against the blitz come to an end. He had thrown 31 touchdown passes without an interception against pass rushes of five or more since he threw an interception against it in a game against the Washington Redskins in Week 14 of the 2011 season.

Houston has a problem: Its offense

October, 8, 2013

Troy Taormina/USA TODAY SportsMatt Schaub has thrown a pick-six in an NFL-record four straight games.
After a 2-0 start the Texans found themselves ranked fourth in Week 3's NFL Power Rankings.

Since then the Texans have lost three in a row and now find themselves ranked 17 in this week's poll.

Matt Schaub has taken the brunt of the blame for the Texans’ struggles this season. With nine interceptions and an NFL-record four straight games with an interception returned for a touchdown, some of the blame seems to be deserved.

But is Schaub the real root of the Texans’ offensive problems, or do the issues run deeper?

No big plays off play action

Play action has been a staple of the Texans’ offense under Gary Kubiak. Since taking over as head coach, the Texans have used play action on 24 percent of their pass attempts, tied for the third-highest rate in the NFL.

This season the Texans are not only using play action less frequently (17 percent of pass attempts), they are using it differently.

A look at the image below shows the pass distribution for Schaub using play action from 2011 to 2012, when the Texans went 22-10.

During that time frame, Schaub had 36 pass plays of 30-plus yards, which ranked 13th in the NFL, 20 short of the leader (Drew Brees). Of those 36, however, an NFL-high 23 were set-up by play action, five more than the next-highest quarterback.

A look at the second image below shows Schaub’s pass distribution when using play action this season.

None of Schaub’s play action passes this season have been thrown more than 20 yards downfield, a stark contrast to the previous two seasons.

In fact, Schaub’s average play action pass has been thrown 3.8 yards downfield this season (9.7 yards the previous two seasons), a deeper average than only Blaine Gabbert.

As a result, the Texans have only four 30-plus yard pass plays, tied for 26th in the NFL. None of those pass plays for Texans have come via play action.

Too much Foster?
Despite double-digit touchdowns in each of the previous three seasons, Arian Foster's ground efficiency has dipped every year since his breakout 2010 season.

The reason for Foster’s dip in production may just be overuse. Foster has a combined 1,230 rushes and receptions since the start of the 2010 season, 101 more than the next highest player.

The Texans already have a capable backup on the roster in Ben Tate.

Tate has averaged 2.2 more yards per rush than Foster this season on 56 fewer rushes and has shown an ability to break through tacklers in his career.

This season, Tate has averaged 3.6 yards per rush after first contact, best of any player with 20 rushes. Tate also led the NFL in 2011 in average yards after contact.

No TD for Andre Johnson
Whether it’s Schaub’s decision-making, the play calling or a defensive mindset, Andre Johnson just can’t find the end zone.

Johnson has the third most targets this season (56) and no touchdowns.

When the Texans do get in scoring range, Johnson hasn’t been the go-to guy. Johnson is the fourth-most targeted Texan in the red zone this season, and of the Texans’ eight throws into the end zone, Johnson was the target on only one.

NFL roster stability usually equals success

September, 26, 2013
Your fantasy football team changes every year, but so do the players on real NFL teams. Their rosters turn over both in the offseason and in the regular season, usually due to injuries, though trades (like the recent one involving Trent Richardson) can happen.

“Roster stability” is a metric to track how much personnel changes from season to season based on work done in basketball by Dr. David Berri at Southern Utah University, and counts how many plays the players on the roster played last year and this year. Raiders QB Terrelle Pryor, who was on the roster last year but barely played and is now playing full time, represents a good amount of instability because he didn’t play much last year.

What “roster stability” captures is something about the philosophy of the team. Teams that are pretty stable year-to-year usually consider themselves to be in good shape, either because they were good last year or because they think the building blocks were already in place. You can see this with many of the top teams on the list. The Bengals, Vikings, Redskins, Texans, Seahawks, 49ers and Falcons were all successful last season and they kept a good number of their players around for this year. Note that keeping the same players doesn’t mean the same results, as both the Vikings and Redskins haven’t won a game yet this season.

On the other hand, teams at the bottom of the list are teams that wanted to change things up. The Raiders weren’t very successful last season and they particularly changed up their defense, which ranked 28th by expected points added.

A couple notes:
• The Bears, Chiefs and Cardinals all changed head coaches, changed a lot of offensive personnel, and have seen improvements offensively. The Bears, in particular, changed a significant part of their offensive line (their offensive line unit stability is 20 percent, the lowest in the NFL), which was considered important for protecting Jay Cutler. Now they have the second-lowest sack rate in the NFL after being 27th last year.

• The Patriots receiving corps, widely publicized for being so dilapidated, ranks 31st in stability at 30 percent, ahead of only the Jaguars. Their overall offensive stability is 21st. Note that their defensive stability ranks third, and their defense ranks second in the NFL in expected points added.

Top things to know: Texans at Chargers

September, 9, 2013

Brett Davis/US PresswireJ.J. Watt played 88% of the Texans defensive snaps in 2012, 6th best among all D-linemen.
The Houston Texans and San Diego Chargers finish Week 1 of the 2013 season with the second game of tonight's Monday Night Football doubleheader (10 ET/ESPN).

Here’s five stats Chris Berman and Trent Dilfer will be talking about during the game.

1. The Texans feature the 2012 NFL Defensive Player of the Year in J.J. Watt, who had an incredible year dominating the line of scrimmage last season.

Among the amazing tidbits that can be taken from his stellar campaign is that he batted down 16 passes – more than 26 different TEAMS.

Watt finished last season with nearly twice as many batted passes as the next highest defender. However, Philip Rivers had just 4 of his passes batted down last season, fewer than 29 quarterbacks.

2. Philip Rivers has been the man under center for the Chargers since 2006. Things went well for the first four years (46-18 record), but the last three have seen a rapid decline (24-24).

In addition, since Rivers became the starter, he has the most fumbles in the NFL (64) and has been sacked 216 times, second highest in the league.

3. Since Arian Foster joined the Texans four seasons ago, his presence has translated into success in the play-action passing game for Matt Schaub.

The Texans QB ranks near the top of the league in many passing categories on play-action since the 2009 season. He’s second in yards per attempt (10.6) and TD passes (37), third in completion percentage (67.5) and fourth in Total QBR (88.1) in play-action passing.

4. During training camp, wide receiver Danario Alexander suffered a season-ending knee injury, leaving Rivers without one of his best deep threats.

Alexander represented a large portion of the offense generated by Chargers wide receivers last year, despite the fact that he only played in ten games.

5. The Texans are 8-2 in September in the last three seasons, and have won all three of their season openers over that time. The Chargers are 5-2 in season openers with Philip Rivers as the starting quarterback.

On Monday Night Football, Houston is 2-4 all-time, including 1-1 last season. The Chargers are 4-1 when opening their season on Monday Night Football.

Patriots make Texans pay for approach

January, 13, 2013

AP Photo/Elise AmendolaShane Vereen and Tom Brady combined to do in the Texans again.
The Houston Texans elected to pursue New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady with nearly the same fervor that they did when the Patriots clobbered them in Week 14.

And on Sunday they paid a similar price.

Brady was 12-for-19 for 208 yards and two touchdowns against five or more pass rushers, as part of a 344-yard, three-touchdown day. As you can see in the chart on the right, it mimicked his performance in Week 14.

Brady passed Joe Montana for most postseason starts won with his 17th.

He’ll tie Montana for the most conference championship game starts when he faces the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC Championship next Sunday. He also joined Montana and Brett Favre as the only quarterbacks with at least 40 postseason touchdown passes.

Brady wasn’t the only one to have a huge game in the Patriots' 41-28 win. Let’s take a look at some of the other statistical highlights.

Vereen leads ground game
Patriot running backs Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen combined for 219 total yards (48 percent of the Patriots offense) and four touchdowns, showcasing an inside running game the Patriots haven’t had in recent postseason appearances.

Nearly all (113) of their 123 rushing yards came inside the tackles, an average of more than six per rush. In the previous three postseasons, Patriots running backs averaged only 3.5 yards when running inside the tackles.

The Elias Sports Bureau noted that Vereen became the third player in NFL postseason history with two touchdown receptions and a touchdown run in a postseason game. He joins Roger Craig (1984 San Francisco 49ers) and Ricky Watters (1994 49ers), each of whom did so in a Super Bowl.

Vereen also tied the Patriots record for most touchdowns in a postseason game, matching a mark previously set by Curtis Martin and Rob Gronkowski.

Vereen collected 58 receiving yards and two receptions and a touchdown when lined up wide, only the third touchdown for a running back lined up wide this season, and the most such receiving yards for a RB in a game over the last three seasons in any game.

Welker comes up big
Wes Welker’s 131 receiving yards were a career-high, surpassing his previous best of 103
in Super Bowl XLII against the Giants.

Welker entered the game with a league-high 669 yards after the catch. He had 62 in this game.

With eight catches Welker also broke the Patriots postseason record for career receptions, his 61 surpassing Troy Brown’s record of 58.

Stat of the Weekend
With 276 points scored, the 2012 Divisional Playoffs are the highest scoring round of the postseason in NFL history.

All eight teams scored at least 28 points in the Divisional Round. No team scored more than 24 points in the Wild Card games.

Looking ahead
This will be the first AFC Championship rematch since the Denver Broncos and Cleveland Browns faced each other in both 1986 and 1987.

Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis will face the Patriots in Foxborough for the seventh time. He’s 0-4 against them in the regular season, 1-1 in the postseason.

Texans don't have to blitz to beat Brady

January, 11, 2013

Patric Schneider/AP PhotoWade Phillips could be well-served to come up with a less-aggressive approach vs Tom Brady

Remember how the Houston Texans approached Tom Brady when they faced the New England Patriots earlier this season?

The Texans, who have the most aggressive defense in the league, sent extra rushers on more than half of Brady’s dropbacks.

That played right into Brady’s hands. No quarterback in the league has a quicker average release time than Brady (3.03 seconds, compared to the NFL average of 3.46).

And look at how well Brady does when he has limited time to throw, as noted in the chart on the right.

He finished 13-of-19 for 148 yards and three touchdowns in that Monday Night win, the highlight of a season in which he threw for 20 touchdowns and no interceptions against at least five pass rushers.

However, Texans fans (and defensive coordinator Wade Phillips) can take heart in this:

There is precedent for a heavy-blitzing 3-4 defense playing aggressively in the regular season against Brady and losing, then meeting again in the postseason and winning.

The 2009 Baltimore Ravens and 2010 New York Jets both lost regular-season meetings to the Patriots but gained redemption in the playoffs after adjusting their strategy.

Here’s a quick flashback to those games:

2009 Ravens
Baltimore sent at least five rushers on 21-of-37 Brady dropbacks (57 percent) in a Week 4 loss. Brady finished 14-of-20 for 167 yards, threw for the game-winning touchdown against added pressure, and was sacked only once.

But in their playoff rematch, the Ravens reversed course and sent extra rushers on only 10-of-45 Brady dropbacks (22 percent).

Brady finished 23-of-42, for 154 yards, with two touchdowns and three interceptions in Baltimore’s win. Brady also was sacked three times and fumbled on New England’s opening drive, setting up the Ravens at the Patriots 17.

2010 Jets
The Jets sent at least five rushers in their two regular season meetings on 30-of-69 Brady dropbacks (44 percent), with Brady finishing 18-of-28 for 335 yards and three touchdowns against the added pressure.

Though the Jets won their first meeting of the season in Week 2, New England won 45-3 in Week 13 on Monday Night Football, highlighted by Brady’s 8-of-13, 199-yard, 3-TD performance against five-or-more rushers.

But in the playoffs, Rex Ryan and Mike Pettine changed things up. The Jets sent extra pressure on only 6-of-50 dropbacks (12 percent), and Brady was sacked five times in New York’s win. He finished 29-of-45 for 299 yards, two touchdowns and an interception in the Jets upset win.

Texans-Patriots: Seven stats to know

January, 8, 2013

Jared Wickerham/Getty ImagesMatt Schaub (left) leads the Texans into Foxborough to face Tom Brady (right) and the Patriots. New England beat Houston 42-14 in Week 14.
The last game of the Divisional round kicks off Sunday at 4:30 ET when the Houston Texans visit the New England Patriots.

Here are seven notes, nuggets and numbers you need to know heading into the matchup:

Final Four Repeat
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, all four remaining AFC teams reached the Divisional round last season, the first time the same teams were the “Final Four” in a conference in back-to-back seasons.

Blowout Rematch
The Patriots beat the Texans 42-14 in Week 14 in Foxborough. According to Elias, teams that lost by 28 or more (like the Texans) to a team that it then faced again in the playoffs are 11-11 in the rematch.

In fact, the team that lost the regular season game has won three of the past five rematches, most recently in 2010 when the Jets beat the Patriots in Foxborough after losing 45-3 in the regular season.

Patriots Have Their Number
The Patriots are the No. 2 seed for the fourth time in franchise history -- they made the Super Bowl in each of the previous three seasons, winning twice.

Tom Brady
Brady Has Bunch of Wins
Tom Brady is 16-6 in 22 career playoff starts, tied with Joe Montana for the most wins by a starting quarterback in NFL playoff history.

However, he’s 6-6 in his past 12 postseason starts after winning his first 10.

Foster’s Great Start
After running for 140 yards last week, Arian Foster enters the game with 425 postseason rushing yards, the most for a player in his first three career postseason games, according to Elias. The record for a player in his first four postseason games is 515 by Terrell Davis, according to Elias.

Schaub Has Been Stumped
Matt Schaub has thrown three interceptions and no touchdowns in his past three games, his first time without a touchdown pass in three straight games since 2007.

Texans on the Defensive
The Texans defense was stout last week, holding the Bengals to 0-for-9 on third down last week. Elias tells us that it was the first time an NFL team had been held without a third-down conversion in a postseason game since the playoffs following the 1988 season, when the Bills went 0-for-10 against the Bengals.

Foster continues playoff dominance

January, 5, 2013

Brett Davis/USA TODAY SportsArian Foster has had at least 100 rushing yards in each of his three career playoff games.
For the second straight season, the Houston Texans defeated the Cincinnati Bengals in the wild-card round of the NFL playoffs. It’s the fourth time under the current playoff format (since 1990) that two teams met in the wild-card round two years in a row, and in each instance, the team that won the first game also won the second game.

Not much changed as far as Bengals postseason history is concerned. They still have never won a road playoff game (0-6) and they still have not won a playoff game since 1990. Since the last time the Bengals won a playoff game, every other NFL team has won at least one.

Bengals coach Marvin Lewis is now 0-4 in the playoffs. Jim E. Mora is the only coach with more postseason losses without a win (0-6).

Arian Foster, who finished with 140 rushing yards and the game’s lone offensive touchdown, is the first player in NFL history with at least 100 rushing yards in each of his first three career playoff games. His 425 rushing yards are the most ever in a player’s first three postseason games (according to the Elias Sports Bureau).

With the loss, the Bengals fall to 5-11 all-time in the postseason, the worst win percentage (.313) in NFL history.

The Texans are now 6-0 this season in games decided by eight points or fewer (including the postseason). They’re the only team this season that did not lose a game by eight points or fewer.

What went right for the Texans?

Foster finished with a career-high 40 touches, recording 174 yards from scrimmage. He became the second running back this season to record at least 140 rushing yards and 30 receiving yards in a game (Jamaal Charles in Week 3). Foster recorded 41 percent of Houston’s offense, his third-highest rate this season, and caught all of his season-high eight targets through the air.

The Texans sent at least five pass-rushers on 40 percent (14-of-35) of Andy Dalton’s drop-backs, compared to only 21 percent (10-of-47) in last year’s postseason matchup. The Texans were much more successful pressuring Dalton with extra rushers this time, putting him under duress or sacking him on six of 14 drop-backs, Dalton’s second-highest rate this season.

What went wrong for the Bengals?

They were 0-for-9 on third downs. But that shouldn’t be a surprise, as the Bengals ranked 27th in third-down percentage (34.1) during the regular season.

Bengals receivers were held to 38 yards after the catch Saturday. That’s the fewest yards after the catch for the Bengals in a game this season.

Bengals 'D' rolling late in the season

January, 3, 2013

AP Photo/Keith SrakocicThe Bengals have caused a lot of frustration for opposing quarterbacks recently.

One of the things that the Cincinnati Bengals have going for them in their bid to upset the Houston Texans is one of the best pass defenses in the NFL.

Cincinnati has yielded the fifth-lowest Total QBR (41.8) to opponents and has given up a league-low 10 pass plays of at least 30 yards.

The Bengals defense has been able to create havoc with a standard four-man pass rush, especially in the second half of the season.

It had an NFL-high 37 sacks when sending such pressure, and allowed only eight touchdown passes, tied for second-fewest in the league.

The Bengals held opposing quarterbacks to a 30.0 Total QBR when sending four or fewer pass rushers over the last eight games of the season, second only to the Broncos over that stretch (19.8).

Among the highlights were the game that started the run of success, a Week 10 win over the Giants in which they shut down Eli Manning, and the game that put the Bengals in the playoffs- a Week 16 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers a game in which they held Ben Roethlisberger to a 7.1 Total QBR.

The Bengals intercepted Manning and Roethlisberger twice each and managed seven sacks (three vs Manning, four against Roethlisberger) when sending their standard rush.

The two players who were able to cause trouble more in the second half of the season were Wallace Gilberry and Carlos Dunlap, who combined for 10 1/2 sacks in the Bengals last eight games after netting only two in the first eight games.

The quarterback they’ll be facing, Matt Schaub has struggled late in the season against four or fewer pass rushers, throwing only one touchdown pass against standard pressure over his last four games.
Schaub’s Total QBR against such pressure has seen a significant drop as well, playing a key role in the Texans’ three losses in those contests.

Additionally, though we cited long pass plays as being something in which the Bengals excelled at defending, their biggest improvement was on short throws-- ones that traveled 10 yards in the air or fewer.

Vontaze Burfict and Manny Lawson are among those who have cut off the success opponents were having earlier in the year.

The Bengals allowed touchdowns on such throws in seven of their first eight games this season, including three to Peyton Manning in Week 9. But in the last eight games, they allowed only one touchdown on 209 such throws.

Mark Simon also contributed research to this post

Bengals-Texans: What you need to know

January, 1, 2013
The Houston Texans will host the Cincinnati Bengals on Saturday at 4:30 ET in the AFC Wild Card Playoffs.

Same game, different year
This is the 4th time under the current playoff format that teams are meeting in the Wild Card round in back-to-back seasons. In each of the previous three instances, the team that won the first game also won the second game.

It’s been a while
The Bengals’ last playoff win was a 41-14 victory over the Houston Oilers in the 1990 Wild Card Playoffs. They’ve lost 4 straight postseason games since then, each by at least 10 points. Every other current NFL franchise has won a playoff game since the Bengals last win.

Cincy road woes
The Bengals are 0-5 all-time on the road in the postseason, tied with the Saints (also 0-5) for the worst road record in NFL postseason history.

Rare company for Dalton
Andy Dalton will become the 4th quarterback in NFL history to start a road playoff game in each of his first two seasons. He joins Mark Sanchez, Joe Flacco and Shaun King.

Schaub likes the Bengals
Matt Schaub is 2-0 in 2 career starts against the Bengals with 7 touchdowns and a single interception. Of the 16 teams he has faced more than once since 2008, Schaub’s Total QBR of 89.4 against the Bengals is his best against any team.

Foster seeing red
Arian Foster has the most red zone rush attempts (74) and touchdowns (15) in the NFL this season. The Bengals defense has allowed 3.3 rush yards per attempt in the red zone this season, the third-most in the league.

Tip drill
The Texans batted or tipped 37 passes this season, with 16 coming from J.J. Watt (both best in NFL). Andy Dalton has had 32 passes batted or tipped since entering the NFL (third most), including five in two games against the Texans last season, one of which was returned for a touchdown by Watt.

Green likes play action
A.J. Green has four touchdown catches this season on play-action passes, tied for third-most in the league. Andy Dalton has not thrown a touchdown pass to any other receiver out of play action this season.

Texans have a few flaws exposed

December, 30, 2012

Frederick Breedon/Getty ImagesTexans coach Gary Kubiak has some work to do.

The Houston Texans have a few issues to contend with heading into the NFL playoffs.

The Texans loss to the Indianapolis Colts exposed some weaknesses that may need to be dealt with in the coming days of practice as they prepare for the Cincinnati Bengals.

Looking at them from a statistical perspective, they were:

Matt Schaub’s lack of success downfield-– Schaub was 0-for-4 with two interceptions on throws more than 20 yards downfield on Sunday.

Schaub has as many interceptions (3) as he has completions on such throws over the Texans last four games. He had 12 completions, five touchdowns and only two interceptions on those throws in the Texans' first 12 games of the season.

Secondary exploited on deep throws -- Andrew Luck’s touchdown pass to T.Y. Hilton was thrown 37 yards downfield, the eighth touchdown pass thrown more than 30 yards downfield against the Texans defense this season.

In a seven-game span beginning in Week 11, the Texans have allowed opponents to complete 60 percent of such throws (9-of-15), including six touchdowns, the most touchdowns allowed on those passes by any team in the NFL

Not so special teams--With 5:10 remaining in the third quarter, Deji Karim returned Houston’s kickoff 101 yards for touchdown to give the Colts a lead that they would not relinquish.

It was the second 100+ yard kickoff return touchdown that Houston has allowed this season and third kickoff or punt return touchdown it yielded this season. Only the Detroit Lions allowed more return touchdowns in 2012.

Special teams has been a weak spot for the Texans all season.

According to ESPN’s expected points model, poor play on special teams has cost the Texans 3.1 expected points per game, the most of any team in the NFL. In other words, the Texans average margin of victory would be 3.1 points higher if they had an average special teams unit.

Texans, Schaub face pressure in Indy

December, 28, 2012

USA TODAY SportsWho has the edge in Week 17: Matt Schaub or Andrew Luck?
Two weeks ago the Houston Texans beat the Indianapolis Colts, 29-17, denying the Colts their 10th win of the season. On Sunday Indianapolis will look to get revenge against its AFC South rival.

If history is any indication, the Colts should have the advantage on paper. The Texans are 0-10 all-time on the road against the Colts. That’s tied for the most road losses vs an opponent without a win in NFL history, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

What the game means
The Texans can clinch home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs with a win or losses by the Broncos and Patriots. Houston can also clinch a first-round bye with a loss by the Broncos or Patriots.

The Colts are already locked into the 5-seed in the AFC but still have plenty to play for. This will be the first game with Chuck Pagano on the sidelines since the Colts head coach was diagnosed with leukemia in early October.

When the Texans have the ball
Matt Schaub has struggled in the past few weeks with just one touchdown pass in his last three games. He has been sacked eight times during this stretch, after entering Week 14 with the second-lowest sack rate in the league (min. 200 attempts).

Schaub hasn’t been able to handle the blitz recently, posting a Total QBR of 47.3 against five-or-more pass rushers in his last three games, compared to a 67.8 QBR before this stretch.

The Colts have blitzed at a rate of 40.6 percent, more often than all but two teams this season. However, their Total QBR allowed using at least five pass rushers ranks only 16th in the league.

Schaub will be happy to see Arian Foster in the backfield on Sunday after he missed much of last week's game with an irregular heartbeat. Foster has rushed for 164 yards per game versus the Colts.

According to Elias, the only player to rush for more yards per game versus a single opponent (minimum three games) is Earl Campbell, who rushed for 164.3 yards per game against the Vikings.

When the Colts have the ball
Andrew Luck is the most prolific rookie quarterback in NFL history, but he has struggled with his accuracy recently. Luck has completed less than half of his passes in each of his last four games.

The only other player in the last 10 seasons to have a completion rate below 50 percent in four straight games, with at least 20 attempts in each game, is Mark Sanchez this year.

He will be challenged to get above the 50 percent mark against the Texans. Luck has had more of his passes defended (77) than any other quarterback in the league, 17 of which have been batted at the line of scrimmage.

The Texans defense has defended an NFL-best 80 passes this season, including a league-leading 27 batted passes.

Stat of the game
With a win Sunday, the Colts would become the seventh team in NFL history to win at least nine games more than in their previous season. Of the six other teams to post at least a nine-game improvement, only the 1999 Rams went on to win the Super Bowl/League championship that season.

Manning, other QBs were most deserving

December, 26, 2012
Frank Victores/US PresswirePeyton Manning is now the all-time leader in yet another statistical category.

Add another to the list of accolades with Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning setting a record when Pro Bowl selections were announced on Wednesday night.

Manning became the first quarterback to be selected to the Pro Bowl 12 times, breaking the mark he previously shared with Brett Favre.

The quarterback selections jibe with the rankings of quarterbacks by Total QBR. The three AFC quarterbacks selected are the top three in the conference in QBR (Manning, Tom Brady, and Matt Schaub).

The three NFC quarterbacks (among those who played in at least half their team’s games) who rank highest in QBR also made it, with Robert Griffin III joining Aaron Rodgers and Matt Ryan.

Rodgers has been tabbed the starter, though his Total QBR ranks slightly below Ryan’s.

Griffin III was the only rookie quarterback selected, with both Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson omitted. Luck ranks fourth in the AFC in Total QBR. Wilson ranks fifth behind the three who made it and 49ers quarterback Alex Smith (Colin Kaepernick has a higher Total QBR as well, though he’s only started six of the 49ers 15 games).

Also of note:
• Manning and Champ Bailey are the ninth and 10th players to be selected to a dozen Pro Bowls, a list headed by Bruce Matthews, who had 14.

Manning and Bailey were two of five selections from the 13-win Broncos. In an odd quirk, the Kansas City Chiefs, who have only two wins this season, also have five Pro Bowl selections.

• A former Chief-- Tony Gonzalez -- moved to within one of the all-time lead in Pro Bowl selections, earning his 13th. That’s the most selections among active players.

Gonzalez has been selected to every Pro Bowl but one (2009) since the 1999 season.

• The San Francisco 49ers had the most Pro Bowl selections with nine. It’s the second straight year that the 49ers had the most selections. They also had nine last season.

The last team with at least nine selections in consecutive years was the San Diego Chargers in 2006 and 2007. The 49ers last did so in 1994 and 1995 (10 each).

The Houston Texans had a franchise-best eight selections. In their previous 10 seasons, they averaged two selections per year.

• Minnesota Vikings kicker Blair Walsh, who set an NFL record for most field goals of 50 or more yards in a season was the other rookie pick. He is the first rookie kicker selected since Nick Folk of the Dallas Cowboys in 2007. The last prior to Folk was Ali Haji-Sheikh in 1983

Only two rookies were selected on the initial picks (Griffin and Walsh). If that holds up (and it likely won’t once replacements are announced), it would be the fewest since there were none in 2004.

Wilson tops the charts with his versatility

December, 17, 2012
AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh Russell Wilson ran for three touchdowns and threw for another against the Bills to post the highest single-game QBR this season.
As a reminder, Total QBR is a quarterback rating that takes into account all of a QB’s significant contributions (passing, rushing, sacks, fumbles, penalties) to his team’s scoring and winning and summarizes them into one number on a 0-100 scale, where 50 is average. Since the start of 2008, the team with the higher QBR has won 86 percent of the time.

Russell Wilson posted a 99.3 Total QBR in Sunday's win over the Buffalo Bills, the highest single-game QBR this season.

Wilson did much of his damage with his legs, rushing for career-highs in both yards (92) and touchdowns (3).

His QBR followed suit because he added 9.5 points above average (PAA) on his running plays, the highest single-game total by any quarterback over the past five seasons. Even more remarkably, he did it on just nine carries.

The big game Sunday was just another in a string of strong performances -- since the start of Week 8, no player has a higher Total QBR than Wilson (87.9). That's due to his performance on deep throws and his ability to avoid turnovers.

Since Week 8, only Robert Griffin III (1) has fewer turnovers than Wilson (3) among qualified QBs and Wilson is in the top four in the league in completion percentage (54.8) and TD percentage (9.7) on throws of 10 or more yards.

• Colin Kaepernick posted an 87.1 Total QBR in Sunday night’s win over the New England Patriots, his fifth straight game with a QBR of at least 60 since becoming the 49ers' starter in Week 11. Kaepernick is second in the NFL in Total QBR this season (79.5) and 49ers backup Alex Smith (70.1) is seventh.

• Aaron Rodgers had an 83.0 Total QBR in Sunday's win over the Chicago Bears, his third straight game with a QBR of at least 80. Rodgers entered Week 15 tied with Drew Brees for most games with a QBR of 80 or higher over the past two seasons.

• Matt Schaub posted a season-high 90.4 Total QBR against the Indianapolis Colts, his highest since Week 10 of last season against the Buccaneers (92.0). With the win, the Houston Texans improve to 17-2 in games in which Schaub has a QBR of 85 or better over the past five seasons.

• Matt Ryan had a 96.2 Total QBR in Sunday's win over the New York Giants, his third game with a QBR of at least 95.0 in 2012. That's tied with Tom Brady for the most such games in the NFL this season.

Total QBR can be used to quantify just how important the quarterback position has become to winning in the NFL. Looking back to previous years, the team with the higher Total QBR has won 86 percent of regular season games since 2008 (as far back as Total QBR goes). That is higher than the comparable mark for teams with the advantage in total yardage, turnover differential, and NFL passer rating.

Pressure no problem for Brady, Patriots

December, 11, 2012

AP Photo/Elise AmendolaTom Brady had his way with the Texans defense Monday to the tune of four touchdowns and no interceptions, his 18th career four-touchdown game.
The Houston Texans were the team that came in sitting atop the AFC standings, but it was the New England Patriots that played like the AFC’s best on Monday Night Football.

Thanks to touchdowns on each of their first three drives, the Patriots jumped out to a 21-0 lead and all but put the game away in the second quarter. The early deficit was too much for the Texans, who fell to 0-35 all-time in games in which they trailed by at least 21 points.

Tom Brady completed 21 of 35 passes for 296 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions, his 18th career game with at least four touchdown passes (moving past Johnny Unitas and into a tie with Drew Brees for fourth all-time). The Elias Sports Bureau tells us it was his 14th game with at least four touchdown passes and no interceptions, the most such games in NFL history.

Brady had his way with the Texans defense for much of the night Monday but was especially effective when Houston sent added pressure. Brady completed 10-of-12 attempts with three touchdowns and a 99.9 Total QBR when the Texans rushed five or more defenders.

What made Brady’s performance against the Texans even more impressive was that Houston entered the night leading the league in opponent Total QBR when sending an added pass rush this season.

Brady now has an NFL-high 18 total touchdown passes with zero interceptions against an added rush in 2012. Matt Schaub didn’t have nearly the same success Monday, completing only 4-of-8 attempts against such a pass rush with no touchdowns and an interception.

Not to be lost in New England’s offensive performance is the play of the Patriots defense. Texans QB Matt Schaub was held without a touchdown pass for the first time since Week 6 as New England continued to slow opposing quarterbacks down the stretch.

Since 2010, Patriots opponent Total QBR is 37.4 in the second half of the season (second in the NFL). They ranked 30th in that same span in the first half of the season with a 68.6 opponent Total QBR.

On the other sideline, J.J. Watt was unable to be the disrupting force against the Patriots that he had been all season. Watt did not have a single sack, batted pass, or tackle for loss for the first time in 2012.

Looking ahead for these teams, the Patriots (10-3) are now tied with the Broncos (10-3) for second in the AFC playoff standings and hold the tiebreaker thanks to their head-to-head win over Denver in Week 5.

The Texans (11-2) remain atop the conference and, according to AccuScore, are still in the driver’s seat to earn the No. 1 seed. Despite the loss, AccuScore still has the Texans locking up the top spot in 63 percent of its simulations and the Patriots doing so in only 36 percent of them.