The Houston Texans stood at an AFC best 7-1 heading into this Sunday Night Football showdown with the 7-1 Chicago Bears — and yet they know they can get much better.
The Texans offense started flat against Buffalo last week, but the important stat was the end result . . . the victory. Coach Gary Kubiak’s offense won the time of possession 34:03 to 25:57; the battle of the red zone; total yards (374 to 308) and of course, the score. Not a bad day of work, but the Bills did enter the game with the 31st-ranked defense in the NFL and they gave up 37 points to Tom Brady and the New England Patriots this Sunday.
The Texans' offense may not wow you, but it is equipped to win.
Quite naturally, the expectation was that the Texans would blow the Bills out of the water by halftime. Well, that didn’t happen. The Texans only led by 7-6 at the break. Kubiak said they were out of whack in the first half partly because of all the penalties . . . six in the first half alone.
“I told the coaches at halftime, regardless, we are going to get back to 50/50,” Kubiak said of his Buffalo adjustments. “We’re going to run the ball and give ourselves a chance to play defense and we did that.”
Once again, Wade Phillip’s Bulls on Parade defense stepped in to set the tone. They did not allow an offensive touchdown. They helped Houston win the turnover battle. They forced the Bills to go three-and-out four times.
In case you hadn’t noticed, the Texans’ defense plays a huge role in setting up the offense.
Yes, the Texans have some legitimate offensive weapons and more importantly Kubiak has a vision for the team. While they might not always look explosive on offense, he’s confident quarterback Matt Schaub and company can get it done.
“Matt (Schaub) has been very consistent for us when he’s managing the game, protecting the ball,” Kubiak said. “Like I tell y’all all the time, if I have to go out there and throw the ball 50 to 60 times with Matt, I’d be very comfortable with that.
"I just think our team is built a little bit different, but that day may come.”
Credit Kubiak’s leadership with that maturity. Fortunately for the Texans, this is not his first rodeo. He knows a thing or two about getting to Super Sunday.
There were several individual offensive milestones set in the win over the Bills. Running back Arian Foster scored his 10th touchdown of the season and recorded the 20th 100-yd rushing performance of his career, the fourth in eight games this season. Receiver Andre Johnson finished with more than 100 yards for the 40th time in his career, the second time this season.
Tight end Garrett Graham (who became even more important with Owen Daniels out for the Bears game) scored his first career touchdown while Schaub threw his 11th of the season and finished with a rating of better than 100 for the fifth time this season. My point is this: The Texans' offense may not wow you, but it is equipped to win.
Johnson’s touchdown to receiving yard ratio causes some to question the gameplan or wonder whether the all-pro receiver has lost a step. He leads all receivers with 562 yards but only has two touchdowns. Consider this: The Texans are 7-1, but Daniels leads the team with five touchdown receptions. Johnson and receiver Kevin Walter have each crossed the goal line twice.
The general consensus is that this offense, still hasn’t played its best ball yet. Not bad for the team with the best record in the AFC.
“I don’t think we played that great (against Buffalo),” Daniels said earlier in the week. “You can go across the board and see what we’ve got. Everything works together.”
That means opposing defenses have to game plan for the tight ends, for Walters as well as offensive leaders like Johnson and Foster. That may not mean as much in Week Nine as it will in Weeks 11 and 12, but remember this season is an ongoing chess match.
Kubiak says there is still work to do, but the overall picture looks good.
“We had not played real, real good, especially on that side of the ball and come in at halftime, we don’t panic," he said of the Bills game. "We go out there and play better and find a way to get a win. I think that’s important. It shows a lot of your maturity as a team.”
Credit Kubiak’s leadership with that maturity. Fortunately for the Texans, this is not his first rodeo. Kubiak knows a thing or two about getting to and competing on Super Sunday.
I’m not predicting this season will end with the Texans’ first Super Bowl appearance. I’m just saying enjoy the journey and keep your eyes open. It could get really interesting down the stretch.
Kim Davis is a journalist with more than two decades of experience covering sports, news and politics in television, radio and print. Kim does weekly "Chalk Talk" segments on Fox 26 Morning News. Follow her on Twitter @kimydavis.