Opponent: Houston Texans
Head Coach/Offensive Coordinator: Bill O'Brien
Quarterback: Ryan Fitzpatrick
Primary Running Threats:
- Arian Foster - 23
- Alfred Blue - 28
Primary Receiving Threats:
- Andre Johnson - 80
- DeAndre Hopkins - 10
- Keshawn Martin - 82
- Damaris Johnson - 13
- Garrett Graham - 88
- C.J. Fiedorowicz - 87
The Texans made a significant philosophy switch when they fired former head coach/play caller Gary Kubiak and hired former New England Patriots assistant, and Penn State Head Coach Bill O'Brien. Under Kubiak, the Texans were one of the most consistent offenses week to week. Everything they did offensively was based off of their zone running game, and play action and boot game off the outside zone fake. O'Brien, coming from the Bill Belichick line of thinking, focuses on creating a unique game plan each week that is suited exactly to that week's opponent. Because of this approach to the game, you can never be terribly sure exactly what they will do until the game. But we can take our best shot based on past games.
Using Play Action To Create Big Plays
Here we see the Texans in 11 (1 RB, 1 TE, 3 WR) personnel, in a shotgun formation with an tight end aligned similarly to a full back in an offset I formation. The idea of this concept, is to use play action to hold the alley (between DE & CB) defender, likely the slot CB, in place, and run the speedy Damaris Johnson past him and isolate that speed on the safety. It is important to note the field position on this snap. When the ball is between the 40's, be on the look out for a shot play. This is a 2nd and 9 play, only two plays after a 40+ yard rush by RB Alfred Blue, so in a typical run situation, O'Brien was able to go against tendency to hit the big play.
This is another example of the team using play action to push the ball down the field. Here Fitzpatrick is under center, with 12 (1 RB, 2 TE, 2 WR) personnel on the field. Both WRs are to the offense's left, and both TEs are to the right. Here O'Brien has a play action mass protect concept dialed up. With DeAndre Hopkins outside, and Andre Johnson in the slot, the route combination is a variation of the "scissors" concept, where the outside WR runs a post and the inside guy runs a corner route, This combination is typically used to beat Cover-2 but is successful here against the Bills Cover 1 look. Because both WRs get so close in their route stems prior to breaking into their routes, they are able to draw the two defenders close together, and create a natural rub in the route.
Using Personnel And Alignment To Create Space
Here we see Houston, again in 12 personnel, with both WRs aligned to one side, and both TEs to the opposite. This time, Fitzpatrick is in the shot gun and he sends the RB Arian Foster in motion wide to the left. As we've mentioned many times, this is a great way to create mismatches in different places on the field. Here the Bills counter this motion by running their ILB out over Foster in man coverage.
Here we see the route concept, which on the closed (strong) side is the "stick" (curl-out-go) combination, and to the open side, it's simply double slants. As you can see, the pre-snap read for Fitzpatrick has to be that there is lots of space in the middle of the field.
Here we can see that as the slot WR (Hopkins) breaks his route to the middle, there is an abundance of space available for Fitzpatrick to make an easy throw for a completion to stay ahead of the sticks. This is a great example of an offensive mind like O'Brien using the two TEs on the same side, as well as the RB motion to draw the LBs attention, and open up room for the real weapons on the back side. Easy throw and catch here to keep the ball moving.
The Cowboys defense has played surprisingly well through the last couple of weeks, and they come up against an offense in the Texans that is limited at the QB position, but has talented weapons on the outside and in the backfield. Fitzpatrick has a tendency to throw the ball to the other team a couple of times a game, and if the Cowboys defenders are able to take advantage of the opportunities when they present themselves, they should be able to continue their upward trend in week five.
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