Take Five: Houston

Posted Oct 16, 2010

Five focus points for this Sundays match-up in Houston

It’s time to “Take Five” once again. Just as we do each and every weekend on, these are five areas worth watching heading into Sunday’s matchup.

When looking at the Texans win/loss chart over the past few seasons, a team of patterns appears. They’re one that seems to bounce on, off and around the .500 mark on a consistent basis. After winning their final four games to close out 2009, and beginning 2010 with a 2-0 record, Houston appeared to be turning the corner as a franchise.

But a 1-2 record over the past three games, including back-to-back lopsided home losses, now puts Houston teetering on the .500 mark once again. A team with dangerous play-makers on each side of the football, Houston’s current situation makes them as formidable as any foe.

At 3-1, the Chiefs travel to Houston with an opportunity to begin the second quarter of 2010 by banking a road win. But it won’t come easy. In order to keep a cushion from their own .500 baseline, these are five areas critical to Kansas City’s success on Sunday.

1)      Explosive Plays

The Chiefs did an excellent job of making the Colts dink-and-dunk their passes throughout the game last weekend. Coupled with a swarming rush defense, Kansas City held Indianapolis to just one play over 20 yards. If they’re able to do the same thing on Sunday in Houston, it might be an even more impressive feat.

The Texans have multiple players who can go for 80-yard scores at any given moment. RB Arian Foster has already proven his big-play ability, going 74-yards for a rushing score and averaging nearly 6.0 yards per carry on just under 100 carries. Through the air, there’s perennial Pro Bowler Andre Johnson, a player who many argue is the best receiver in the league.

Keeping those two players under wraps the same way that Kansas City was able to hold Indy’s team-speed in check would prove to be a huge victory on Sunday.

2)      Physical Play

Kansas City has prided itself on its ultra-productive offseason. The mojo from a spring of perfect attendance carried into training camp and the Chiefs continued to push themselves in the sweltering summer heat of St. Joseph. It was in St. Joe that the team practiced in full pads for some-34 practices in heat indexes that routinely eclipsed triple digits.

The result of Kansas City’s offseason and training camp labors has provided the Chiefs with a team that’s been able to out-hit and out-last opponents thus far. They’ve also stayed free from the in-season injury plague as well (knock on wood).

Houston head man Gary Kubiak said earlier this week that his team went to work this preseason on many of those same things, convinced that a lack of physicality has been keeping the Texans out of the playoffs. If the Texans come as advertised, it will be evident in the type of football game that we see this Sunday.

The “experts” expect this one to remain undecided until the fourth quarter. If that’s the case, the better conditioned, more physical team should have an edge.

3)      Run the Rock

The Texans rank as one of the better rushing defenses in the league, but have been suspect against the pass with a 32nd league ranking. It’s something that we’ll take a closer look into before kickoff. Regardless, the Chiefs still have their eye set on running the rock based on comments from Todd Haley, Charlie Weis and Matt Cassel made throughout the week.

Both teams have been at their best when running the football in 2010. Days of shrunken rushing outputs have led to losses, while big ground gains have churned out victory. It’s no coincidence that the Chiefs produced their lowest rushing output of the season in Indianapolis and the final score resulted in a loss.

In today’s NFL, we’re all fooled into thinking that the pass rules all, but at the end of the day, you throw to score but run to win. What’s fact is that the teams with the best rushing differential own the best records, while those teams that have quarterbacks throw for 300-plus yards own a combined record of 8-25 (.242) this season.

4)      Stop the Run

The term used in the above paragraph…“Run Differential”…that’s calculated by taking team rushing yards gained minus team rushing yards allowed divided by games played. For the Chiefs to win, they’ll have to continue their success in run differential.

The Texans have racked up 564 rushing yards over their three wins, but just 148 yards in their two losses. As a result, they’ll likely enter Sunday just as determined to run the football as the Chiefs.

Houston is a zone-running team that loves to cut block. The art of shedding cuts, staying up and providing run support is a difficult task to master. Kansas City will be put to the test with Houston’s blocking scheme and running game.

The play of Kansas City’s front seven will be a critical factor in this one.

5)      No Negatives

The Chiefs have done a remarkable job at eliminating the negative plays this season. The squad is the third-least penalized team in the NFL, has allowed the fewest sacks in the league and, overall, has committed just 17 negative plays (the 2nd fewest in football).

That all amounts to one thing: smart football.

Kansas City has minimized its mistakes and capitalized on its opportunities, finishing each of the first four games even or positive in the turnover department and posting a 27-0 scoring differential off turnovers. Success has come this season by the Chiefs not beating themselves on gameday; a trend critical to winning games on the road.

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