Ku­biak push­ing for more af­ter di­vi­sional clincher

Red-zone of­fense needs work as Hous­ton seeks home-field ad­van­tage.

Austin American-Statesman - - SPORTS - By Kristie Rieken

HOUS­TON — The Hous­ton Tex­ans clinched the AFC South with a 29-17 win over the Colts to help erase the me­mory of a blowout loss to New Eng­land.

Coach Gary Ku­biak still sees plenty of room for im­prove­ment af­ter Sun­day’s game and is chal­leng­ing his team to play bet­ter with gain­ing home-field ad­van­tage through­out the AFC play­offs still within reach.

San Fran­cisco’s win over New Eng­land on Sun­day night left the Tex­ans need­ing just one win in their last two games to se­cure home-field ad­van­tage.

“It’d be huge for this team be­cause play­ing at home in this league and hav­ing the ben­e­fit of your crowd and get­ting off on ca­dence and all those types of things, it’s a big, big fac­tor in success in this league,” Ku­biak said. “We worked hard to get to the play-

offs. We worked hard to win a di­vi­sion and now we’ve got to con­tinue that same ef­fort to try to find a way to pos­si­bly be a one seed in this play­off hunt.”

One of Ku­biak’s big­gest con­cerns is Hous­ton’s in­abil­ity to fin­ish drives lately. Hous­ton was just one of five on red zone op­por­tu­ni­ties Sun­day.

The Tex­ans scored their only of­fen­sive touch­down on their sec­ond drive and set­tled for field goals the rest of the way.

“It was dis­ap­point­ing be­cause we could have really put some points on the board,” Ku­biak said. “You only get so many op­por­tu­ni­ties in this busi­ness and boy, you have to take ad­van­tage of them.”

Hous­ton ran for 178 yards Sun­day, led by a sea­son-high 165 yards from Arian Fos­ter. But the run­ning game was in­ef­fec­tive in the red zone.

Fos­ter man­aged just 2 yards on a third-and-4 from the Indianapolis 13 to force Hous­ton to kick a field goal on its first drive. Hous­ton had a sec­on­dand-10 in­side the Indianapolis 20 when Ben Tate lost 4 yards on a run, forc­ing the team to set­tle for an­other field goal two plays later.

Hous­ton’s red zone pro­duc­tion was also hin­dered when Matt Schaub was sacked for a loss of 7 yards on sec­ond-and-8 in the third quar­ter.

There was crit­i­cism of why Hous­ton didn’t go to An­dre John­son more in the red zone af­ter he scored its only of­fen­sive touch­down early in Sun­day’s game. John­son leads the AFC with 1,360 yards re­ceiv­ing.

Ku­biak said it of­ten doesn’t make sense to force it to John­son in those sit­u­a­tions be­cause the de­fense is fo­cused on him.

But Ku­biak also took time Mon­day to dis­cuss some ar­eas he isn’t fret­ting about.

He is ex­cited about some of his young play­ers, and be­lieves their devel­op­ment will help the team as it moves closer to the play­offs.

Rookie re­ceiver DeVier Posey, who hadn’t caught a pass un­til last week, had three re­cep­tions for 46 yards against the Colts. On de­fense, rookie Whit­ney Mer­cilus has helped Hous­ton deal with numer­ous in­juries to its lineback­ers. Mer­cilus has six sacks and has forced two fum­bles de­spite start­ing just three games.

Ku­biak also raved about de­fen­sive end J.J. Watt, who is tied with San Fran­cisco’s Al­don Smith for the NFL sack lead with 19½.

Watt led the team with 10 tack­les, forced a fum­ble and sacked An­drew Luck three times Sun­day. He needs just three sacks to tie the NFL sin­gle-sea­son record of 22½.

De­fen­sive end J.J. Watt needs three sacks to tie the NFL sin­gle-sea­son record of 221/2.

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