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Houston Texans look to fix red zone woes

October 9, 2018
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Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) and wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins (10) walk off the field after they failed to score a touchdown against the Dallas Cowboys during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 7, 2018, in Houston. (AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith)

HOUSTON (AP) — The Houston Texans got their second straight win on Sunday after an 0-3 start, but they still have plenty of room for improvement.

Notably in the red zone where they managed just one touchdown in six trips against the Cowboys.

“We’ve got to make major improvements there because we’re moving the ball, but we’re not scoring touchdowns,” coach Bill O’Brien said.

“We’re kicking too many field goals ... that’s not a sustainable way to win games in this league and we know that. So, we’re going to work hard to get it better this week.”

The Texans rank third in the NFL by averaging 423.4 yards a game, but are tied for 15th by scoring just 23 points a game. They’ve struggled in the red zone all season, finishing with touchdowns just 8 of 22 times. Houston has converted more than 50 percent of its chances inside the 20 in just one game this season, when it went 3 for 5 in an overtime win over Indianapolis on Sept. 30.

O’Brien said plenty of factors are contributing to the problem and that his staff is focused on fixing it.

“I think it’s a combination of a lot of things,” O’Brien said. “It’s not a time for us to sit here and list all the things. I think it starts with me. I’ve got to do a better job of teaching it, designing it, and then there are some things that we have to do a better job of executing.”

O’Brien credited the defenses Houston has faced for doing a good job of limiting his team in this area and noted how much more difficult things become once an offense is inside the 20.

“You have to be in this business day in and day out to understand how difficult the red area is,” he said. “There’s less space, the windows, they open and close very fast, you have to make quick decisions, you have to throw the ball accurately, you’ve got to be able to run the ball by covering people up and blocking support and all these other things.”

Quarterback Deshaun Watson, who is fifth in the NFL with 1,621 yards passing, said part of the struggles in the red zone come from his failure to execute plays. He pointed to a couple of throws he made that were short against the Cowboys that kept his team from scoring.

“We’ve just got to execute. That’s pretty much it,” he said. “You can be simple. You can be creative. It doesn’t really matter what you do, you’ve just got to execute the play. The plays are designed to get the ball in the end zone, and if everyone does their job and does it correctly and I make the right throw and make the right read, the ball should end up in the end zone.”

Watson and the Texans should have more help on offense this week when they host Buffalo with the return of running back Lamar Miller. The starter, who leads the team with 225 yards rushing, was active for the Cowboys game but did not play because of a chest injury.

The Texans are confident that if they could figure out a way to finish drives their offense will be in good shape. Watson has looked good in his return this season after missing the last half of his rookie year in 2017 after knee surgery.

He’s been able to connect consistently with star receiver DeAndre Hopkins and has spread the ball around to Will Fuller and rookie Keke Coutee. Hopkins already has three 100-yard receiving games this season and leads the NFL with 594 yards receiving. Fuller has 278 yards receiving and leads the team with three TD receptions, and Coutee has piled up 160 yards in just two games.

After the tough start to the year, Watson is encouraged by his team’s work the past two weeks and is focused on getting better to help the Texans continue to build on their recent success.

“We’ve got to score in the red zone to put the game away, but we’ll correct those mistakes,” he said. “These last two weeks have been big ... just everyone just believing and being able to have that will and that determination to get the job done at the end.”

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