Houston Texans QB Brock Osweiler was one of the worst quarterbacks in the league during the regular season. He threw more interceptions (16) than touchdown (15), fell below the now-necessary 60.0% completion mark (59.0%), and was benched in week 15 before an injury to QB Tom Savage in the season finale thrust Osweiler back into the line-up.
And so the Texans have decided to change their offensive strategy to try and get Osweiler back on track.
“You can really see from an offensive standpoint, they’re doing a great job right now of running the ball, controlling the game,” Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia said on Monday. “They didn’t turn the ball over, they really don’t give up that many pressures and they’re just doing a good job of getting the ball around to their skill players. So I think the biggest difference is really they have very good balance in their offense.”
Osweiler completed just 14 passes against the Raiders, tied for his lowest of the regular season, not including the game where he was benched early against the Jaguars in week 15. Houston has decided to remove the game from Osweiler’s hands, prevent him from attempting risky throws, and hope the defense can do enough to win a low-scoring affair.
And when Osweiler does throw the ball, the Texans are trying to simplify his reads by using hurry-up tempo to prevent defenses from settling into complicated schemes.
The Texans are “allowing the quarterback to do a great job of identifying what the defense is in and trying to make sure they’re in the right play to get a positive gain or take advantage of whatever they see from a pre-snap look,” Patricia said. “I’ll say one of the other differences – there’s a little bit of tempo with the offense now. There’s going to be some at the line of scrimmage offense that they try to run and try to catch the defense in a particular look, which obviously gives you a lot of problems in pace and tempo and snap counts and all those different things too, so it’s a huge challenge.”
The Patriots have struggled against tempo offenses- teams play faster against the Patriots while trailing than any other opponent- particularly on low crossing patterns and in-and-out cutting routes. The Patriots will need to run a simplified defense that can move from Cover One to Cover Two to Cover Three to man coverages and bracket coverages without requiring a huddle.
Patricia believes the Patriots defense will be prepared because they face a fast-paced offense every day in practice, and the Texans focus on the same fundamentals of protecting the football, and producing on third down and in the red zone. New England won’t be facing a mirror- there is no Tom Brady on the other team- but the Patriots weekly practices will be the best possible preparation for their upcoming opponent.