Bijani: Avoiding the obvious not enough to dispel the inevitable with Texans' offense


(SportsRadio 610) - One of the key points of emphasis this week from offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton was to keep Davis Mills and his offense out of obvious passing situations.

“We’re just trying to do everything we can to stay out of obvious passing situations. You look across the league, that’s the biggest challenge for quarterbacks,” Hamilton said. “You’ve got young quarterbacks, you’ve hit guys like Davis (Mills), who has only 418 attempts as a pro, compare to guys that have been in the league a long time, you know Tom Brady has over 10,000 attempts.

"But, you go back and look at the games, you see there’s incomplete passes, there’s interceptions, there’s plays that aren’t made and why is that? In obvious passing situations, it’s a challenge for any quarterback."

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Passing downs are defined at 2nd and 8 or longer and 3rd/4th and 5 or longer.

Looking at the numbers after Sunday's 23-20 loss to the Bears, Hamilton and Mills were able to limit their exposure in obvious passing downs to just 13 for the game.

However, their conversion rate in those instances were not very good. In researching data as much as possible for FREE, as I’m not interested in paying for what is already public but non-calculated information, I found different studies that suggested a success rate in obvious passing situations was only 30%.

The Texans fell short Sunday, and succeeded on just 15% of those opportunities.

The Texans were 2/11 in obvious passing situations for the game on Sunday, including 0/8 in the second half.

Hamilton called runs twice in 2nd and 10 situations with Pierce, who gained 2 and 3 yards respectively.

On the flip side, Bears quarterback, Justin Fields was 4/10 in obvious passing situations for the game, in which he took four sacks and threw two interceptions.

Chicago utilized Fields’ ability to run in some situations as well as a combination of runs between David Montgomery, Khalil Herbert and Trestan Ebner who scrambled or ran a combined 11 times for 69 yards in the game.

In total, the Texans faced 13 obvious passing downs, while the Bears had 21, in which 10 were designed runs.

However, there was a more glaring concern in Sunday's loss, in particular for head coach Lovie Smith, which was his teams inability to capitalize on third-and-one opportunities.

The Texans had four chances against the Bears to extend drives and/or score in those opportunities, and failed to convert on any of them.

“I’m going to look more to that, than obvious passing situations. As long as you take care of the third-and-one’s and you convert on those, everything else will work itself out,” Smith said. “My biggest complaint, the turnovers. From there, it’s just converting third-and-ones and a lot of things that we’re talking about right now wouldn’t be here.”

The most important one, before the most costly, that effectively ended the game for Mills and the Texans, came with 1:32 left in the third quarter.

With the Texans at the Chicago two-yard line, Dameon Pierce was stuffed for a three-yard loss on a run to the right, setting up a 23-yard field goal make from Ka’imi Fairbairn that tied the game at 20-20.

The final nail in the coffin came on the team's last offensive possession.

Facing another third-and-one, with two timeouts and Mills going no-huddle, he tried to force a pass that was short left to Rex Burkhead. The ball was tipped at the line of scrimmage and intercepted by linebacker Roquan Smith, setting up the Bears game winning field goal.

While the Texans may have limited their susceptibility in obvious situations offensively, their inability to extend drives and capitalize on turnovers to take the pressure away from a defense that has played well enough to win each week, remains a serious problem.

Shaun Bijani has spent the last 16 years covering the Houston sports scene for SportsRadio 610. Follow him on Twitter @ShaunBijani.

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