Gary Kubiak finds fault in running game, special teams
HOUSTON -- Gary Kubiak sounded pretty dissatisfied for a coach whose team won its season opener by three touchdowns.
Yes, the Texans beat Miami 30-10, the defense overwhelmed rookie Ryan Tannehill and Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson looked as healthy as ever.
But Kubiak found plenty to pick apart heading into this week's game at Jacksonville, starting with the running game. Arian Foster rushed for 79 yards, and Houston finished with just 83 rushing yards overall. The Texans rushed for only 26 yards in the second half after building a 24-3 halftime lead.
"That's the mark of a good team -- you've got to run it and finish the game," Kubiak said Monday. "We didn't do that."
The Texans ranked second in rushing offense last season (153 yards per game), then lost right tackle Eric Winston and right guard Mike Brisiel in the offseason. Derek Newton made his first NFL start at right tackle and Antoine Caldwell moved in at right guard after only 13 total starts in the previous three years, but Kubiak didn't single out those two for the faulty ground attack.
"I'm looking at the big picture," Kubiak said. "We didn't run the ball well, whether we ran it right, left or up the middle. When I'm talking to them (the linemen), I'm talking to all five of them. I'm not talking about right or left."
Houston also had issues on special teams. Trindon Holliday, who made the team after returning three kicks for touchdowns in the preseason, bobbled a kickoff and gained only 61 total yards on four kick returns. Marcus Thigpen ran a punt back 72 yards for a touchdown for Miami.
"We had to start (Monday) with that," Kubiak said. "We did not play well on special teams -- we didn't cover well, we didn't return well."
Linebackers Mister Alexander and Whitney Mercilus among the regulars who didn't see as much action on the coverage and return teams in the preseason as normally would, so Kubiak could look at other reserves.
"Throughout the course of the preseason, we did protect some of those guys, when we were looking at young players," Kubiak said. "It showed a little bit (Sunday). I don't think some of the key guys on special teams were on top of their game. We didn't come out of this game feeling very good about how we played. But we made the corrections and hopefully, we're a lot better next week."
Houston still won easily, because a lot of other things went right.
The Texans were plus-7 in turnover ratio last season and scored 119 points off 27 takeaways. They picked up where they left off in 2011, turning four Miami turnovers into points in the second quarter. Johnathan Joseph's interception set up Shayne Graham's first field goal before the Texans claimed turnovers on three straight Miami snaps. Defensive end J.J. Watt swatted Tannehill's next two passes at the line, leading to interceptions and Danieal Manning recovered Daniel Thomas' fumble.
"Once we got the turnover, I think we scored six out of seven possessions," Kubiak said, "so that's a darn good thing."
Schaub completed 20 of 31 passes for 266 yards and looked comfortable in his first game since fracturing his right Lisfranc joint in Week 10 last season. And Schaub headed off any potential off-the-field distraction on Saturday when he signed a 4-year contract extension.
"I'm happy for him. It's good for the organization. It's good for the football team," Kubiak said. "We've got a fine player and we got him locked up for a while. I'm happy for Matt and his family. He wanted to be here. He wants to play here, so that's a very positive step."
Tight end Owen Daniels also had a solid opener, with four catches for 87 yards. Johnson caught eight passes for 119 yards, including a touchdown, and proved that he and Schaub have their chemistry back.
"Andre, the last 10 days of camp, has really looked like the Andre I remember from four or five years ago," Kubiak said. "I'm talking about from a work standpoint at practice. Andre is a guy that needs to do it in practice to do it in a game. That's the way he is. He had an excellent week last week and it showed in the game."
Kubiak said the five-time Pro Bowl receiver was on the field for 49 plays, and he and receivers coach Larry Kirksey may limit Johnson's play count in upcoming games to "keep him fresh."
Linebacker Tim Dobbins, who left the opener with a neck injury, ran with the team on Monday and is expected to return to practice on Wednesday.
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