FOXBORO — The Houston Texans, contrary to popular opinion, can beat the New England Patriots Sunday here at Gillette Stadium.
Victory or defeat will be decided not by the Pats, or Bill Belichick, or even Matt Schaub.
This one is on Texans’ boss Gary Kubiak, your typical run-of-the-mill, mired-in-the-mediocre 59-53 NFL coach, still looking to make a name for himself.
How does Houston win? It’s a matter of trust.
Kubiak must trust Arian Foster.
He has to believe in his defense implicitly, his front, his linebackers and defensive backs.
And with all his will, all his integrity, all his might, Kubiak can’t trust his quarterback, Matt Schaub.
Schaub will single-handedly throw his football team out of the playoffs if Kubiak allows him. He almost did on Saturday in the Wild Card round against Cincinnati.
He cautiously dumped underneath over and over, check-down after check-down on his way to a 29 of 38, 262-yard afternoon – good for a rather Sanchez-ian 6.9 yards per attempt.
Schaub’s most notable hookup? A floater to the flat that Leon Hall plucked and plodded with into the end zone.
Of course, Hall plays defense for the Bengals.
Yet, despite their panic-stricken pocket presence, the Texans, now 13-4, pose a distinct threat to knock off your New England Patriots.
Per usual in the NFL, this one hangs on the head coach.
If he approaches this Patriots’ team and Tom Brady with some recycled, inside-the-box approach – that works Tuesday night on paper and Wednesday in the initial walkthrough – the Texans will again be thrashed, as they were 42-14 in the previous regular season meeting.
Does Kubiak have it in him to innovate? To gamble? Can the coach allow Schaub to let it fly on first down when the Pats are spying Foster? Can he be creative on second, and let Foster attack the Pats on third?