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Texans’ play action wrinkles could look familiar to Patriots fans

We’ve written about the Texans’ affinity for running play-action this season [1] — according to our pals at Pro Football Focus, Matt Schaub has used play-action on almost 30 percent of his snaps this year, the fifth-highest total in the league heading into this week’s action.

But it’s also worth mentioning that Houston also loves to throw an extra wrinkle into the mix by rolling Schaub out of the pocket after he delivers the play-action fake. It’s not like Schaub is especially quick, but he has an excellent ability to throw while on the run. The added fact that he rolls out makes it even harder to defend — you’re not talking about a stationary quarterback in the pocket, but a moving target. And then there’s the fact that Schaub does a great job selling the fake, as well as the fact that you have to respect the Texans’ play-action because of what running back Arian Foster can bring to the table.

But for the Patriots, the play-action rollout might look familiar: on Oct. 14, Seahawks [2] rookie quarterback Russell Wilson delivered the game-winning touchdown pass to Sidney Rice [3] off a play-action bootleg.  While not an exact replica of what Schaub does on a regular basis (the Texans usually prefer an intermediate route), the sequence is similar enough for the Patriots to make it a point of emphasis this week.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick [4] said this week there’s another historical reference point to use as a comparison — the old Broncos [5] offensive scheme that includes “zone runs and bootlegs and play-actions and a lot of formation, a lot of motion, that type of thing” that Texans head coach Gary Kubiak [6] brought with him when he was offensive coordinator in Denver.

“They’€™re a very well-balanced team,” said Belichick when asked about the secret to Houston’s success when it comes to play action. “They can run it; they play action with the running game. If you’€™re stopping the run, you’€™re light on the play-action. If you’€™re stopping the play-action, you’€™re probably light on the run. They do a good job of tying those plays together, complementing each other and making you defend all of it.

“Gary, pretty much going back to [Mike] Shanahan when Gary was at Denver with Shanahan, but they’€™ve always done a good job of attacking defenses and putting a lot of pressure on defenses. He’€™s doing a great job at Houston. We saw that when we played them a couple years ago and we still see it. Everybody gets involved — the receivers, tight ends, the backs — they use all their players with good balance and they have a lot of them.”