Although being caught up in an Executive Board Meeting yesterday, I was able to keep an eye on the Texans-Skins game. When the Texans went for the punt instead of the 52-yard Rackers field goal, I only questioned Kubiak’s choice beforehand to pass instead of run on 3rd-and-3 in Skins territory.
When I fully watched the game later that night, I realized that the move would likely upset the ignorant of the full world of football-decision-making. And in fact, many of my Facebook friends littered my newsfeed with Kubiak insults for the decision to punt rather than kick. And to that; I am writing this article to justify Kubiak’s decision to punt the ball rather than attempt a Rackers field goal.
There are several reasons that an NFL head coach would rather punt the ball than attempt a 52-yard field goal away from home, with an in-the-zone defense, and where the kicker already had missed a field goal from fewer yardage than the possible attempt. My reasons for justifying Kubiak’s decision are as follows:
1) Trust the Defense. Neil Rackers understands it, Gary Kubiak understands it, probably even Bob Dole understands it. The Houston Texans’ defense showed up throughout the game although allowing over 420 yards from Donovan McNabb’s pass game. However, the fourth quarter defense and heading into overtime showed real prowess and that they were in-the-zone. With that type of mentality and push, Kubiak couldn’t send Rackers out there with the possibility of him missing the kick, as he had before, and leaving the Skins in better position than a punt would in overtime.
2) Rackers Missed 47-Yard FG. Neil Rackers had already missed a 47-yard field goal kick in the second quarter where the wind was raging around. The 52-yard possible attempt would be against the breeze and five yards longer than the one he missed the half before.
3) Kickers’ Go Zone. Before every NFL game the special team coach will watch his team’s kicker take snaps from small yardage to long yardage to get an idea of the kickers’ go zone, or reasonable yardage that the team’s kicker could make on any given kick that Sunday. We aren’t aware of Racker’s pregame go zone, but Kubiak may have been told that Rackers wasn’t successfully hitting from 50+ yards out.
2) Playing Away. – At the Executive Board meeting, my professor told me, if Houston was home they would have kicked the field goal. Besides being more comfortable at the home field, Rackers wouldn’t be going against the loud and raging FedEx Field madhouse crowd.
3) The Washington Air. Last night’s weather in our nation’s capital was nice 70 degree weather and under 25 % humidity. If you’ve ever talked with a professional baseball player, he’d tell you that batting in Colorado or Los Angeles is much more difficult than hitting in Houston. Why? Because cooler, thinner air causes the ball to carry less than more humid air. Additionally, the breeze was going against Rackers’ possible attempt, which he felt during the kickoffs.
5) FedEx Grass. FedEx Field isn’t Houston or St. Louis. There is no turf, turf grass, or the sort, but rather Fed Ex is all naturale. When kicking on grass, the team has to be aware of its suitability for kicking. Last night, after four quarters and some, the possibility of finding some good grass, not already dug out and kicked up, would be slim to none. Kubiak made the choice knowing that a bad field could end up with a missed kick. Ask Gano after already treading the grass he kicked on before re-kicking his field goal on the same yard line.
6) A Win’s a Win. The Texans punted the ball, stopped the Redskins offense and re-drove the ball for a Rackers’ 35-yard field goal and the win. What more justification can you have than the “W” in the record books?
Although fans will argue that if Kubiak’s decision ended up with the Skins’ kicker Gano hitting his 52-yard FG, my article would never be written and Kubiak would also be on Texans owner McNair’s dog chain. However, I would have still begged to differ. The above stated reasons are enough for any coach to hold back on the kicker and attempt the punt.
And although the punt did not work out and although there were penalties, those were most definitely less foreseeable than Rackers’ missing that 52-yard kick and putting the Skins just yards away from the Texans’ own territory to win in sudden death. In my opinion, Kubiak’s choice to punt the football was the right move, even more solidified by the “W” and the first 2-0 record in franchise history.
For Kubiak, he said “I went with my gut” knowing the factors were there. And if that isn’t enough for his doubters, how bout that icing on the cake? Icing Gano with milliseconds before his kick is enough for any doubter to see Kubiak knows what he’s doing as head coach of the Houston Texans.