At 11-2, the Texans remain atop the AFC with a trio of games left in 2012. They're in the position they'd like to be, but they're certainly not satisfied. One main reason: their recent struggles on third down.
Since returning from their Week 8 bye, the Texans rank 27th in the NFL in third-down percentage at 30.5. Overall this year, they're 16th in the League with a conversion rate of 38.7 percent.
"It's always a focus," Texans coach Gary Kubiak said. "If you're making third downs, you're staying on the field, you've got possession time, you're helping your defense, all those things."
The Texans' third-down struggles were particularly evident in their loss at New England on Monday night. They converted just 4-of-14 (28.6%) of their third-down opportunities, and according to offensive coordinator Rick Dennison, there's not one particular thing to blame for the problem.
"It's a cumulative group of a lot of different things," Dennison said. "We just as a group have to refocus and make sure we get those, whether it's the system we're using or the play calls or what we're trying to beat. (It's) just being effective and efficient with what we do."
Through the first seven weeks of the 2012 season, the Texans were fourth in the NFL in third-down offense at 45.2 percent. For quarterback Matt Schaub, the fix is fairly simple.
"We've just got to execute," Schaub said. "We've got to be on top of every situation, every play, every defense that they could throw at us and be able to make adjustments in the game and handle those situations, because it's those critical points in the game that we've got to be at our best."
Wide receiver Andre Johnson was even more blunt about the inefficiency.
"We just ain't converting," Johnson said. "I think there are plays out there to be made, but we just ain't converting. That's pretty much it."
While the third-down downturn is a cause for concern, the Texans have managed to go 5-1 in the post-bye portion of their schedule. The successful mark is nice, but the squad is still focused on getting better when it's time to convert and move the sticks.
"We just need to make plays," tight end Owen Daniels said. "You're going to face third downs. You're going to face third downs when maybe you shouldn't be able to convert, but those situations, you need to. You need to build big plays in some situations, keep drives alive."
Kubiak, Dennison and the rest of the offensive staff continue to work on improving in that area. With three games remaining, it's a point of emphasis.
"I think it's been something that we're addressing that we're disappointed in, and it's going to have to get a lot better if we're going to play better here down the stretch," Kubiak said."
The Texans get their chance to start that improvement on Sunday at home when they face an Indianapolis defense that allows opposing offenses to convert on third down 38.7 percent of the time.