Sarah Barshop, ESPN Staff Writer 296d

Despite 26 points vs. Patriots, Texans have work to do in red zone

HOUSTON -- The Houston Texans had one of their most successful offensive games in Sunday’s loss to the New England Patriots, but they continue to struggle in the red zone.

The Texans' offense scored two touchdowns in the team’s 36-33 loss to the Patriots, but settled for a field goal in a big moment in the fourth quarter. Up by two with 2 minutes, 24 seconds left, the Texans faced a fourth-and-1 at the New England 18.

Coach Bill O’Brien said he elected to kick a field goal instead of going for it on fourth down -- running back Lamar Miller couldn’t pick up a yard on third-and-1 -- because he wanted to force New England to score a touchdown to take the lead. Tom Brady led the Patriots on an eight-play, 75-yard touchdown drive to pull ahead with 23 seconds remaining.

“We have got to do a better job in the red area," O'Brien said. "If we score touchdowns instead of however many field goals we kicked, it’s a different ballgame, you know? We have got to do a better job in the red area.”

Added rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson: “[We’ve] got to capitalize in the red zone. [You] can’t give Tom Brady the ball back with that much time, and we’ll learn from it."

The red zone struggles against the Patriots were nothing new this season. Houston has converted only 33.3 percent of its chances for touchdowns, which ranks 27th in the NFL. The Texans have scored only four offensive touchdowns in three games.

The Texans had similar issues last season -- with Brock Osweiler and Tom Savage under center -- and finished ranked 31st, prompting O’Brien to say that was one area they needed to improve on in 2017.

Kicker Ka’imi Fairbairn made all four of his field goals on Sunday; the offense's two touchdowns came through the air, to receivers Bruce Ellington and Ryan Griffin.

“We had some plays there where I just need to coach it better, I need to design it better and do a better job for the players,” O’Brien said.

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