When you’re a Belichick disciple like O’Brien, this is the type of mistake that makes you want to break things. People have been banished into the cornfields for less on Patriot Way. Special teams coordinator Larry Izzo, a man of Pats lineage himself, understands this. But no assistant wants to get destroyed by his coach on the sideline.
The Texans came out of the first half up 14-3 on the Lions, which is good. However, at the end of the first half, Houston had just 10 men on the field and had to burn a time out, which is bad. This is a fundamental breakdown in communication that really shouldn’t happen, and O’Brien made sure his special teams coaches knew it.
“Man, everybody is panicking,” edge rusher Whitney Mercilus said of the public reaction to the team’s recent play, per Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle. “I don’t understand why. We’re still at the top of our division. The thing is, we control our own destiny. We just have to play better ball as we move forward in December. Like I said, get that ticket to the big dance at the end.”
Offensive tackle Duane Brown agreed, saying: “I think we’re a resilient group. I think everybody in here knows the season isn’t lost and we have a lot to play for. We have to snap out of it. We have enough veterans in here to relay that message to the younger guys that may not understand.”
Overmatched is the only word that really fit Houston’s 31-13 loss at Minnesota on Sunday, as the 5-0 Vikings toyed with Bill O’Brien’s club, rolling up a 24-6 halftime lead before seeming to lose interest in the final 30 minutes. If this was a measuring stick game for the Texans, you guessed it, they didn’t remotely begin to measure up.
Considering Houston’s uninspiring showing in the Twin Cities on Sunday, and its 27-0 egg-laying in Week 3 on that Thursday night in New England, the Texans look nowhere near legit Super Bowl contention. Houston lost those games against two of the best teams in the league by a combined score of 58-13, and has now been outscored on the season 82-104, making it the only first-place team to feature a negative point differential.
You can’t keep Tom Savage down for long. Once the Bengals subjected Houston to a deficit of over three points, the promoted quarterback turned it on, leading the Texans’ only touchdown drive of the game in just over two minutes to put Houston ahead for good. Savage’s first half was historically terrible (2/7, 13 yds, 3 sacks), and he often looked more like his predecessor, Brock Osweiler, in the pocket, resorting to dump offs to running backs and C.J. Fiedorowicz. But the playbook opened up for Savage in the second half when the Texans went to a no-huddle offense. Savage was more comfortable, making some clutch throws in a collapsing pocket. Most importantly, he targeted star wideout DeAndre Hopkins five times down the stretch, connecting for three catches and 43 yards. Houston has found its formula with January approaching: Hurry with Hopkins.
Savage will be the guy going forward, but how should Houston handle the QB position next week at Tennessee? What looked to be the game of the week is now an all-but-meaningless contest, what with the Titans eliminated and Marcus Mariota injured. Would Bill O’Brien consider playing both Savage and cheap nhl jerseys and Osweiler next week, so to at least avoid injury to his preferred starter? We’ve learned this week that, heading into the postseason, you can never be too careful with your QB1.
It’s hard to place the weight of this statement on one person, but the major difference between this year’s team and last year’s team is the presence of a potential Pro Bowl quarterback. The Texans are giving Brock Osweiler every chance to be great in this offense, and his first test comes this Sunday against the Chicago Bears.
A quick look at the Texans’ schedule shows no real relief out of the gate. Outside of a potentially-bad Bears team, Houston hosts the same Chiefs team that blew them out in the playoffs a year ago before traveling to New England. Games against a better Titans team and the Vikings on the road follow.
“What I’m trying to do is maximize every day,” Osweiler said. “That’s something I learned from Peyton. It didn’t matter if it was April 1, the first phase of OTAs, August 22 or the first game of the regular season. He was going to make the most of that day, and that’s what I do. If you stay present and don’t look too far ahead — or in the rearview mirror — everything will work out.”
Osweiler clearly has plenty of skills that teams value in a quarterback, which explains the Texans’ decision to sign him to a deal for four years and $72 million ($37 million of which is guaranteed). At 6-foot-8 and 240 pounds, he possesses surprising mobility, impressive smarts and an arm that is capable of making all the requisite throws. Those qualities generated ample excitement among a fan base that watched the Texans go 9-7 and win the AFC South last year despite starting four different quarterbacks. If that’s not enough, Osweiler also understands how a quarterback is supposed to lead, both on and off the field.