FALCON POINTS

An open apology (sort of) to Texans coach Bill O'Brien

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Editor's note: This post contains something called "sarcasm." Some of you are not familiar with that term, so here is the definition. Technically, the editor is also the writer, so maybe this is really a writer's note. Or just a note. Regardless, you have been warned.

No one has been harder on Texans coach Bill O'Brien than me. After all, for six years, we have seen shaky play calling, poor game plans, mediocre coaching, bad challenges and terrible clock management. It never changes.

Let's not even get started on his say nothing press conferences. Yes, we get it, you have to "coach better, play better."

His surly, arrogant, bully attitude. His power mad climb to the top of the organization. His stubborn refusal to add coaches from outside his sphere of influence to try new ideas. His inability to learn from his mistakes. His apparent wasting of Deshaun Watson.

Today, we apologize for bringing all these things up.

And yes, we apologize for saying O'Brien is Andy Reid's "sex robot." Because over the last two weeks, it has been hard to find fault with O'Brien. Maybe - finally - he is learning from his mistakes?

It's one thing to run up yards on a bad Falcons team. It's another to go into Kansas City and take down Reid and the Chiefs.

And make no mistake, O'Brien outcoached Reid on Sunday. His offense was lively and operated at a good pace. His team ran the ball effectively, keeping the Chiefs off the field. He did not panic when the Texans got down 17-3 and stuck with his game plan.

He even made a good challenge right off the bat on what was obvious offensive pass interference. No, it was not overturned, but he quickly got a makeup call out of it. Apparently, no pass interference call is ever going to be overturned, because this one was obvious.

The Texans have so many likable players, but they are hard to root for because of O'Brien's many failings.

But now The Texans are 4-2, with good road wins over San Diego and Kansas City, a close loss in New Orleans against perhaps the best team in the NFC when Drew Brees is healthy, and a rough loss to a Carolina team that has turned out to be pretty good.

There is still much to prove. A trip to Indy looms, and the Colts had the Texans number last season. But there are reasons for optimism.

The offense has gone to quicker passes, misdirection and has utilized Watson much better over the past two weeks. The result has been a 50-plus point output (six from the defense) and a 31-point effort. The Texans also left points on the field against the Chiefs, throwing an ill advised pick in the end zone and getting yet another missed field goal from the suddenly shaky Ka'imi Fairbairn.

They kept KC off the field with long drives and an effective running game, putting pressure on Patrick Mahomes to be flawless. He wasn't.

The defense, well rested, came up with two big turnovers, pressured Mahomes and did its job. O'Brien and Romeo Crennel tweaked the secondary, and the result was Mahomes having his lowest passing output of the season, even when top CB Bradley Roby went out with an injury.

O'Brien even showed guts going for it up 31-24 on fourth and three instead of letting his struggling kicker try to put the game out of reach. It worked and game over. Whether it had worked or not, it was the right call.

In short, O'Brien has made changes. And they are working. The new offense has gone two games without allowing a sack. Watson is performing at a high level. Coaching is a simple thing - put your players in the best positions to succeed. O'Brien is suddenly doing that.

Of course, things can always revert. The Texans followed up a good win in LA with a brutal performance against the Panthers. But since then, they have looked like a different team.

And O'Brien has looked like a different coach. After six years, has he finally learned to be a coach that can take the Texans to the next level? Realistically, probably not. A six-year sample size doesn't change in two weeks. Then again, maybe he has suddenly transformed into the coach he has emulated for so long - Bill Belichick.*

*-Sarcasm alert.

Still, if you are going to be critical, you should be fair and give credit where it is due. So here it is.

Now, about how Frank Reich and the Colts made you look last season in two of the three meetings...

Texans 20 , Colts 17

Texans vs Colts: Good, bad and ugly

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In a Thursday Night Football battle, the Texans edged out the Colts in 20-17 hard fought victory. Here's how I saw things play out:

The Good

-DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller re-established themselves as one of the best wide receiver duos in the league this game. 13 catches on 19 targets for a combined 234 yards and two touchdowns (both by Hopkins). Whenever Deshaun Watson has Hopkins on the short to intermediate stuff and Fuller stretching the field, it gives him more options in the pass game.

-Deshaun Watson completed 63.3% of his passes for 297 yards and two touchdowns. While he did throw an inexplicable interception and took a sack, he still did enough to guide his team to a win. This kid is going to be a star and eventually lead his team to great things one day.

-The defense came up big against a division rival. Zach Cunningham and Benardrick McKinney combined for 27 tackles, 19 of those were solo tackles. This wasn't an easy game. It was a grinder, and the defense deserves some love for their contribution.

The Bad

-Watson's interception in the 2nd quarter hurt their momentum. The Colts had just punted the ball to the Texans. With a 3-0 lead, they could've taken a two score lead with a touchdown drive. Instead, pressure up the middle tipped the pass and Colts corner Kenny Moore made a great play to pick it off. Sometimes good defense beats good offense.

-Back to back Colt possessions swung momentum back in their favor. At the end of the 1st half, the Texans gave up a field goal to tie the game at 10. To start the 2nd half, the Texans failed on a 4th&3 conversion. The Colts went on an 11 play drive (10 runs, one pass) and scored after Benardrick McKinney failed to make the tackle when he met Jonathan Williams in the gap.

-The Colts ran the ball 39 times for 175 yards at a 4.5 yard per carry clip. Losing the rushing yardage differential by -76, turnover game by -1, and time of possession by almost seven minutes is normally a recipe for a loss. These metrics need to be cleaned up moving forward, or else this team will be out early in the playoffs.

The Ugly

-The Colts convderted 9/15 of their 3rd down conversions. Giving up 60% on 3rd down conversions isn't what good football teams do. If the Texans expect to advance in the AFC playoff picture, they have some work to do as far as 3rd down conversion percentage.

-Dylan Cole went down with a calf injury in the 2nd quarter. He's not only one of their more athletic linebackers, he's alos the leading special teams tackler. Hopefully he's okay as this team, particularly the defense, has suffered enough injuries.

-After the field goal early in the 2nd quarter, I heard them playing "Football Time In Houston" by Clay Walker. Will they PLEASE get rid of that damn song?!? I'm sure there's a rap song they can use that's better. Hell, get a local band to do a rock song. Anything but that tired ass song!

Now that the Texans have won this game and firm control of the AFC South, they have about a 75% chance at making the playoffs. Meanwhile, the Colts have only about a 20% chance to make it. The Texans have five games left: Patriots, Broncos, @Titans, @Bucs, and Titans. None of those teams pose a serious threat outside the Pats. Winning all these games would give them a 12-4 record and a shot at a first round bye depending on what happens with other teams. Winning this game puts them in the driver's seat in the AFC South, and helps them in the race for a first round bye. They'll need some out side help to get first round bye in the playoffs, but health is a major component moving forward. Especially on the defensive side of the ball. With the Pats coming into town next Sunday night, the Texans have a chance to make some noise in the AFC. Next week will be the new biggest game of the Bill O'Brien era.

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