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...

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Boston's two grand slams in the first two innings were too much for Houston to overcome in ALCS Game 2. Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

After a win in ALCS Game 1 that had the prototypical fingerprints of this Astros team all over it, Houston returned to Minute Maid Park on Saturday, hoping to take a dominant 2-0 series lead if they could grab another victory. The Red Sox dashed those hopes very early, though, scoring eight runs across the first two innings to build the lead they would hold on to even the series.

Final Score: Boston 9, Astros 5

ALCS Series (Best of Seven): tied 1-1

Winning Pitcher: Nathan Eovaldi

Losing Pitcher: Luis Garcia

Houston met with disaster to start Game 2

You couldn't have drawn up a much better start for the Red Sox or a worse one for the Astros in Saturday's ALCS Game 2. Luis Garcia met early disaster in the top of the first inning, allowing a leadoff double, then got two outs while issuing two walks to load the bases. That brought up Boston's designated hitter, J.D. Martinez, to the plate, and he delivered a crushing blow to Houston, launching a grand slam to put the Red Sox up 4-0 before Houston could even get to the plate.

After a scoreless bottom of the inning by his offense, things got worse for Garcia in the top of the second, as after issuing a four-pitch walk to start the frame, he would become the center of a meeting at the mound with trainers, ultimately leaving the game with an injury. Houston opted to bring in Jake Odorizzi for the emergency call to the bullpen, but things did not start well for him either. He would put two of his own batters on base with two singles, then gave up the second grand slam in as many innings, this one to Rafael Devers to double Boston's lead to 8-0, doubling down on Houston's disastrous start to the game.

Odorizzi rebounded with a 1-2-3 third, but with one out in the top of the fourth allowed a solo homer to Kiké Hernández, his third homer of the series so far. He would still get the job done of eating up a few innings, finishing the fourth, and retiring Boston in order in the fifth, giving Houston just four more innings to cover with the rest of their relievers.

Astros get a few runs back

Over that span, Houston did trim the lead by three runs, getting an RBI double by Kyle Tucker and a two-RBI single by Yuli Gurriel in the bottom of the fourth, making it a six-run game at 9-3. Their next reliever was Blake Taylor in the top of the sixth, and he would keep the score where it stood by sitting down the three batters he faced that frame.

The Astros threatened again in the bottom of the sixth, getting two singles to put two aboard, but would come out empty, sending the game on to the seventh, where Taylor would remain on the mound. He faced three more batters, getting two out while allowing a single before Yimi Garcia would come in to get the third out.

Red Sox even the series as it shifts to Boston

Garcia returned in the top of the eighth, getting through that inning despite a walk and hit by pitch, stranding both runners. Boston's bullpen kept Houston from getting any closer in the bottom of the eighth, then Ryne Stanek came in for the Astros in the top of the ninth. Stanek allowed a leadoff double, but with a groundout and double play, held the score at 9-3. Yuli Gurriel and Jason Castro did their part to keep the Astros alive in the bottom of the ninth, each hitting solo homers to make it 9-5, but that's as close as they'd come, dropping Game 2 to tie the series at one game apiece.

Up Next: The ALCS now moves to Boston for the next three games after a day off on Sunday, with Game 3 on Monday at 7:08 PM Central. While the Astros have named Jose Urquidy as their starter, the Red Sox have not yet determined theirs.

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