FALCON POINTS

Is Bill O'Brien going full Rocky IV before our eyes?

Photo by Getty Images.

Bill O'Brien may finally be getting some self-awareness. The Texans coach has at long last realized he has an image problem, not just locally, but nationally.

After a year in which he blew a big lead in a playoff game, went off on TV at the draft, traded away key players like DeAndre Hopkins and Jadeveon Clowney for pennies on the dollar and became the star of the infamous "you suck, too!" video, O'Brien is trying to change the narrative.

First, he had a truly heartfelt and emotional reaction to George Floyd's death. It showed a rare human side to a man who has appeared anything but publicly.

Next, he announced he would take a knee with his players during the national anthem. It showed a change of direction for the entire organization, and it again made O'Brien look human.

Finally, he hosted a roundtable off-the-record chat with several Houston media members. (I must have misplaced my invite, but good for him). A few people there said it was nothing earth shattering, but at least trying to open communication is a step in the right direction.

Is he really changing? Or is it just a desperate attempt to clean up an ugly image? Believe it or not, I am giving him the benefit of the doubt. These times we live in are changing all of us. Some for the better, some for worse. There is no "normal" anymore. We will simply have to adjust to whatever is the new normal.

O'Brien is at least making an effort, and listening to others for a change. Maybe that translates to his in-game coaching skills as well, because he could afford to make some changes there.

The media meeting was an attempt to maybe erase some of his terseness with that group in press conferences. Most press conferences are useless, but O'Brien's are next level worthless. "Best interest of the team. We have to coach better, we have to play better. I have to look at the tape."

No one expects that to really change. It doesn't help when half the questions are softballs and the other half O'Brien takes as personal attacks. But getting to know the media that covers you outside of doing business with them is always smart. Listening to each other and getting a sense of what makes us tick is essential in life, especially in the wake of current events.

O'Brien has a long way to go, no question. But he seems to be making an effort, and hopefully it will translate to the field next season as well, if there is a next season.

I'm reminded of the words of Rocky at the end of Rocky IV.

"If I can change and you can change, everybody can change."

Maybe it's just O'Brien's turn. Finally.

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A WEEKLY REVIEW OF CRENNEL'S COACHING

Now my job: Texans feast on Lions

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Thanksgiving is full of tradition. There's the typical family gathering, large meal, and of course, football. Sometimes, new traditions are added and old ones are retired. I think the Texans did both in their impressive 41-25 win over the Lions in Detroit. Old traditions were carried on (Lions losing on Thanksgiving), some were put to rest (Texans not being able to get turnovers), and new ones were started (multiple passing touchdowns by Deshaun Watson in six straight games).

The fact that this defense got three turnovers in the game was unbelievable! They got all three in the first quarter within the span of eight plays. JJ Watt's pick-six was insane. He went for a batted ball, ended up catching it, and ran it in. They forced Jonathan Williams to fumble on the Lions' very next play from scrimmage and recovered it. On the Lions' next possession, the Texans recovered yet another fumble after the challenge was reversed. Great call by the coaching staff to challenge and win. The defense looked good. Tyrell Adams stood out because he was in on those two fumbles, made 17 total tackles with 14 of them being solo tackles. They also brought pressure that seemed to make Matthew Stafford very inaccurate and resulted in four sacks. I give defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver credit for knowing he needs to blitz to get pressure, but the run defense has to improve.

The offense kept the tempo up in this game as well. The spread and hurry-up were used to keep the Lions already staggered defense off balance. Knowing the Lions were without a couple defensive backs, I thought it would be the perfect marriage of their defense and the Texans' offense. A buddy asked before the game about the line (Texans -3.5) and the over/under (52.5). I told him bet the Texans and the over because neither team can play defense and both have good quarterbacks. Offensive coordinator Tim Kelly put together another good game plan and Watson executed it flawlessly. One route combo I saw later on in the game I particularly enjoyed. Two receivers were tight to the left side. Cooks ran a hook/curl and settled in the middle of the zone while Fuller ran a vertical route. Duke Johnson ran a swing route to that same side. It left Cooks wide open as the attention went to Johnson in the flat, Fuller deep, and the action to the other play side. Route combos are important because it gives the quarterback different reads as he goes through his progressions and lets him pick apart the defense based on what he sees. Combine that with Watson's play and the way Kelly has changed his play calling now that he's liberated from he who shall not be named, we're seeing a beautiful thing.

As good as things were, there's still room for improvement. The defense gives up way too many easy yards, both run and pass. They can't get pressure bringing only four and will often give up big plays if the blitz is picked up. Plus the run defense is still an issue as evidenced by the Lions' first possession of the second half. The Lions ran the ball 10 plays straight for a total of 58 yards on that drive. Utterly ridiculous! Watson was good (17/25 318 yards and four touchdowns), but he missed two more touchdowns with passes slightly off, and continues to hold onto the ball too long at times. The difference between these two issues I've presented here is the fact that Watson has so played well, his "issues" are minor and very correctable, while the defense is terrible and there's no easy fix in sight. But let Romeo Crennel and Anthony Weaver tell it, they're getting the most out of these guys and they're playing disciplined.

The thought that this team may actually creep into the playoff picture may take shape better after next week if they can beat the Colts. I doubt it, but it is getting interesting. Let's see what else happens around them because they need help getting there.

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