A WEEKLY REVIEW OF O'BRIEN'S COACHING
Not my job: Texans had no answers for the Vikings
The Texans fell to 0-4 with a 31-23 loss to the Minnesota Vikings. The loss can be largely pinned on Bill O'Brien. If there was an award for WTF decisions, O'Brien would be the winner by a couple country miles. He's been making them his whole tenure as Texans coach. Sure, the game came down to the final possession and was pending a review of an amazing almost catch by Will Fuller (as well as a two-point conversion if it stood), but O'Brien was the impetus behind much of went wrong.
For starters, it was revealed that O'Brien would be taking over play calling duties from offensive coordinator Tim Kelly. Citing the struggles of the offense in the first three games, O'Brien chose to open his burger-chan play calling menu (sponsored by Culture Map) and did nothing too different from what we saw in the first three games.
The offense continued to look disjointed. They would look good getting off quick throws, then would bog down trying to run or go for long developing routes. I thought the empty backfield "Run N Gun" formation was effective. It spread the Vikings' already thin defense and allowed Deshaun Watson to throw the ball to wherever he saw a mismatch. Going up-tempo keeps the opposing defense off balance. They can't sub and it makes it tougher to adjust or catch a breath. This also helped utilize the speed at receiver the Texans have. Alas, O'Brien went away from it.
Right before halftime, they had an opportunity to score a touchdown and cut the lead to seven. Instead, they had to settle for another field goal. The fourth highest paid kicker in the league kicked three field goals in all. The sad part is that the last two were from 28 and 25 yards respectively. Translation: the offense stalled in the deep inside the red zone. Who's at fault for that? The easy answer would be O'Brien. One could blame Watson for not making the proper reads or throws. Ultimately, O'Brien is the head coach and called the plays.
There are some positives. It seems as if O'Brien has gotten better with the two-minute drill. Despite not being able to punch it in at the end of the first half, he called the right plays. He even put them in position to potentially tie the game at the end of regulation. That's where execution comes into play. The up-tempo style works best on offense. Sure it may put the defense at a disadvantage when it doesn't yield long drives, but the defense isn't good anyway so give the offense all the chances you can. I also like the commitment to the run. Even though it may not produce as many yards, you have to keep the threat alive. The threat of a run game feeds play action pass, sucks the defense closer to the line of scrimmage, and opens up passing lanes.
O'Brien definitely has some work to do. At 0-4, this team has almost no shot at making the playoffs. Given that there's an extra playoff team starting this year and there's still 75% of the season left to play, there's hope. Not much hope, but it's there. It's akin to a firefly flying solo in the woods. It's lighting a path, but a very dim light on a dark path. Here's to hoping that light gets brighter.