FRED FAOUR

Once again, O'Brien turtles up in the biggest moments

Hey Bill, call a timeout perhaps? Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images

Let's start with the obvious: Deshaun Watson did not play well in the Texans 27-20 loss to the Patriots. His accuracy was off, his timing was off, and he completed just half of his passes in 34 attempts for only 176 yards, a touchdown, an interception and a bad fumble on the first play of the game. He stayed in the pocket too long, and rarely used his legs to make plays. Perhaps it was just rust, perhaps the knee injury is still impacting him, but he did not look good. 

He also got no help from his coach. Stop us if you have heard this before:

Bill O'Brien once again showed questionable decision making in terms of clock management, play calling and scheme. His game management skills have been below average since Day 1. The season opener showed nothing different. 

Most fans were focused on O'Brien failing to call timeout on what may or may not have been a Gronk catch before the half. O'Brien trotted out one of his "It's not my job" quotes. In this case it was “It’s not my job to call a timeout there to make (the officials’) job easier.”

Um, OK Bill. If you say so. But it IS your job to call plays. And you did a bang-up job of that. Commentator Tony Romo did everything but eviscerate O'Brien's playcalling through the game. There were too many instances to list them all. But a series in the third quarter was a microcosm of O'Brien's tenure and showed his lack of playcalling ability and game management skills on two key plays. 

With just over nine minutes left in the game, the Texans had a third and five at the New England 17, trailing 24-6. They took a shot at the end zone. Incomplete. They decided to go for it on fourth and five. Questionable, but defendable with the right play call. Instead, another shot at the end zone. Incomplete. In fairness, Ryan Griffin was open, and Watson missed him, as he did receivers throughout the game. Knowing that, however, why call that play? Run a high percentage play designed to get the first down. If you really know what you are doing, run a play on third down that could either convert or make the fourth-down play easier; don't go for the end zone.

It felt like O'Brien just decided in the moment to go for it on fourth, however, and did not think ahead on third down. No surprise there. This has been a staple of the O'Brien era. As has giving up points at the end of the half with questionable -- you guessed it -- play calling and game management.

Hey, sometimes you can be wrong and it works. He also decided to punt down two TDs with just over four minutes left. He got bailed out when the Patriots muffed the punt, leading to the Texans final TD. But it was still a bad decision.

And of course, as is often the case, the Texans' nonchalant approach to the clock late in the game wasted over a minute and gave them no shot at the end. They have no concept of a hurry up offense.

To be fair, they really should not have been in the game at that point, but you have to do everything you can to give yourself a shot once you are in that position. When the margin of error is at its smallest, so is O'Brien.

The reality is the Patriots were the better team throughout. And they will always have a better coach. But O'Brien's approach hurt his team's chances. You would hope in Year 5 we would have seen a change. But how many times have we seen him do these exact same things? 

The Texans have enough talent to be competitive in 2018. Watson needs to be better and less stiff. They need to generate more pass rush. Kevin Johnson needs to be left in the locker room for the rest of his life. But the bright side is they were competitive on the road against the best team in the AFC despite not playing very well. 

Or, as usual, coaching very well.

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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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