O'Brien's clock issues rear their ugly head again

Wasted time on clock while Stills wastes none

Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

3 Headlines, 2 Questions, and 1 Bet on the Texans after their first victory of 2019.

Tighten it up on time

After the game Sunday Bill O'Brien didn't initially address the issues at the end of the half.

"Again, we had a couple of plays there that we wanted to call," he said. "We called all three or four of them, I think, and we felt like we were in good shape there to have a chance to score a touchdown there on the catch by Kenny (Stills) down at the 2-yard line. He was a little short of where we thought maybe he would be. We had another good play there, good little red area play, just didn't get the right coverage there and made a decision to kick the field goal."

Later after he was pressed further he declined the notion they should have used timeouts to preserve time on the drive but did indicate he believed they could tighten up getting into plays.

Monday he explained they they have to work on all their tempos and that they all go at different speeds.

Here are the plays and times after the two-minute warning.

01:55 - Jordan Akins is tackled after picking up a first down. Watson got under center at 01:26 left on the clock.

01:20 - Carlos Hyde is whistled down after a five yard gain.

00:51 - Watson takes a snap and is incomplete downfield to Keke Coutee

00:40 - DeAndre Hopkins is whistled down after a first down catch. The Texans snap the ball at the 00:22 mark and Watson scrambles for a short gain where they use their first timeout at 00:16.

As you can see here with two timeouts leftover when they headed to halftime the Texans burned quite a bit of clock. Two segments of almost 30 seconds and another 20 seconds later. Ultimately when they only get one play in the red zone, and it isn't the look they expected or wanted and it doesn't go for points, they cost themselves by not using timeouts.

This is again an issue with O'Brien and his ability to manage the clock. He lets time tick off here for little gain. Yes, they might like the personnel on the field and a timeout gives Jacksonville a chance to matchup with the Texans but it also gives the Texans more opportunity to score a touchdown rather than a field goal.

Cunningham shines

Zach Cunningham played his tail off against the Jaguars. He was the most impressive defender outside of Whitney Mercilus and there is a solid argument he was more effective. He totaled nine tackles and got home on a sack of Gardner Minshew.

O'Brien praised Cunningham's performance.

"He played a great football game," O'Brien said. "He was all over the place.

Debuts in the books at three key spots

First round pick Tytus Howard, wideout Keke Coutee, and Roderick Johnson made their season debuts.

Coutee had little impact from a stat sheet catching two of his four targets for just seven yards. O'Brien called him rusty and he is still working back from a preseason injury that caused him to miss time. Kenny Stills has been a useful player and allowed the Texans to play around with the alignment of Will Fuller and DeAndre Hopkins.

Howard and Johnson were new starters on the offensive line and played decent. Howard was called for a tripping penalty that O'Brien said he agreed with that wiped out a big play. The right side allowed two of the sacks with Johnson whiffing on a block of Myles Jack. The other sack allowed was when a defensive back split Johnson and Fulton for a clear shot at Deshaun Watson.

Overall there are higher expectations for Coutee going forward than what we saw Sunday. If he can knock the rust off in a hurry the Texans wideouts will be nasty.

Howard and Johnson need to continue to grow in their roles. Johnson wasn't an absolutely clear upgrade over Seantrell Henderson but Howard is better than any other option at left guard right now.

Where's the yellow?

One minute in on the above video you can hear J.J. Watt's frustration with the way he has been officiated this season. He will likely get fined, and he was ok with it he said, but there certainly could be more laundry on the field when looking at Watt's play.

Watt has had a slow start by every metric. He has two assists on tackles and a quarterback hit to go along with a fumble recovery. He hasn't had an easy go of things with his matchup the past two weeks. Ryan Ramczyk is one of the best right tackles in football and Jawaan Taylor was a highly-touted rookie. Watt saw more help thrown his way this week than last.

Penalties or not, Watt is off to the worst two-game start of his career. There are only two instances in his career where his two-game total production has come close to the level it has to start 2019. In 2015 he had a two-game stretch where he totaled four tackles, three QB hits, and a pass deflection. In 2017 he had a two-game run where he had just two tackles and a pass deflection but the second game was where he broke his leg and his season ended.

He has value outside of the stat sheet but soon the Texans will need something close to the typical level of Watt's production.

Stills more to offer?

The Texans newest wideout only had two catches on three targets yesterday officially but he is picking things up fast. He also had a big gain and nice play wiped away by Tytus Howard's tripping penalty.

When asked how Stills has adapted so fast O'Brien said Stills is one of the hardest workers he has seen. He said Stills gets there early and stays late to pick up what he has missed.

He's fit seamlessly and he has one of the biggest catches of the Texans run with Deshaun Watson at quarterback with his New Orleans snag from week one. I am excited to see if he can continue to be used more and get deeper into the offense.

I bet the next six weeks determine the season

The Los Angeles Chargers are next up for the Texans and after their disappointing performance on Sunday against the Lions they don't look near as daunting as they once did. They're hurt, missing starters at left tackle and sfaety, and just didn't do enough against a mediocre Lions team. That is one week after the Colts cost themselves victory over the Chargers.

After the Chargers the reeling Panthers come to town. Carolina might be 0-3 coming to NRG stadium as they have a road matchup in Arizona.

October will truly determine the Texans season.

vs Falcons

at Chiefs

at Colts

vs Raiders

The Falcons are fresh off a Sunday night success against Philadelphia. The Chiefs are one of the best teams in football. The Colts have played two playoff hopefuls tough and the Raiders aren't pushovers. This next six-game stretch could determine how much the final eight matters. 4-2 would be an incredible spot to be in for the Texans but even 3-3 over the next six should have them in striking distance of the AFC South. Can't get too far ahead though, the Chargers in Los Angeles loom this weekend.

Andy Lyons/Getty Images

There is not a lengthy list of quality alternatives, in fact there is not much of a list at all, but a Texans win at 7-2 Baltimore on Sunday would be the biggest road victory in franchise history. A win takes the Texans to 7-3 and secures the driver's seat in the race for the second AFC postseason bye. A loss means 6-4, and pretty much no shot at a bye. The quarterback matchup is spectacular. Ravens' second year sensation Lamar Jackson is probably running second in the NFL Most Valuable player race. Texans' third year blossomed star Deshaun Watson might be third (the Seahawks' Russel Wilson is on the lead).

His running is what has made Jackson a unique force this season. He's on pace to shatter Michael Vick's NFL record for quarterback rushing yards in a season by more than 200 yards. This game is one where the Texans figure to sorely miss J.J. Watt, and could really use Jadeveon Clowney. Oh well.

The Astros busy autumn, good and bad, continued this week. By unanimous vote Yordan Alvarez won the American League Rookie of the Year Award. Justin Verlander very deservedly won his second AL Cy Young Award, 17 votes to 13 over the equally (and maybe a wee bit more. Or less.) deserving Gerrit Cole. Alex Bregman settled for runner-up to third time winner Mike Trout in the AL Most Valuable Player Award balloting. Trout beat Bergman by the same 17-13 margin Verlander edged Cole. So by a two voter margin the Astros miss out on becoming the first MLB team ever to produce a Rookie of the Year, Cy Young winner, and MVP in the same year.

The General Managers meetings in Scottsdale Arizona this week produced next to nothing on the transaction front. The one something was something that if of a mind to spend the Astros should have been interested in pursuing, lefthanded reliever Will Smith to the Braves for three years $39 million dollars. The price of poker will be too high for the Astros on most guys this offseason. Next week there are owners meetings in Arlington, next month, the winter meetings in San Diego. By then major movement should have heated up on the free agent and trade fronts.

Fantasies can bring a little spice to life, but's let's put to sleep a couple of Astros related fantasies.

With Cole highly likely to become an ex-Astro, the need for a starting pitcher is glaring. Behind Verlander and Zack Greinke the Astros rotation is all question marks. Only a fool or the desperate would count on Lance McCullers for a healthy and very good season. Jose Urquidy is far from a given. Can't miss prospect Forrest Whitley? A huge question mark after two years filled with a PED suspension, injury issues, and plenty of lousy pitching. Whitley is still just 22 years old and could wind up fulfilling much of his potential. Banking on him would be dumb.

With all that said, forget any idea of a pursuit of Stephen Strasburg. The Astro World Series vanquisher won't get Cole money, but is likely to get 30 million per season for at least 4 years. There is no way that is in the Astros' budget. Mets free agent Zack Wheeler at 20 per? Doubtful.

Speaking of Astro World Series vanquishers, another fantasy is any notion of Lamar high school and Rice Owl-ex Anthony Rendon coming home via hometown discount. The Astros wouldn't be interested even with a discount. Rendon is joining the 30 mil per year club. So anyone thinking move on from brittle Carlos Correa, move Alex Bregman fulltime to short, plug in Rendon at third...that's really not fantasy, it's delusion. Correa is the Astros shortstop. Yes his track record of daintiness is troubling. His 2019 postseason overall was poor. But Correa remains relatively cheap, maybe eight or nine million next season. The Astros control him for two more seasons. Correa is still just 25, and really good. Cross your fingers about his health.


Then there was the latest Astros' ethical mess. Ex-Astro Mike Fiers has no motivation to concoct the story about the Astros' cheat of a sign-stealing system. The evidence has mounted that the Astros cheated. It's not as if the NCAA will vacate the 2017 World Series title, but in the aftermath of the Brandon Taubman fiasco it's another embarrassing black eye for the organization and another stain on this overall glorious era of Astros baseball. Does their moral compass truly grasp this? One particularly disappointing component would be if A.J. Hinch is confirmed as complicit with the scheme, especially after he was such a beacon of class during the Taubman mess. It's a humongous if. If yes, Hinch could also face a long suspension.

Buzzer Beaters

1. Machiavelli texted that the Astros have gone overboard. 2. Myles Garrett should have been arrested for his punk move Thursday at Mason Rudolph. 3. Greatest sports Rudolphs: Bronze-Kyle Silver-Tomjanovich Gold-Wilma


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