Did Houston Texans head coach Bill O’Brien have the biggest win of his coaching career last Sunday vs. the Kansas City Chiefs?
After a near worst case scenario start, the Houston Texans pulled together and upset the Kansas City Chiefs on the road in one of the toughest environments to play in the NFL last Sunday. At least for the moment, the win certainly puts any chatter of a hot seat for the head coach on ice.
I have no problem taking my helping of crow when I’ve earned it, and while I’m not sitting down with a fork and knife quite yet, it’s at least being marinated. Texans head coach Bill O’Brien earned the biggest feather in his cap after the team was able to upset the Chiefs. This wasn’t just a nice road win, this was going to Arrowhead Stadium and beating a legitimate Super Bowl contender despite many obstacles in the game.
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Watching the Texans over the years there have been several situations in which they were playing a good team with a chance to make a statement where they fell flat on their face. They’ve also had opportunities late in games this season, like Week 1 against the New Orleans Saints, where they were seconds away from a big win and just didn’t close the deal.
To start against Kansas City, it looked every bit like one of those times where they would fall flat on their face. On the opening drive of the game the Chiefs were flagged for holding on a third down and O’Brien accepted the penalty. This was a great decision because it pushed the Chiefs out of field goal range given the Texans were able to hold on a third-and-25 situation. Unfortunately, Tyreek Hill made a huge play and scored on a 46 yard touchdown pass. It just felt like the Chiefs were going to show to be more the talented team at that point.
On the Texans first play from scrimmage, Carlos Hyde had the ball poked out by Frank Clark. The Chiefs had the ball inside the red zone with an opportunity to go up two touchdowns before five minutes had even passed on the game clock. The Texans held to just a field goal, would face a 17-3 deficit going into the second quarter.
Even with the deficit, the Texans didn’t seem to have a defeated demeanor about them. After going down by two scores, they only saw one third down as the offense marched down the field to close the gap to eight points. Tashaun Gipson intercepted Patrick Mahomes in the end zone on the Chiefs’ following drive, and the Texans answered with another score to close the lead to one point.
The first half ended with the Texans leading on the road after closing out a 20-point second quarter from the offense and two forced turnovers by the defense. Momentum was certainly going in favor of the road team, but it was still yet to be seen if the Texans would be able to finish the job in the second half.
In the third quarter Bradley Roby left the game along with rookie standout offensive lineman Tytus Howard. This seemed to be setting up for a potential let down, especially with Johnathan Joseph already out. Roby had done a good job on Hill, who went on to score his second touchdown on the drive.
The third quarter went about as poorly as it could go. Howard was injured on the second play of the half, and Ka’imi Fairbairn missed a field goal to finish the drive. The team’s top two cornerbacks were now out against one of the better offenses in the league. Plus, Deshaun Watson threw an interception in the red zone with a chance to retake the lead. It seemed like all the ingredients for an “I don’t know” press conference.
The Texans owned the fourth quarter and eventually the game. The Chiefs only ran six plays in the quarter, and two of them were punts. On the drive that put the Texans ahead, the offense overcame three penalties to score and didn’t face a single third down.
The game was set up to end with a moral victory type scenario where O’Brien was answering questions on what could have been.
Yes, Mahomes was hobbled coming into the game and the Chiefs had their share of injuries to deal with, but the Texans ended the game with a depleted secondary, a big loss on the offensive line, and still finished the job on the road.
This time things just felt different, and the Texans looked like they belonged. It wasn’t a team that was happy to be in the game, because they knew it was their game to win. O’Brien put the faith in his young quarterback to drive in the dagger on a fourth down late, and it worked.
It was the right decision according to analytics, but attempting to go up by two scores wouldn’t have been a bad decision either. Putting the game in Watson’s hands to win the game made a bigger statement for the moment and potentially the season. O’Brien doesn’t just think his quarterback is good, but he trusts him to get the job done.
Even though O’Brien has won a playoff game as head coach of the Texans, this win just hits different. Even with losing the turnover battle, the Texans out-gained a great offense and owned the time of possession battle. The game plan was great, and had Will Fuller and Watson been able to connect on a few deep passes, the score probably isn’t close. O’Brien gave the Texans opportunities for big plays and made Mahomes a spectator in the fourth quarter.
The Texans next matchup is against divisional foe Indianapolis Colts. Things seemed low for O’Brien after a disappointing loss to the Carolina Panthers, but his stock would certainly have to be ascending at this point, reaching an all-time high. A win against the Colts will be big to keep momentum going, and put the Texans in first place all by themselves in the AFC South.
If these are the Texans that O’Brien will be presenting on a weekly basis, then his extension will be justified. Just like two weeks ago was probably too soon to bury the season, six games into the season may be too soon go all in.
With Watson’s determination to get better every week, and the game plan O’Brien has in place working to keep him upright, the future is looking bright for both O’Brien and the Texans.