Texans playoff failure reminds fans of Bill O’Brien’s faults

Houston Texans

Bill O’Brien’s job with the Texans should be in jeopardy once again after Houston’s inability to handle the Colts on Saturday.

Everything was set up perfectly for the Texans heading into their Wild Card playoff matchup against the Colts. Houston had the home field advantage and its stars healthy to take on Indianapolis. Unfortunately, Bill O’Brien’s weaknesses as a head coach were exposed against Andrew Luck and company.

It’s easy to forget just how close O’Brien was to losing his job earlier this season. The Texans limped out of the gate to an 0-3 start after an ugly 27-22 loss to the Giants. Then the team launched a remarkable nine-game winning streak in the middle of the regular season beginning and ending with games against the Colts. That streak helped quell calls for O’Brien’s job and propelled Houston into the playoffs.

Perhaps fans shouldn’t have been so quick to forget about the team’s poor start. Going down 21-0 to the Colts brought those memories flooding back. O’Brien simply seemed powerless to stop anything his opponents had to offer.

On offense, O’Brien again seemed allergic to taking what the defense was willing to give up. Instead of patiently marching down the field against Indianapolis’ soft cover-2 setup, the Texans repeatedly tried to push the ball over the top.

Deshaun Watson has the arm strength to make those throws, but they are low percentage by their very nature. Predictably, Houston struggled to connect on enough deep passes to keep Luck and his offense off the field. O’Brien’s questionable decision-making was put on firm display when he elected to throw an intermediate pass into the end zone than taking the easy run for a first down on a crucial fourth down just before halftime.

On the other side of the ball, the Colts were able to completely impose their will against Houston’s star-studded defense. The team clearly came into the game with a determination to run the ball against the Texans front. That served to neutralize elite pass rushers like J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney.

Once the run was established, the Texans was forced to guess what Indianapolis might call. O’Brien certainly didn’t do that effectively. Luck was able to walk to the line and outmaneuver Houston’s defense on almost every down. When the Colts wanted to throw, they were able to get receivers open at all three levels. Anytime else they simply ran the ball right at the Texans defense with devastating efficiency.

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O’Brien will probably survive his playoff debacle, but the horrible outing has already cost him all the good will he built up during the regular season. Don’t be surprised if he struggles to make it through the 2019 regular reason in charge of the Texans.

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