Okay, I'm not heading into this recap with any flowery prose or clever analogies. I'm operating on four hours of sleep after a night of taking three hours of angry phone calls from Houston Texans fans following three more hours of the worst football I've watched paid professionals play — a 27-0 wilting by the Texans in New England.
I'll lay out everything you need to know this morning in rapid-fire "Winners and Losers" format. In other words, unlike Bill O'Brien and George Godsey, I will not overthink this or try to get too cute...no "pistol formation" writing here...
4. Jacoby Brissett
If someone had told you before the game that Brissett's night through the air would finish up 11 of 19 for 103 yards and no touchdown passes, you'd have probably guessed that the Texans won the game (or that the rookie got injured). Um, nope...the Texans just decided to set Brissett up with room service field position twice on fumbled kickoffs, and decided to run their offense like a junior high team. Brissett had two plays, in particular, that the Patriots installed just for him (I'm guessing) that he executed perfectly in the first half — a 13-yard run on a speed option that led to the Patriots' first field goal, and the 27-yard bootleg run for the touchdown following the Charles James fumble on the kickoff. Brissett wasn't great, but he did more than enough to beat these depressing Texans. (NOTE: I guess the one bit of good news for Texans fans is that my browser's autocorrection of "Brissett" to "Brisket," ostensibly a possible prediction that the rookie would be "fresh meat" for the Texans' defense, was merely a coincidence or a random declaration of hunger by my laptop, and not an indicator that computers are becoming self-aware or capable of real analysis. We, as humans, live to fight another day.)
3. Jamie Collins
With the Patriots missing, inarguably, five of their dozen or so most important players — Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski (who played but was largely a sparsely used decoy), Jimmy Garoppolo, Rob Ninkovich and Donta Hightower — it was time for their remaining stars to step up. So naturally, Jamie Collins turned in an All-Pro-caliber game, finishing with 14 tackles and snagging a soul-crushing interception of Brock Osweiler on a defensive call that was "vintage Belichick," where they rushed three defenders and dropped everybody else in coverage, and Collins just read Osweiler's eyes like the Texans' signal caller was in fourth grade. I'm getting angrier and angrier typing this stuff...are we almost done yet? I need to find some good Texans things in this box score...let's see...
2. Texans' silver linings
Okay... here goes...these were the good things that happened last night for the Texans:
a.) DeAndre Hopkins, the only Texan who showed himself worthy of a prime time stage, made a couple of more plays that led me to tweet "Pay him, Rick."
b.) Ryan Griffin had a lot of five yard catches.
c.) Jonathan Grimes appears to have passed Alfred Blue on the depth chart.
d.) The game ended.
There ya go...back to the ass-kicking...
1. Bill Belichick
I picked the Texans to win this game 20-10, and now I'm legitimately fearful that Belichick is going to send stormtroopers over to my house to execute me in the middle of my living room. Or feed me to his hounds. Or poison my Chick-fil-A. In short, I'm fairly certain I need to leave the country. Tell the world my story. Thank you.
4. J.J. Watt
Let's get the simple part of this bullet point out of the way — Watt had just two tackles on the night, and now, in five games against the Patriots, Watt has totaled 13 tackles, 5 assists and 0.5 sacks. This doesn't diminish Watt's greatness as a player, but it does create a narrative that will be the front dog on the Iditarod sled that is the Texans's collective, repetitive folding against these Patriots. Also, as the Texans continue to pile up 9-7 seasons, early playoff exits and prime-time TV debacles, more and more people will notice this:
J.J. Watt vs. Jacksonville and Tennessee: 1.5 sacks/game
J.J. Watt vs. the rest of the NFL: 0.74 sacks/game
Lots of lamb killing going on...just sayin'...
3. Charles James
Charles James's path to the NFL is a very inspirational story that any kid out there who's been told that he's too small or not good enough should read. He's feisty, he's relentless and he will tell his haters what they can do with the hate, almost to the point of appearing thin-skinned. It's all kind of cool and sort of cute...until James fumbles a kickoff on his only touch of the season at literally the worst possible time of the season to fumble a kickoff. My plea to Bill O'Brien — please leave James in spots where all he has to do is cover and tackle, not handle the football.
2. Brock Osweiler
For a week, at least, Osweiler gave fuel to all of the sycophant Elway lickers who think that the Broncos general manager (and high lord of the city of Denver) can do no wrong, and for that, I cannot forgive Osweiler. Not until the next game, at least. This was nothing like the Osweiler we saw in the first two games of the season, likely because the Patriots "Cover 2'd" the hell out of the Texans' receivers and because Osweiler wasn't playing in the cozy confines of NRG Stadium. The Texans are 2-1, and that's fine, but the red zone issues against the Chiefs and this Thursday night turd tell us that Osweiler has a ton of work to do, still.
1. Bill O'Brien
Where to begin here...let's start with a preface...I think Bill O'Brien is a good football coach. In fact, here are the things that I think he does well:
a.) He hires a pretty good staff, which is an underrated thing. Hiring is crucial in any business, and I like most of O'Brien's assistants, especially on defense, where player development has been very, very good.
b.) You can't ignore how well he's done in triage situations with garbage QBs late in the past two seasons. That's admirable, and very indicative of some high degree of "war room," long-form preparation acumen.
c.) Guys seem to want to play for him, both when deciding to come play here and on game day. This team always plays hard.
d.) O'Brien's entertainment factor is a solid 7.0 on the Fisher-Ryan Scale (Jeff Fisher being as zero as zero gets, and Rex Ryan being a solid ten). Admittedly, this may only matter to me.
Okay, now...with all of that said, HOW IN THE BLUE HELL DOES A GRADUATE OF BROWN UNIVERSITY MANAGE THE GAME CLOCK AND IN-GAME TACTICAL STUFF IN AN NFL GAME LIKE HE'S TRYING TO ASSEMBLE A HUBBLE SPACE TELESCOPE BLINDFOLDED?!?!
It's truly infuriating watching Bill O'Brien handle the crucial moments of an NFL game sometimes, especially knowing he is an incredibly astute football person and a genuinely intelligent human being. The stuff he gets wrong (and by proxy, whoever helps him with this stuff up in the booth, assuming he has somebody, gets wrong) is maddening. For example, last night...
a.) In the first quarter last night, in a 3rd and 1 play at their own 21 yard line, the Texans converted on a short Lamar Miller run that appeared to be short of the sticks. At a time when the Texans should have been hurrying to the line so Belichick couldn't challenge the official's spot of the ball, the Texans dawdled so badly getting a play in that they actually burned a timeout to avoid a delay of game, which is a) stupid on 1st and 10 in the first quarter (timeouts are worth more than five yards on first down) and b) REALLY stupid when it gives Belichick a chance to reconsider challenging, which thankfully he didn't do, but it may have been because he felt sorry for his former pupil.
b.) Later in that drive, on 3rd and 8 at the Texans 41, O'Brien called a running play for Lamar Miller — ON THIRD AND EIGHT...like it was third and TWENTY EIGHT. At that point in the game, O'Brien was playing conservative, which was just enough blood for Belichick to smell and probably to cause him to cackle inside over on the opposite sideline. This play call triggered THIS six-minute, first-quarter gateway to all the points the Pats needed in this game:
* 7:41: Off-tackle run by Miller on 3rd and 8 for six yards
* 6:59: Shane Lechler punts ball through Pats' end zone, Texans net just 33 yards
* 10-play, 74-yard drive for a Patriot field goal, Pats go up 3-0
* 2:01: Charles James fumbles kickoff
* 1:54: Brissett 27-yard run for a touchdown, Pats go up 10-0
In six minutes, it was "game over." Thanks for coming, Bill.
c.) With eight minutes to go in the half, the Texans punted the ball back to the Patriots's Cyrus Jones, who was called for a fumble at the 18 yard line, the ball bounced forward 7 yards, and the Pats fell on the ball, retaining possession. Replay showed the ground causing the fumble, which means the ball actually SHOULD have been spotted back at the 18 yard line, not the 25 yard line. O'Brien (who actually had to be summoned by his punter, Shane Lechler, to do this), clearly showing again his lack of understanding for the timeout-to-yardage currency risk, decided to use a challenge to regain those seven yards of field position. Sometimes, seven yards are important — this time was not one of them. O'Brien won the challenge, but it still showed a befuddling lack of understanding of the worth of timeouts and challenges. Put differently, just because someone doubles down on a 14 at black jack and WINS doesn't mean it was a smart decision.
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d.) With 1:00 to go in the half and one timeout remaining, with the Patriots having just gained a first down on their own 34 yard line, O'Brien decided to burn his final timeout...which served ZERO positive purpose for the Texans considering they had no way to stop the clock anymore to get the ball back, and the Patriots had 1st and 10. Literally, O'Brien did something that benefited ONLY the Patriots. It did NOTHING to benefit the Texans. I hate to say it, but these are the things that get people fired in the real world, just a blatant misunderstanding of simple situations in a highly crucial occupation.
Mercifully, again, Belichick decided to take a knee and end the half, perhaps realizing how badly he was embarrassing his former pupil. Like I said, game over.
Thanks for coming, Bill.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 2 to 6 p.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.