In nearly six full seasons, the Houston Texans have a 50-43 record under head coach Bill O'Brien. For the first five seasons of O'Brien's tenure, the team was fairly predictable — generally speaking, they would beat the teams they were favored to beat, they would lose to teams with very good to elite quarterbacks, and occasionally they would lay a stinker in losing.
Now, in 2019, we have no idea what to think. The Texans have turned into a team that can beat virtually anybody in the league (see: wins over the Chiefs and Patriots), and can lose to almost anybody in the league (see: trailing Broncos 38-3 at home, early in the second half on Sunday). The one thing that has remained a constant is that the losses will occasionally look really, really bad (again, LIKE THIS PAST SUNDAY).
Why is that important? Well, because one thing that O'Brien's teams have done well since the time he arrived in Houston is bounce back from double digit losses with a great degree of focus and ferocity. In fact, the Texans are currently 10-1 in games following double digit regular season losses that are played while the Texans are still mathematically alive for a postseason berth. (Note: This data sort eliminates the slew of double digit losses in December 2017 after a Watson-less and Watt-less team was eliminated from the postseason.)
Additionally, the Texans are 8-2-1 against the spread in those games, which means that not only have they bounced back and won games coming off a double digit loss, but by and large, they have overachieved against the outcome expectations from oddsmakers in each of those games. This is all very important information because the Texans are coming off the most embarrassing performance of the O'Brien/Watson Era, a 38-24 thrashing at the hands of the now 5-8 Denver Broncos.
Here is the eleven game history of O'Brien's teams, while still playoff eligible, after losing by a double digit margin:
LOSS: 2014, WEEK 3 — GIANTS 30, Texans 17
LARGEST DEFICIT: Giants, 30-10 in Q4
NEXT GAME: TEXANS 23, Bills 17
LOSS: 2014, WEEK 9 — Eagles 31, TEXANS 21
LARGEST DEFICIT: Eagles, 31-21 in Q4
NEXT GAME: Texans 23, BROWNS 7
LOSS: 2015, WEEK 4 — FALCONS 48, Texans 21
LARGEST DEFICIT: Falcons, 42-0 in Q3
NEXT GAME: Colts 27, TEXANS 20
LOSS: 2015, WEEK 7 — DOLPHINS 44, Texans 26
LARGEST DEFICIT: Dolphins, 41-0 in Q2
NEXT GAME: TEXANS 20, Titans 6
LOSS: 2015, WEEK 14 — Patriots 27, TEXANS 6
LARGEST DEFICIT: Patriots, 27-6 in Q4
NEXT GAME: Texans 16, COLTS 10
LOSS: 2016, WEEK 3 — PATRIOTS 27, Texans 0
LARGEST DEFICIT: Patriots, 27-0 in Q4
NEXT GAME: TEXANS 27, Titans 20
LOSS: 2016, WEEK 5 — VIKINGS 31, Texans 13
LARGEST DEFICIT: 31-6 in Q4
NEXT GAME: TEXANS 26, Colts 23 (OT)
LOSS: 2016, WEEK 7 — BRONCOS 27, Texans 9
LARGEST DEFICIT: Broncos, 27-9 in Q4
NEXT GAME: TEXANS 20, Lions 13
LOSS: 2017, WEEK 1 — Jaguars 29, TEXANS 7
LARGEST DEFICIT: Jaguars 29-7 in Q4
NEXT GAME: Texans 13, BENGALS 9
LOSS: 2017, WEEK 10 — RAMS 33, Texans 7
LARGEST DEFICIT: Rams, 33-7 in Q4
NEXT GAME: TEXANS 31, Cardinals 21
LOSS: 2019, WEEK 11 — RAVENS 41, Texans 7
LARGEST DEFICIT: Ravens, 41-7 in Q4
NEXT GAME: TEXANS 20, Colts 17
Ok, here are a few observations from that eleven event sample:
1. These double digit losses in the regular season are a new phenomenon for Deshaun Watson, who had not experienced one as a starter until the Ravens game a few weeks ago. Now, he's had two in the last four weeks, which is probably as much about the defense crumbling before our very eyes, as it is any sort of glitches in Watson's game.
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2. Along those lines, it's worth noting that Watson is only involved in two of the above sequences — his first career start in Week 2 of 2017 came after the Texans' getting worked by the Jags (a week after Hurricane Harvey) in Week 1, while the other win was the victory over the Colts three weeks following the horrific trip to Baltimore.
3. The rest of the wins break down among former Texans quarterbacks as follows: Brock Osweiler, with three wins; Ryan Fitzpatrick, Ryan Mallett, Brian Hoyer, T.J. Yates, and Tom Savage, with one apiece.
Hopefully, this trend portends good things for the Texans this Sunday in Nashville, as the Titans have won six of seven, and are tied with the Texans atop the AFC South with a record of 8-5. While there have been games with larger margins of deficit during the game than the 38-3 margin the Broncos held over the Texans early in the second half — notably, twice within four weeks in 2015, 42-0 against the Falcons and 41-0 against the Dolphins — Sunday was easily the most disturbing loss of the O'Brien Era because it was at home, it was a week after a win over the Patriots, and the Texans' quarterback was Deshaun Watson.