Two words come to mind when I think of Thursday night’s 27-0 evisceration of the Texans at the hands of the Patriots. They speak to two different Bills. The words are Brilliant and Pathetic.
Brilliant describes one Bill. It describes a coach who always has the perfect game plan for each week. It sums up a coach who can, in only a few short days, prepare a rookie third-string quarterback to outperform his counterpart, a would be franchise savior. It is a fitting description of a coach who has four Super Bowl rings and always has his team ultra-prepared to play at the highest level. This is a coach whose ultimate goal is to devour the soul of all who stand in his way. This is Bill Belichick.
Pathetic describes the other Bill. He is the coach in charge of the team who sees bright lights and folds like a cheap lawn chair. It’s his team whose offense was so conservative they made Rush Limbaugh look liberal. His team’s defense was so ineffectual they would’ve had a hard time pulling a fat kid off a tricycle. It’s also his team who failed to score a single point, and who didn’t even get past the 50-yard line until late in the third quarter. This coach’s team looked scared. They looked intimidated. They looked like they didn’t belong. This coach made several mind numbing play calls and decisions on a national stage. It is of course, Bill O’Brien.
Each Bill and his respective team was exposed last night for what they truly are. Belichick and the Patriots are perennial Super Bowl contenders, while O’Brien and the Texans are perennial pretenders. It was a classic case of the king sitting atop his throne and flicking away peasant folks as if they were boogers. As soon as the ball was kicked off, the outcome of this game was never in question. It was glaringly obvious that Houston wasn’t prepared and that they didn’t stand a chance.
Houston’s offense was abysmal. They actually had more time of possession, first downs, passing yards, and total yards. Normally that would be a good thing right? Not in this case. In this case, the Patriots were basically giving them short underneath passes. They were just baiting the Texans into making mistakes. And the Texans made plenty of them. New England just sat back and watched as Lamar Miller continuously ran into the back of his offensive linemen, and Texans receivers ran 5 yard outs. It was truly an amateurish display.
Brock Osweiler threw another interception. That is his fourth in three games. He finished with just 196 yards on 24/41 throws. He made a few decent throws, but looked like a deer in the headlights for most of the game. He is now tied with Case Keenum for the lowest passer rating in the NFL. Lamar Miller finished with over 100 total yards, but averaged just 3.8 yards per carry. O’Brien seems bound and determined to run him directly into the ground. Can’t wait for the Grimes/Blue era to begin!!
The offensive line was overwhelmed and ineffective most of the night. Osweiler was pressured repeatedly and sacked twice. Even if Houston had wanted to take some deep shots, he never really had enough time to let those routes develop. Miller had virtually no holes to run through, and was stacked up, at or behind the line, on numerous occasions.
DeAndre Hopkins had just 4 catches for 56 yards. The Patriots effectively erased him from the game. Will Fuller had 3 catches for 31 yards, but again had a terrible drop. New England made it a point to limit these two, and of course, nobody else stepped up. Ryan Griffin had a few awe-inspiring 5 yard catches. Hooray! The overall offensive game plan was terrible. O’Brien and his staff showed zero creativity. Zero aggressiveness. Zero heart.
Bill O’Brien stubbornly insists on running the ball over and over again, even when it isn’t working. We saw it last year, and we’re seeing it again this year. On one occasion in the first quarter, the Texans had a 3rd and 8 near midfield. This would seem to be an obvious passing situation. Instead, the ball was handed to Miller who predictably was stopped short. Even late in the game the Texans were still running the ball. The white flag had clearly been thrown up. And it made me want to throw up.
It was the kind of conservative, vanilla play calling you might expect in a preseason game. Unfortunately, we had to see it in a nationally televised game and it was laughable. It was ugly. Very hard to watch. There were shades of last years Atlanta and Miami failures. They looked like a East Tennessee State going up against Alabama. It was almost as if they didn’t take the Patriots seriously. Houston should have never gotten off the bus.
This leads me to the special teams. This unit has been horrendous for as long as I can remember. Larry Izzo was brought in to right the ship and turn the special teams into a positive. Well, that hasn’t quite happened yet. Charles James fumbled a kickoff return in the first quarter, which immediately led to a Patriots touchdown. Rookie Tyler Ervin also fumbled a kickoff in the second half, also leading to NE score. Absolutely embarrassing. It’s a sad state of affairs when you actually miss the days of Jacoby Freakin’ Jones!
Speaking of Ervin, he was able to get the Texans exactly 0.00 punt return yards. He was a fair catch machine. He enjoyed fair catching so much, he actually did it at the 4-yard line late in the game. Ervin was supposed to provide some spark in the return game. If last night was any indication of what to expect in the future, then the future looks extremely bleak. Each punt return had me wanting to gouge my eyes out with a spoon.
And now for the defense. They came in ranked third overall and leading the league in sacks with 9. They actually played pretty well in the first half. Unfortunately, they were on the field a lot thanks to turnovers. But they only gave up 10 points. However, the lone touchdown in the first half was scored by Jacoby Brissett, a rookie third-string quarterback. It was a 27-yard run in which Brissett wasn’t even touched until he was inside the 10-yard line. The defense looked absolutely inept on the play.
Now I’m no football expert, but I do believe that tackling is pretty important. The Texans defense doesn’t seem to feel that way. At least they didn’t last night. The tackling was horrendous. Time after time we saw Texans defenders whiff and fail to wrap up. These are basic fundamentals of football. How can you not tackle Julian Edelman?? He weighs like 130 pounds!! Pop Warner was literally rolling over in his grave. It was terrible, absolutely terrible.
The Texans defense seemingly gave up in the second half. They racked up several stupid penalties, including two pass interference calls in the end zone, enabling the Patriots to score and go up 20-0. They didn’t put any pressure on the quarterback, and they allowed LeGarrette Blount to rush for over 100 yards, including a 41 yard td to finish off the scoring.
J.J. Watt, Whitney Mercilus, and Jadeveon Clowney were invisible for most of the game. They combined for 7 total tackles and 0 sacks. Johnathan Joseph was terrible throughout the game. He missed several tackles and was called once for pass interference. The only defensive players who showed up were Vince Wilfork and inside linebacker Bernardrick McKinney. McKinney finished with 16 total tackles and a sack. But he too, is not without blame, for it was his missed tackle that allowed Blount to escape for his 41 yard score.
It was a miserable performance in all phases of the game. Offense, defense, special teams, and coaching. Now O’Brien will take the blame and remind everyone that it’s only the third week. That’s all well and good, but when is this team going to beat an elite team in a big game? Short answer, not in this decade. This is a very disturbing pattern of getting demolished in prime time games. This team is so far from being able to compete with the likes of the Patriots, Steelers, Panthers, Broncos, etc., etc. If this were baseball, the whole bunch would be sent down.
And perhaps the most pathetic part of all of this is that most Texans fans aren’t even surprised at the outcome of the game. We’ve become desensitized to it. Comfortably numb. We’ve seen it so many times that it’s an expectation at this point. Sure, we may stumble and bumble our way to another AFC South title. But what happens after that? I’ll tell you what happens. We get obliterated in the first round of the playoffs and do it all over again next year.
Ugly, abysmal, horrible, terrible, ridiculous, humiliating, horrific, disastrous…..I could go on.
A tale of two Bills, one brilliant, one pathetic.
Header image based on “Bill O’Brien” by Victor Araiza (CC BY-NC 2.0)