Everything was going right for the Houston Texans early on in their AFC Divisional Playoff game against the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday.
Houston opened up a 24-0 lead early in the game, taking advantage of key Chiefs mistakes in the process. Unfortunately, key coaching mistakes from Bill O’Brien came back to haunt the team in a big way.
It culminated in Houston blowing a 24-point lead in a meltdown if epic proportions. In the end, O’Brien and Co. dropped the game by the score of 51-31.
Bottom line: This should in fact do it for O’Brien’s largely questionable tenure with the Texans. Key in-game coaching mistakes coupled with an inability to adjust represented yet another example of O’Brien being outclassed in the playoffs.
The specifics: Two key mistakes from O’Brien in the second quarter changed the entire dynamic of this game and kept open the possibility that Kansas City could come back.
- Up 21-0 and facing a fourth and inches from the Chiefs’ 13 early in the second quarter, O’Brien looked like he was going to go for it. After the play clock ran down, forcing a timeout, O’Brien decided on a chip-shot 31-yard field goal.
- Houston was having its way against the Chiefs. A touchdown here would have put the team up four scores. Instead, O’Brien went conservative and kept Kansas City in the game.
- Then, on Houston’s next possession following the Chiefs’ first touchdown of the game, O’Brien and Co. ultimately decided that a fake punt from their own 31-yard line made sense. It failed miserably.
- The Chiefs would score within the matter of just over a minute to pull the game within 24-14. These two in-game mistakes defined Houston’s loss on Sunday, and doomed O’Brien to ridicule.
It’s been a common theme: These in-game mistakes are not limited to Sunday’s game. It was just last week that O’Brien almost cost his team the wild-card game against Buffalo.
- Remember when O’Brien decided to go for it on fourth down inside Buffalo’s territory last week? His Texans were up three late in the fourth quarter. A field goal would have forced Buffalo into scoring a touchdown.
- Instead, Josh Allen led his Bills into field goal range to force overtime. If it weren’t for this dazzling play from Deshaun Watson in overtime, the Texans might have been one-and-done in the playoffs again.
- Simply put, you can’t get outcoached in this manner multiple weeks in a row in January and expect to keep your job.
The Deshaun Watson factor: If the Texans want their young quarterback to take that next step, they need to get some new blood in there.
- Has Watson played well under O’Brien? Sure. Has he improved at the level we’ve seen with Patrick Mahomes in Kansas City? No. That’s the biggest takeaway here.
- There’s a number of tremendous young offensive-minded coaching candidates who could help Watson take that next step. New blood might be needed to get the most out of their franchise quarterback.
- We’re looking at a young signal caller who could very well be locked up on a record-breaking long-term deal during the spring. Why begin the next part in this marriage by going with much of the same at head coach?
In the end
O’Brien finishes up his sixth season as head coach with just two playoff wins. Sure the Texans have finished above .500 in five of those seasons, but the lack of playoff success is alarming.
More than anything, it’s been about O’Brien’s inability to match wits with some of the NFL’s best head coaches in the postseason. That came out in droves against Andy Reid and the Chiefs during an historical meltdown.
Houston became the first team to trail at halftime of a game after going up 24-0 early on. It gave up three second-quarter touchdown catches to Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce.
All the while, O’Brien’s in-game mistakes and lack of adjustments doomed the team. It’s now time for Houston’s brass to finally bite the bullet and move on from the long-embattled head coach.