The Houston Texans managed to go into the bye week the right way, with a win against a solid opponent in the Detroit Lions. With all the negativity surrounding the team, the overwhelming number of injuries and being the first team in the league’s 96 year history to field a starting quarterback who was able to throw a fumble, any positive events are gifts from above.
When Bill O’Brien stepped to the podium today, the sense of him not actually having a bye week was evident. While the players have had time to heal and rest, the very idea of O’Brien taking a break is as plausible as flying unicorns or the Titans winning the Super Bowl.
For those who missed it, here’s the transcript from today’s conference:
What do you have to do better in the next five home games than you did in the first three?
“Road, home - I think there’s some common things that we have to do better. I think offensively we have to obviously improve overall in the passing game. We have to do better versus certain schemes coverage wise. We have to continue to run the football. I think we’ve run it pretty decently for the most part. I know it hasn’t always been great, but overall we’ve run the ball pretty well. Defensively, we have to stop the run the way we did against Detroit. We have to just be more consistent in stopping the run and I think on special teams we need to be more consistent in our return game, especially our punt return game where I think we can really change field position. I think in our coverage units we have to tackle better. Overall as a team, we have to make sure that we try to flip the turnover–takeaway ratio. Right now we’re, I think, 29th in the league. We’re minus seven and it’s not very good. In the past couple years that we’ve been here, we’ve been able to turn that around. We need to try to turn that around because that stat right there points right towards the won-loss record. Those are things that we need to get better at.”
Can you give us an update on WR Will Fuller V and NT Vince Wilfork coming off of the bye week?
“No question that they’re day-to-day. I’m not sure that they would be available for Jacksonville. It looks like they might. I wouldn’t know that until the end of the week.”
What has been the secret to your team winning 11 of 15 games after the bye week in the last two years and is that good for the team’s momentum and confidence?
“I think one thing that has been a common theme is basically when you go into the bye with a win, I think that helps. We beat a good Detroit team. I mean yesterday they went and they beat Minnesota. They’re a good football team, so I think our team feels good about that. They also know that there’s a lot of improvement that we can make and I think also when the bye comes right at the halfway point it’s really a good time from a health standpoint, from a recharge the battery standpoint. I think that’s been the theme over the last two years, but obviously that’s the last two years. We have to make sure that we do that again, that we play well coming out of our bye again. When you look at Jacksonville, they’ve had some very, very close games. They’ve lost some close games like yesterday. Very close. They’ve won a couple of close games. We know that this is going to be a very, very difficult challenge for us in Jacksonville. Got a lot of good athletes, fast team, and good players on both sides of the ball. We have to have a good week of practice and be well prepared for this game.”
You mentioned improving when it comes to takeaways. Is that as simple as having a better pass rush and trying more actively to force the quarterback to make mistakes or is it working to push the ball out?
“I think some of it is kind of the luck of the draw if that’s the right phrase to use. Sometimes turnovers come and takeaways come in bunches. You just get hot like we did two years ago. I think we were almost the best in the league. I think we were up in the top three. Last year we turned it around the second half of the season. I do think you can practice it. I think that you can talk about whether it’s, like you just said, strip sacks or fumbles or obviously interceptions, batted balls, things like that. At the end of the day, it’s got to happen on Sundays and sometimes there’s a little bit of luck involved.”
You made a lot of changes with your skill position players in the offseason and the offense has struggled. Do some of the issues that the offense has come from all of the changes or are you disappointed in their performance?
“None of us are happy with where the offense is at. None of us make excuses about it. I think it starts with coaching. We’ve got to do a better job of coaching. I do think there’s some key elements that are specific. When we looked at our offensive self-scout, one of the things that we need to improve upon is like in the red area. We were tied for first in the league (before the bye week) with 18 field goals. That’s a good stat for Nick (Novak), but that’s not a great stat for your offense. You got to score touchdowns down there and what’s happened to us, we’ve been in too many 3rd-and-longs. We’ve had tackles for loss, sacks, penalties. We’ve been in these 3rd-and-12 from the 12, 3rd-and-10 from the 10 and that’s not where you want to be in this league. That’s another area, in addition to a couple things we need to do better on third down against certain schemes, where we have to improve. I think if we can improve in these areas that are important, I think you’ll see a better offense. The thing that has been clear to me is this. When you put guys together that haven’t played together a whole lot in the past, that takes a while to gel and right now it’s taking a little bit too long. We need to make sure that that’s what this week is about. Today, we had a couple of 7-on-7s and worked on a bunch of things out there. As quickly as we can get these guys to continue to gel because when it’s looked good it’s been pretty good, but obviously that hasn’t been enough.”
Can you talk a little bit about TE C.J. Fiedorowicz in regards to how he has evolved and how he has been able to stretch the field down the middle?
“You have to give him a bunch of credit. I gave (Tight Ends Coach) John Perry a lot of credit the other day too. I think he’s done a good job with all those guys. C.J., when he came here, was drafted to be basically a wide tight end, which is his primary role was to be a blocker. He is one of the better blocking tight ends in our league. I think most coaches would tell you that. What he’s done is he’s done a really good job in the offseason and the OTAs and training camp of really working on route running, which is totally different than college. Sometimes it takes a while. The leverages, the skill sets of the players that you’re running routes against. It’s just a different deal. The coverage looks. He’s really improved and he’s doing a good job. He’s got really good hands. Big hands. Big physical guy. Instinctive player. That has to continue because that has helped us this year.”
The statistical evidence suggests that T Duane Brown is back to his old self. Can you reflect on that?
“Having Duane back has been very important. I think injuries, you deal with injuries. We’ve dealt with a lot of injuries. No doubt about it when you look at it. But he’s a guy that missed the first part of the season, but then when he came back you could see improvement in the running game and you could see improvement in the pass protection. Especially like if I narrow it down, the way he blocked the run against Detroit at the end of the game, like, that’s Duane Brown. That’s what makes him very valuable to us and it’s good to have him back. He’s helped us.”
T Duane Brown’s physical performance is one thing, but can you talk about what else makes him a valuable member of the team off-the-field?
“He’s always brought that. Even when he was injured, he’d be in there. He never missed a meeting unless he had a doctor’s appointment or something to get his leg checked out. He was in every meeting. I think (Offensive Line Coach Mike) Devlin is probably the best guy to ask about that because I’m the head coach, I’m not in all those position meetings. It’s funny when you stand up in front of the team and have a squad meeting every day, a lot of these guys are used to where they sit and things like that. Duane’s been locked in from day one. Even when he knew he wasn’t going to play. I think his leadership has been there the whole time. No doubt about it, he’s been one of our leaders since I got here.”
What do you feel best about over the second half of the season?
“I’ve said this all along and I’m trying to not give you a cliché or anything. I really like this team. I think they work very hard. They practice hard. I mean, we demand a lot of these guys. We’re here early in the morning. We practice. We meet. We meet again. We walk through. We try to get things right. All these guys are on board with that. I think that’s what I look forward to most is just the day-to-day operation of this team and watching this team get better. I told the team this morning, when you look at this league right now, I’d say there’s very few teams that are sitting in a bed of roses. I think every team has some type of, whether it’s injury or whatever it might be, there’s a bunch of teams that are within a game of each other. So it’s going to be the team that performs the best in the most critical situations. The most disciplined team. The team that can really gel the quickest over the second half of the season. Those are the teams that are going to be in the tournament at the end of the year.
Do you guys have a different mindset when you play on the road?
“You guys talk a lot about that, and the road hasn’t been good obviously. We’re 0-3 on the road, but if you look back at the Denver game, we were driving the ball there down 14-9. Hadn’t been a great night offensively, but still had a shot to take the lead, turn the ball over, things like that. It’s not like the road against Minnesota, New England. Those are bad games. We moved on from those, but I think it’s more about us regardless of road or home just doing the things that I was saying in the beginning. How we need to improve specifically in all three phases. If we do that, I think we’ll play better whether it’s out there at home or on the road.”
Have your own questions you wish O’Brien had fielded? Want to add your two cents to the answers he gave? Need a place to just go off on a tangent about random, completely unrelated internet commenting? Feel free to chime in below!