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Welcome To Non-Complementary Football

Maybe Bill O’Brien knew a thing or two about football after all.

Houston Texans v Buffalo Bills Photo by Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images

Former head coach Bill O’Brien preached two things above everything else. First, he wanted tough, smart, and dependable players. Second, he wanted to play complementary football. This system. or concept of it, stems from O’Brien’s time in New England. Tedy Bruschi’s quote several years ago illustrated the importance of all three units impacting field position to shorten or lengthen the field in a positive way.

There are two fatal flaws to the system—turnovers and three-and-outs on offense. Both circumstances place the other positional units at a disadvantage and give the opponent generally advantageous field position.

Due to QB Davis Mills’ four interceptions and Jordan Akins’ one fumble lost Sunday, the Bills’ offense started their drives on the Buffalo 31, Houston 43, Houston 27, Buffalo 47, and Houston 41. Buffalo turned Houston’s mistakes into 24 points on Texans turnovers and easily could have scored again if the game wasn’t already out of reach. The Bills have one of the most lethal offenses in the league and helping them out like the Texans did was a designated disaster.

Turnovers also take an important element out of complimentary football... the punting game.

The Texans had five three-and-outs in the first half and five turnovers in the second half. The Bills possessed the ball for 17 more minutes than the Texans did. That’s an entire quarter more of the game. By not being able to stay on the field in the first half, the Texans’ defense was stuck on the field. Once the second half hit and the turnovers started piling up, Houston’s defense literally crumbled under the weight the offense had put on it.

Take a look at how the last 17 minutes of the game unfolded. The Texans’ offense dismantled itself. The game was 16-0 at half and 19-0 heading into the fourth quarter. The Texans were in the game, until they weren’t.

One of the most underrated considerations in the sport is where the first possession takes place. Most functional offenses can put together 25 yards, or a little over two first downs, per possession. That’s the difference between starting on your own 45 or the opponent’s 30. Essentially, when the offense can provide the defense with 25 more yards of room, they limit the proximity and probability of the opposing offense scoring. It’s also why teams use two entire roster spots on the long snapper and punter, who have no other jobs than to ensure field position for the rest of the team.

Between the first half three-and-outs and the second half turnovers, the Texans took their first step out of the Bill O’Brien era. It wasn’t simply that the Texans played poorly, it’s that their poor play compounded on itself to the point where an avalanche of scoring occurred in the fourth quarter.

Make no mistake. We’re in a new era of Texans football. The question is if or how this team get out of its own way and begin winning games.