Bill O’Brien led the Houston Texans to the divisional round of the playoffs this season, and the head coach is being rewarded with a promotion of sorts heading into 2020.
The Texans announced on Tuesday that O’Brien will serve as the team’s general manager going forward in addition to head coach.
A statement from Houston Texans Chairman and CEO Cal McNair on title changes for Bill O’Brien (Head Coach and General Manager) and Jack Easterby (Executive Vice President of Football Operations):
— Houston Texans (@HoustonTexans) January 28, 2020
The Texans tried to hire Patriots executive Nick Caserio away from New England for their GM job last year, and there have been indications that Bill Belichick is holding a grudge against O’Brien over it. Caserio’s contract is set to expire soon, so many thought it was only a matter of time before he ended up in Houston. That seems unlikely to happen now.
O’Brien made some questionable decisions in Houston’s meltdown against the Kansas City Chiefs, but he obviously did enough in 2019 to make the team feel confident in his ability to assemble a roster. Time will tell if it was the right move.
The Texans jumped out to a huge lead over the Chiefs in the first half on Sunday, but Kansas City was able to take back some momentum in the second quarter after a couple of controversial decisions from Houston head coach Bill O’Brien.
The first came when the Texans had 4th-and-1 at the Kansas City 13-yard line. Houston was leading 21-0 at the time, and they appeared like they were going to go for it to really put the pressure on the Chiefs. Instead, O’Brien opted to kick a field goal to take a 24-0 lead after calling a timeout.
O’Brien obviously wanted to put the points on the board rather than risk getting stuffed and breathing life into the Chiefs, but the decision was highly criticized. Kansas City quickly got on the board with a four-play touchdown drive on their ensuing possession that took just 1:27. That was the first sign of trouble for the Texans.
Things got worse from there. On Houston’s next possession, O’Brien called for a very risky fake punt on 4th-and-4 from his own 31-yard line. The Texans were unable to convert, which gave the Chiefs outstanding field position.
— The Checkdown (@thecheckdown) January 12, 2020
The Chiefs then scored on that possession, but they weren’t done there. Houston fumbled the ensuing kickoff, and Kansas City scored again to cut the lead to 24-21.
Whether you agree with the calls from O’Brien or not, there’s no doubt the results lit a fire under the Chiefs. They went on to score three touchdowns in a matter of minutes after it appeared they were on their way to being blown out at home, especially after some of the horrific mistakes they made early in the game. If the Texans lose, O’Brien’s decisions will be heavily scrutinized.
The Houston Texans got off to a fast start against the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday, and a great play call combined with the return of Will Fuller allowed that to happen.
Deshaun Watson threw a 54-yard touchdown pass to a wide open Kenny Stills on the opening drive, and the Texans utilized Fuller masterfully on the play. Facing 3rd-and-1, Watson faked a bubble screen to Fuller, and the entire Kansas City defense bit on it. That allowed Stills to streak down the field without a single defender near him.
Will Fuller getting ALL that respect pic.twitter.com/ieQzxbvAfF
— Warren Sharp (@SharpFootball) January 12, 2020
Fuller missed the Wild Card round with a groin injury, and he has battled injuries all throughout his career. When he does play, he stretches the field and Houston’s offense is noticeably better. Fuller also caught a key pass on third down a few plays earlier to keep the drive going.
The play gave the Texans an early 7-0 lead over the Chiefs. They then forced a 3-and-out on defense and blocked a punt, returning it for a touchdown to go up 14-0.
The Houston Texans made a couple of incredible plays on their final drive to beat the Buffalo Bills in a Wild Card Game on Saturday, and they did get help from the referees.
Houston had a 3rd-and-18 from their 19 with around seven minutes left in overtime. The play clock actually went down to zero for a second before the Texans snapped the ball, meaning they should have been called for delay of game.
Refs missed a delay of game on that play. pic.twitter.com/5E4ED2hDXG
— Jimmy Traina (@JimmyTraina) January 5, 2020
No call was made, and Deshaun Watson threw a dumpoff pass to Duke Johnson, who was somehow able to convert the first down.
A few plays later, Watson made the play of the game and helped set up a game-winning field goal.
The Texans won the game 22-19. Had delay of game correctly been called, it would have been 3rd-and-23 for Houston.
The pass interference challenge is starting off the playoffs a lot like it ended the regular season.
The Houston Texans became the first team to challenge a pass interference call in the playoffs, arguing that wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins was interfered with on a key third down play in the first quarter. You be the judge:
Was this probably pass interference? Yes.
Was it going to be overturned if challenged? Probably not. pic.twitter.com/tlMZzEXIv8
— Jeff Eisenband (@JeffEisenband) January 4, 2020
Anyone who watched football in the regular season likely knows what came next. The no-call was upheld, and the Texans lost a timeout. Hopkins had openly gestured for his coach to throw the challenge flag, but considering how this rule has worked out for him this year, he probably should have known better.
In other words, this looks like it’s going to be the same as it was in the regular season, as if there was any doubt. Coaches should probably shy away from throwing the flag on anything pass interference-related unless they have nothing to lose or the call looks incredibly obvious.
We’re in the final quarter of the NFL season, and Sunday’s games did not disappoint. The highlight was an unexpected shootout in New Orleans, but there was a lot to watch across the league, and a lot of standout performances.
There were also some underwhelming performances. Here is a list of those who fell short in Week 14 — some unexpectedly, some at a very bad time.
Referees in the Patriots-Chiefs game
The performance of the referees in Sunday’s game in Foxboro was nothing short of baffling. The clearest issue was an officiating crew costing the Patriots two touchdowns with missed calls. One came on a blown whistle to stop what would have been a defensive score, which has been a repeat problem this season. It’s disappointing seeing this continue to happen this late into the season, and the errors are consequential, too, though some would say it’s karma for the Pats.
Russell Wilson, QB, Seahawks
Wilson has been putting together an MVP-caliber season for the Seahawks this year, but he fell short of that standard on Sunday night. For the first time this season, Wilson failed to throw a touchdown in a game. He was 22/36 for 245 yards and an interception in the 28-12 loss to the Rams. Wilson was sacked five times in the game. Seattle failed to keep pace with the 49ers in the NFC West and is now a wild card team.
We’re deep enough into the NFL season that we can start prognosticating about potential Super Bowl winners and be realistic about it. We have a pretty good idea of which teams are going to be in the playoffs, and which of them can seriously consider themselves contenders to win the Super Bowl. It’s the right time of year to start hitting one’s stride, and a few teams are doing just that.
Here are the top ten Super Bowl contenders as it stands late in the regular season.
10. Houston Texans
The Texans are a somewhat confusing team. They’ve beaten Kansas City on the road with Patrick Mahomes at quarterback, and they came extremely close to beating the Saints in New Orleans. However, questions linger about their defense, and their oft-maligned offensive line always seems to pop up as an issue at some point during the season. That said, any team with Deshaun Watson in its ranks has a chance every time he steps on the field, so they’re worth taking seriously.
9. Buffalo Bills
The Bills have an outstanding defense and arguably the game’s best secondary. For an 8-3 team, however, the hype around them is limited. There’s a simple reason for that: they have yet to really beat anyone good enough to prove their excellence. The 6-5 Tennessee Titans are the only team with a winning record that Buffalo has beaten, and none of the other opponents they’ve defeated have more than three wins on the season. Their next four games come against Dallas, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, and New England, which should go a long way toward proving whether they’re serious or not.
8. Minnesota Vikings
Questions will understandably linger over whether or not Kirk Cousins is a Super Bowl-caliber quarterback. He’s definitely aware of his reputation of being unable to win big games, and that’s a reputation that he will have to shed if Minnesota is going to make a deep playoff run. Still, the Vikings have a sturdy defense and weapons on offense. On paper, they have everything you’d look for from a serious contender, but their inconsistency remains a worry. Still, they’re 6-1 in their last seven, which cannot be discounted.
7. Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs have, at least up until now, been unable to replicate last season’s excitement. Between injury and underperformance, Patrick Mahomes hasn’t quite been as exciting, and the offense not quite as dynamic. As they continue to get healthier, the second half of the season has the potential to be kind to the Chiefs, but the major question remains the defense. Whether that unit is good enough to fuel a playoff push could determine just how much the Chiefs are able to accomplish, but Mahomes certainly gives them a chance.
6. Green Bay Packers
With a few exceptions, Matt LaFleur’s new offense seems to produce excellent results for Green Bay, and they’ve put up some truly impressive performances. The defense is an issue, and it’s not clear how well they’ll stand up to the best offenses in the NFC. Also concerning is their performance against San Francisco in a game in which they were blown out. The 49ers are the exact kind of team the Packers are probably going to have to find their way through in the playoffs. Still, Aaron Rodgers is great, the offense is dynamic, and they’re a threat to anyone they play.