Bill O'Brien, for the second time this year, had a road victory against a top Super Bowl contender in his grasp, but instead had his sphincter tighten up. Fortune favors the bold, and O’Brien has been anything but in two key moments.
First, it was at New England, where Houston had a 4th and 1 at the New England 18 with 2:26 left, already up by 2. O’Brien opted for the safe call, the field goal, to go up by 5. But against Tom Brady, on the road, that’s not the safe call. You try to go win the game, by getting a first down, draining time down, and leaving little opportunity for Brady heroics. Rumor has it that O’Brien used to coach Brady, but apparently he was unaware of this.
O’Brien didn’t learn from that error, and today, in another shootout, he coached as if he didn’t actually have a game-changing quarterback, some major questions on the back end of the secondary, and no J.J. Watt.
Make no mistake, Houston should have won today at Seattle. The players, after protesting their own owner, left it all on the field. The head coach, on the other hand, puckered up again. Houston ran twice on the first two downs, to set up 3rd and 4. Seattle had one timeout left, just inside the two minute warning.
Rather than give Watson any chance to make a play, O’Brien again called a run straight up the middle with Lamar Miller, against a defense overplaying the run. You go down winning this game on third down with Watson. And he’s the perfect quarterback for this situation, because you can go with a play that gives him a pass/run option, where he gets some quick reads and then tries to make a play with his feet if it doesn’t come open.
O’Brien punted again. You don’t win Super Bowls by meekly giving the ball back to the likes of Tom Brady and Russell Wilson at moments of decision. Houston has more problems than just the players and their views of the owner.