On Thursday night, the Texans sustained their first shutout since their second NFL season. After the game, coach Bill O’Brien wasn’t happy — but he wasn’t ready to panic.
“Can’t turn the ball over twice on special teams,” O’Brien told reporters. “You can’t turn the ball over on offense. Didn’t do anything on offense. You know, look, it was not a good night. Starting with the coaching, the playing, nothing was good. But look, it’s early in the season, we turn a page here and regroup. But we just can’t do those things if we are going to try to beat a good team.”
O’Brien declined to blame the loss on a lack of effort. Instead, he pointed to the execution of the plays.
“I thought the effort was good,” O’Brien said. “I don’t ever really question the effort of this football team or this coaching staff, but I question the execution of the plays. And it starts with me, but it’s early in the season, you know, it’s only the third game of the year. You guys can write us off for dead, but we’ll regroup here and there are a lot of games left.”
“Execution” usually is a reference to the performance of the players. O’Brien saying “it starts with me” seems to be an effort to assume the blame for not having the players ready to properly execute the plays.
“Losing is horrible,” O’Brien added. “I mean it is absolutely horrible. There is nothing really in my mind that comes out good, but what I will say is there is a resilient team in that locker room. These guys work hard and like I said in the beginning there is a lot of season left. We haven’t even played a division game. We got our first division game coming up October 2nd. So, we will get a little time off here over the weekend and regroup, get back to work on Monday.”
Asked about the team’s lingering inability to show up on a big stage, O’Brien repeated his overriding position that it’s still early.
“This is the third game of the year,” O’Brien said. “Every game is big but this is the third game of the year. So, look, like I said, you guys have a job to do, I have a job to do. My job is to get this team better. Your job is to write whatever your opinion is of what you see in this team. I’m not trying to tell you what your job is, I’m just telling you what my job is. My job is to go back to work tomorrow, as soon as we get off the plane, figure out what we did wrong, and get it better. And that’s what I’m going to try to do.”
That’s all he can do. The problem is that, regardless of what happens during the rest of the regular season, the loss makes it more likely that Houston will have to return to New England in the postseason, if/when their paths cross on the playoff tree. So while it’s indeed early and a lot can and will happen over the next 13 regular-season games, the “W” for the Patriots and the “L” for the Texans could have a huge impact on whether the Texans accomplish their ultimate goal.
Getting the No. 1 seed makes getting to the Super Bowl a lot easier. September 22 or not, the Patriots scored a major victory in the chase to be the team that gets to stay at home of the postseason and, ultimately, that gets to go to Houston in February.