Momentum has been one of the major headliners for the Texans 2019-2020 season. The Texans carried theirs over from the 4th quarter and overtime of the wild card round and into a perfect 1st quarter of football in Arrowhead. Houston struck first, and fast. Deshaun Watson hit Kenny Stills on a 54 yard score, followed up by a few defensive stops, a blocked punt returned for a TD, and a muffed punt recovery that set the Texans up for another score. Then, just as quickly as it had come, the momentum had gone. The Chiefs had stolen it away early in the 2nd quarter.
Nothing can make a coach look worse than blowing a 24-0 first quarter lead. Bill O’Brien took a page out of the 2017 Atlanta Falcons playbook and let the Kansas City Chiefs come roaring back in the divisional round of the playoffs. Patrick Mahomes and company scored 28 unanswered points in the 2nd quarter to erase a huge deficit and give the Chiefs the lead just before halftime. Mahomes would eventually drive that number to 41 unanswered points.
Despite everything going in their favor, two crucial possessions led to the momentum shift that was ultimately the Texans demise. With a 21-0 lead in the waning moments of the 1st quarter, Bill O’Brien faced a 4th & 1 decision deep in Chiefs territory. Unfortunately, he was unable to make that choice in a timely manner. Thinking that they had secured the first down, O’Brien called a timeout to see if perhaps he could get a spot challenge. Neither thinking he could win the challenge nor being able to draw up the correct play, O’Brien opted for the field goal.
“I was thinking about challenging the spot, because I felt like I had a first down, so, and by the time I got to, it was a 4th down, so I decided to kick the field goal”Bill O’Brien
Instead of calling a short yardage play, O’Brien took the 3 points and gave the Chiefs their first breath of life. Holding Houston to a field goal instead of another touchdown was a huge win for the Kansas City defense, and just the nudge of momentum they needed to get their offense rolling.
One possession later, O’Brien unbelievably faked a punt from his own 31 yard line, practically handing a score over to Kansas City. Everything began to snowball in the right direction for the Chiefs offense after this point. They Chiefs scored quickly, and they would continue to do so.
“We had momentum there, tried to make a play and it just didn’t work”Bill O’Brien
After scoring on a blocked a punt and recovering another muffed return, the Houston special teams finally fell prey to the shift in the atmosphere. DeAndre Carter fumbled the ensuing kickoff after KC’s first touchdown, setting up the Chiefs with another quick score.
O’Brien had plenty comments about why he was so brash in the early points in the game, especially the fake punt, saying, “[We] had to manufacture some points, had to manufacture some yards, it just didn’t work out”. Strange way of thinking when you have a lead.
O’Brien continued to speak on the topic during the post game press conference, stating, “When you’re going against a team that is that explosive on offense you gotta try and keep scoring and we weren’t able to do that”. Indeed the Chiefs boast a powerful offense, but up to this point they hadn’t threatened much and Texans had a commanding lead. O’Brien left the door open and the Chiefs brought a battering ram just in case.
“24-0 is a really good lead, but I don’t think any kind of lead is safe against these guys…we needed 50 points and we weren’t able to do that”Bill O’Brien
Despite the questionable turning points in the game, the defense didn’t do O’Brien any favors. 41 unanswered points can’t all be attributed to kicking a field goal and not converting a fake punt. Defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel couldn’t stop the bleeding once the Chiefs ripped off the band-aid. O’Brien had this to say when asked about the way his defense performed, “obviously we gave up a lot of points, so not very good”.
O’Brien undoubtedly believes Crennel will be back next season, but admitted he needed to meet with everyone on his staff individually before declaring anything for certain about next season.
Tough loss aside, there is much optimism among the coaches and players alike. Deshaun Watson himself made it clear to the media that he was not disappointed in his team or himself after the divisional playoff loss.
“As long as I’m in this organization, I’m in this city, we’re definitely going to be in games like this.”Deshaun Watson
The Texans do indeed have a lot to hold their heads up about. They ran through the 4th toughest strength of schedule in the NFL to win their division and a playoff game. They did so without a true general manager or offensive line, and they lost their starting running back in Lamar Miller all before the start the season. The team weathered the storm without J.J. Watt or a stable core in the secondary for the other half. Finishing 11-7 and with another AFC South crown surely isn’t the most satisfying of consolations for the Houston faithful, but the future is bright.
Bill O’Brien is already looking forward to next season, “I feel like we are moving in the right direction, we did a lot of good things this year, not enough obviously…feel good about where we are headed”. He’s not the only one looking ahead to sunnier days, Deshaun Watson’s competitive nature and short memory are just the type of thing the organization will need in order to take the next step.
“For us to be one of the final eight teams is huge,” Watson said. “This organization is still on the rise and still new. The best is yet to come.”Deshaun Watson
O’Brien is now heading into his 7th year as the head coach for Houston. In his time there he is 52-44 with a 2-4 playoff record. He’s only coached one losing season in Houston, 2017 when Watson tore his ACL before the first 3rd of the season had been completed. O’Brien has led the Texans to 4 division titles in the last 5 years, but AFC South titles are not the biggest goal of the Texans. O’Brien stated a few weeks ago, “Any time you can win double-digit games two years in a row in this league, I think it is a good thing, but there are obviously other things that we are building toward and that we are a long way off from it. We have got to keep trying to get better.”
For now the season is over, and a bitter taste has been left in the mouths of players and coaches. The loss stings and everyone can feel it, but for B.O.B he continues to press on the best way he knows how, answering tough questions about 2020 with, “Not much to say, go back and regroup and have a good off-season…show up next year and battle again, every year is different”.
Miles Peacock contributes NFL and fantasy content to the Rumboyz Fantasy Network and Timeskewed.com. He also hosts a weekly show called the Fantasy Football Flex on ‘Em podcast that runs during the fantasy football season. Follow Miles @FF_Peacock on Twitter.
Momentum Swing Ends Houston’s Run; Brighter Days AheadTweet