BRIAN T. SMITH ON TEXANS GETTING BACK ON TRACK.
A victory at Tennessee can put Texans back on track after being derailed in New England
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The last thing Bill O’Brien wants to do is lose to Bill Belichick and Mike Vrabel in back-to-back games.
Deshaun Watson, Jadeveon Clowney and Whitney Mercilus should be better in Week 2.
And if the Texans are going to do what they need to do this season, it will start with a road victory against the beat-up Tennessee Titans.
“Work day. Go to work day,” said a veteran Texan, who walked through the team’s locker room with his helmet on, on the way toward another early season practice.
Win or lose Sunday at Nissan Stadium, it will be too early to say anything definitive about O’Brien’s new team. If the Texans fall to 0-2, the 2015 season must immediately be recalled. O’Brien’s squad was winless through its opening two contests that year and started a very backward 2-5 during the team’s “Hard Knocks” season. They ended up 9-7, won the AFC South — while relying on Brian Hoyer, Ryan Mallett, T.J. Yates and Brandon Weeden at quarterback — and hosted a playoff game.
We expect more during O’Brien’s fifth season, though, which is why Week 1 at New England was so disappointing.
The same old mistakes. The same tired letdown.
“We started real slow. And even when things were going well, we couldn’t really complement each other,” veteran safety Tyrann Mathieu said. “That’s things that we have to get better on going forward. … We’ve got some young guys, so it’s really up to the leadership to keep harping on those things. It’s really about just being consistent. Even last week, I felt like if we played consistent, we would’ve won that game.
“We’ve just got to keep in mind that we’re a good football team. But just because we’re good doesn’t mean we’re going to win every game. Some games we’re going to get in, we’re going to have a lot of adversity. It may be some games we get there and it’s like none of us know how to play football. So we’ve got to fight our way through things. As long as the leadership is sound, I think a lot of the young guys will fall in line.”
The ‘better team’ lost
The reasoned, long-term thinking Mathieu sounded more urgent answering other questions. His earnest tone was backed up by a team that was taking the second game of a 16-game season more serious than normal — a team that clearly doesn’t want to start another season in an early hole.
The Texans have too often been a roller coaster under O’Brien. With stability finally at QB, urgency was the key word during the build up to Week 2.
Tennessee is an opportunity. Don’t screw it up.
“I think we’re focused, I think we’re ready. I think a lot of guys want to get that taste out of their mouth,” Mathieu said. “And even going back and watching the tape, (Rob) Gronkowski was wide open. It’s like, ‘Why is Gronkowski wide open?’ You know what I mean?
“It’s just little things like that. A lot of things were self-inflicted. I think a lot of guys saw that tape last week and realized that we probably were the better team last week, we just didn’t do it long enough. I think this week we’ll definitely try to be the most physical team, but definitely play way more consistent.”
Marcus Mariota will take the field as a walking question mark; well-traveled veteran backup Blaine Gabbert is expected to see No. 1 time. Tennessee’s offensive line is already battered and the Titans’ season-opening loss at Miami was an uninspiring debut for the learning-on-the-job Vrabel, who surprised the NFL when he took over for the underappreciated Mike Mularkey.
Speedy Will Fuller is set to return for the Texans, while Watson has had a post-loss week to knock off the rest of his offseason rust.
“Whenever something bad happened or something didn’t go our way (at New England), just being able to pull everyone up, instead of everyone just kind of coming back to the bench and sitting down and not saying a word,” said Watson, reflecting on a 27-20 defeat that was characterized by the young QB’s low energy. “Just being able to keep encouraging people and being able to put a smile on my face, have fun with the game. That was one thing that we didn’t do.
“We didn’t really have too much fun. We were too focused on the things that didn’t go our way instead of trying to find some positives. So that’ll get corrected and be able to move forward from there.”
Something to build on
The playoff-bound Texans win this game.
A team no longer blaming injuries and bad luck capitalizes on Tennessee’s early misfortune.
“We all need to do better,” said O’Brien, summing up the early-season state of his team in six words.
The Texans should be better in Week 2.
They need to leave Nashville with a victory to build on.
Coach Bill O’Brien summarizes the Texans’ 0-1 start by stating the obvious: “We all need to do better.”