JUST MAKE PATS SWEAT
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — It should all end here. The Brock Osweiler year. The season without J.J. Watt. The 9-7 team that, really, should have already died.
But they wore those shirts again this week. “GRIT” pasted across the back, the best thing that can be said about Bill O’Brien’s Texans in full view for everyone to see.
And as you grudgingly turn on your TV on Saturday night while waiting for the inevitable, they spent the last few days saying this and actually sounding like they believed it:
Duane Brown: “There’s not many people that’s expecting us to go in there and compete and win this game, but we don’t really care about that that much. We know we’re here for a reason.”
Kareem Jackson: “If we start fast and we kind of jump on them, we can definitely go out and do what we want to do, and that’s win.”
Antonio Smith: “I love being the underdog. You know what I’m saying? You go right under the radar until the right time.”
DeAndre Hopkins: “Just listen to Vegas like y’all always do.”
That last one was layered with enough sarcasm to make O’Brien proud.
I haven’t found a single human being in the United States of America who is crazy enough to choose the back-to-back AFC South champs over my seasonlong pick for Super Bowl LI.
If you’re out there and screaming alone in space, let me know. It’s never too late to vote.
But can these Texans hang? Can they survive for four quarters and not have their hopeless believers checking on their briskets by halftime?
Can they somehow convince you to keep your TV on until the final minutes and fly out of Boston with their honor and respectability intact? That hasn’t happened here. Heck, the last time I was in New England some third-stringer put up 27 points on short notice, O’Brien’s shell-shocked squad didn’t even make a dent and the laugher was literally over as soon as it started.
Gillette is bad news
“Texans Once Again Not Ready for Prime Time” was the headline.
“We came into Gillette Stadium and got smoked,” said humiliated former Patriot Vince Wilfork.
“27-0, 27-0!” screamed a bullying Bill Belichick admirer, showering the losers with pure hate as they scurried through the tunnel and waited for a bad, bad night to finally end.
Three-plus months after Jacoby Brissett unleashed his best Tom Brady impersonation and four seasons after the best Texans team died hard on this same stage against a franchise it couldn’t touch, O’Brien gets another shot to prove his worth in Round Three vs. Belichick.
Winning would shake Houston to its core, instantly ignite a weeklong parade on Kirby Drive and force Bob McNair to finally hand the keys to a man who has long wanted control over the Texans’ final 53.
But let’s be totally honest: Just hanging around will be enough.
These Texans dropped four of their last seven during the regular season and barely won the three they did. (Thank you, Randy Bullock, Gus Bradley and Jim Irsay.) They’re winless in New England and have been thrashed by a combined 150-49; O’Brien has been outscored 54-6 in two blowouts by his mentor.
Brady’s a handful
Since the new millennium began, Brady has cruelly carved opposition to pieces with a scalpel and just needs one more championship ring for a full set.
At 39, he’s a walking protein machine who splurges on avocado ice cream.
The Texans? They’re praying Osweiler doesn’t get happy feet again, Romeo Crennel’s defense doesn’t break apart at the worst time and no one remembers McNair’s franchise is 106-134 all-time.
There are underdogs and then there are underdogs. And then there’s the unscalable mountain up north these Texans face.
“This is still a fairly young organization relative to a lot of organizations in this league,” O’Brien said. “Last week was only the third playoff win in this organization’s history. That’s a big deal. Now, it’s about taking another step and taking a step that’s going to be a very challenging step to take — we all understand that. There’s only eight teams left, and I think that’s a great opportunity for our players.”
Searching for respectability
So be respectable. Don’t get embarrassed again. Don’t fall face-first into this year’s version of 30-0 Chiefs.
“The stage is set for us,” Jackson said. “At the end of the day, the outside world don’t matter to us. All that matters is if we go out and we execute. That’s what it’s going to come down to.”
We’ve been through the $72 million gamble, the miracle against Indianapolis, lasers in Mexico City, Bullock’s blunder and Connor Cook, and these Texans are searching for respect.
Show up and stick around in New England in mid-January — maybe even make the Patriots sweat — and then that AFC South banner will matter. Then we can start to rethink things.
Season largely characterized by a fiasco at quarterback will crash to a halt, but sliver of respect can be salvaged
Quarterback Brock Osweiler leads the Texans into Gillette Stadium after beginning the season as the starter, losing the job to Tom Savage and then regaining it when Savage suffered a concussion.