O’Brien tries for 1st win over Belichick as Tex­ans host Pats

The Saratogian (Saratoga, NY) - - SPORTS - By Kristie Rieken AP Sports Writer

HOUS­TON (AP) >> New Eng­land coach Bill Belichick has had plenty of success against his for­mer as­sis­tants turned head coaches.

That in­cludes Tex­ans coach Bill O’Brien, who is 0-4 in his ca­reer against his old boss en­ter­ing Sun­day night’s game against the Pa­tri­ots (10-1). O’Brien was asked about his lack of success against Belichick since tak­ing over in Hous­ton in 2014.

“Ob­vi­ously we’ve strug­gled against the Pa­tri­ots in past years, but this is a dif­fer­ent year,” he said. “Ev­ery year’s dif­fer­ent. Our team’s dif­fer­ent, their team’s a lit­tle bit dif­fer­ent, and we just have to go out there on Sun­day night and we’ve got to play a clean game. We’ve got to play hard, we’ve got to be com­pet­i­tive for 60 min­utes and see what hap­pens.”

The Tex­ans (7-4) have al­ways had a tough time against New Eng­land and are 1-8 in the se­ries with their only win com­ing on Jan. 3, 2010.

O’Brien worked in New Eng­land from 2007-11 be­fore leav­ing to take over at Penn State. He said it’s dif­fi­cult to put into words what work­ing with Belichick meant to his ca­reer.

“I learned a lot,” he said. “I learned a lot about game plan­ning and per­son­nel and strat­egy. That was a very im­por­tant time for me in my coach­ing ca­reer. It was prob­a­bly a place where I learned the most.”

Hous­ton’s first two meet­ings against New Eng­land with

O’Brien in charge were blowouts with the Pa­tri­ots outscor­ing the Tex­ans 546. Their past two games, which have both come with De­shaun Watson at quar­ter­back, have been much more com­pet­i­tive with both of those games be­ing de­cided by a touch­down or less.

Belichick raved about Watson and the chal­lenges he presents and said that even if there are only a few sec­onds left “any game’s a long way from be­ing over if he has his hands on the ball.” Watson thrives in prime-time games and has 18 touch­downs and just three in­ter­cep­tions in seven night games in his ca­reer.

“De­shaun’s a very tal­ented player, cer­tainly one of the top play­ers in the league at his po­si­tion that we’ve faced,” Belichick said. “Does a great job on the deep ball, has very good touch and ac­cu­racy, is a good de­ci­sion maker, ob­vi­ously very ath­letic kid that can do a lot.”

He’ll face per­haps his biggest chal­lenge this season against a New Eng­land de­fense which is al­low­ing the se­cond-fewest yards in the NFL and whose 20 in­ter­cep­tions lead the league.

Belichick be­lieves his de­fense will be tested by the Tex­ans be­cause of the many play­mak­ers they have sur­round­ing Watson, in­clud­ing DeAn­dre Hop­kins, Will Fuller, Kenny Stills and Car­los Hyde.

He re­called Watson’s work in Hous­ton’s season opener against New Or­leans, where the Tex­ans took the lead late be­fore los­ing on a last-se­cond field goal.

“The two-minute sit­u­a­tion against New Or­leans, they’re down by six points with less than a minute to go and they go 75 (yards) in 14 sec­onds,” he said. “That’s the kind of ex­plo­sive of­fense that, as a coach, scares you to death.”


The Pa­tri­ots are the lone AFC team that can clinch a play­off berth this week.

The eas­i­est path is with a vic­tory com­bined with a loss or tie by Pitts­burgh or Oak­land.

New Eng­land can also lock up a berth with a tie and com­bi­na­tion of losses by Oak­land and Pitts­burgh, Oak­land and In­di­anapo­lis or Pitts­burgh and In­di­anapo­lis. Pitts­burgh, Oak­land and In­di­anapo­lis all play ear­lier in the day on Sun­day, so the Pa­tri­ots will know ex­actly which sce­nario is in play by game time.


New Eng­land Pa­tri­ots head coach Bill Belichick takes questions from re­porters be­fore an NFL foot­ball prac­tice, Wed­nes­day, Nov. 20, 2019, in Foxbor­ough, Mass.

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