If Texans Want to Take the Next Step, O’Brien Has to Be Better on Gameday

Would it be a Houston Texans season if there was not a suspect game management situation that involved Bill O’Brien? Against the New England Patriots, the Texans gave up a reception to Rob Gronkowski, a questionable call by the referees.

Take a look at Gronk’s controversial catch.


The time on the clock when the ball was snapped on the play during which the reception of 28-yards occurred was 1:05. There were :42 seconds on the clock after Tom Brady rushed the Patriots offense to the line of scrimmage to fire off the next play.

The problem with the situation is that O’Brien could not challenge that play due to less than two minutes remaining at the end of the first half. After Brady handed the ball off to Rex Burkhead the next play, many fans and even media were scratching their head on why O’Brien didn’t at least call a timeout to buy some time to allow officials in the booth and/or New York an opportunity to review and call down to the field for a replay review.

During his post game press conference, O’Brien was passionate about why he didn’t call the timeout, “That is not my job to call a timeout to make their (the referees) job easier…”


The play was of such interest, especially due to the fact that the Patriots marched down on a 8-play, 78-yard drive, capped off by a 4-yard touchdown pass to Phillip Dorsett. On the drive, the defense gave up 4 plays of 10+ yards (3 passes, 1 run) and Brady only had one incomplete pass, going 4-of-5 for 48 yards and a touchdown.

The Patriots were moving the ball with ease that drive and, according to Tyrann Mathieu during his post-game interview, the Texans were in the wrong personnel during the drive. “To be honest, I think it was a combination of us being in probably the wrong personnel and them, obviously, them realizing that. So we got to do a better job of getting lined up and playing gap assignment ball. I think that is what it really came down to, in that specific drive.”

With the Texans defense on their heels and more importantly, O’Brien not taking care of a situation he could have possibly controlled, O’Brien was convinced that he did not need to make the referees job any easier or give the Patriots anymore advantage.


Referee Tony Corrente postgame interview

Corrente: Who would be responsible for initiating that review?

A: It is New York. And the situation was that New York did get back to us. However, unfortunately, they didn’t get to the game officials on the field until after the play had already started.

Corrente: OK, so just processing what you said, they got to back you…

A: They got to us on the field, but the play had already developed. It had started.

Corrente: OK. Then you can’t challenge after the snap?

A: You can’t challenge after the snap, no.

Corrente: If Bill O’Brien throws a challenge flag in that instance, would he be penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct . . .

A: Because the play had already developed?

Corrente: No, because there’s no throwing the flag under two minutes?

A: Yes, he would have been penalized in that situation.

Texans defensive back Aaron Colvin was not pleased with the situation and the call the refs made in favor of the Patriots.

“That’s BS in my opinion,” Colvin said of the reception. “I don’t think he caught that ball. I think that was the big play in the game, but it is what it is. We got to get that ball and make it unquestionable.”

No matter how this turned out, O’Brien should have called the timeout based on two simple reasons and this is even without knowing what Corrente said after the game.

  1. O’Brien should have called a timeout based on how easily the Patriots were moving the ball downfield. Add in that Mathieu mentioned that he didn’t think that the Texans were in the right personnel and there has to be help from O’Brien – call a time out because of that any way. Maybe the Texans get matched up and hold them to a field goal attempt instead of going into halftime down 21-6. O’Brien had 3 timeouts at the time of the play and they are there to use them when necessary.
  2. O’Brien has to know that the “alleged” catch is close to being an incomplete pass. The timeout would potentially give the replay booth extra time to see the play unfold. Maybe they don’t review it but at least O’Brien would have attempted to give the NFL time to re-think the play. At least he would have controlled a situation that was clearly not right.

Playing against the Patriots, players are no doubt going to make mistakes on the field, that is just how the game works. When facing Bill Belichick, the opposing head coach better not make mistakes because the Patriots will take advantage of it.

O’Brien made a major misstep in this situation by not calling the timeout and it looks even worse after the pool report came out saying that the NFL did in fact call back from New York to review the play but couldn’t due to the next play already being run.

It is a small piece of the totality of mistakes in the Texans loss to the Patriots and when a game is separated by one scoring possession, everything counts, including how the head coach handles situations when there are split second decisions involved. O’Brien had a hiccup in week one and it was not the best look, especially with the way he defended his inaction.

Koch and Kalu

Koch and Kalu

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