Texans Takeaways: Defense Emerges In Win Against Patriots

Also, Duke Johnson sees more touches

Brandon Scott
December 02, 2019 - 1:16 pm

HOUSTON (SportsRadio 610) -- Beating the Patriots on Sunday Night Football is arguably one of the Texans' most impressive accomplishments in the Bill O'Brien era. 

The Texans had been 0-5 against the Patriots under O'Brien, who made his name coaching in New England from 2007-2011. 

Except for the very beginning and the ending, Houston dominated this game and maintained its one-game lead in the AFC South. 

The players figured beating the Patriots meant so much to O'Brien that he should get the game ball. O'Brien was happy to get the ball from Deshaun Watson, a touching moment captured on video and shared across social media.

But O'Brien said he preferred the players get game balls, since they're the ones actually making the plays, in contrast to how he shoulders the blame when things go poorly.

In just under 20 minutes speaking with the media, O'Brien discussed how well the Texans defense played Sunday night; how the secondary has come together; getting Duke Johnson more touches; what makes Deshaun Watson so infallible and more.

This is a condensed version of the question-answer session.

Patchwork secondary doing well

Only Johnathan Joseph and Justin Reid return from last year's secondary. The Texans replaced Kareem Jackson with Bradley Roby; Tyrann Mathieu with Tashaun Gipson Sr.; rookie cornerback Lonnie Johnson Jr. and veteran newcomer Jahleel Addae are playing key roles. 

Those are just the players added before the season started.

There's since been the trade for Gareon Conley from the Raiders and signing Vernon Hargreaves III off waivers after he was let go by the Buccaneers.  

It's been shaky at times because of health, but all of these newcomers have contributed in their short time.  

"We’re definitely a little bit different than we were last year," O'Brien said. "Obviously, the whole team’s different, right? Every year’s different. Those guys have come in. We dealt with some injuries there. That’s the reason why we basically managed the roster the way we did. Those guys have come in, they’ve done well. They’ve tried to do the things we’re asking them to do." 

Season-high in touches for Duke Johnson

When asked whether Johnson's involvement in the offense has more to do with individual matchup, or the coaching staff developing his role, O'Brien said it's both.

Johnson had a season-high 14 touches on Sunday night -- nine carries and five catches, one for a touchdown. It was the most touches he'd seen since the season-opener against the Saints. 

Johnson has four receiving touchdowns and oen rushing touchdown this season.

"Duke’s made some plays for us this year. I think that Duke has improved every week as far as what we’re asking him to do, what his role in the game is," O'Brien said. "Last night I think he had 14 touches and I thought that was good. 

"I think that he made some plays. Made the touchdown play, made other plays, so it was a good night for him."

D.J. Reader knocking down Brady

It's not exactly common to see interior defensive lineman knock down the quarterback.

Texans nose tackle D.J. Reader did it four times against Brady on Sunday night, more than anyone else on the team. 

"D.J.’s had a good year. He’s been very consistent, very productive," O'Brien said. "You don’t really see inside guys doing some of the things he’s doing. He’s very, very difficult to block. He’s a very active player. ...

In order for us to keep getting better and to play well against Denver, he’s a big part of that and did a good job."

'Jacob Martin plays 100 mph'

O'Brien touted the first-year Texans linebacker as a hard worker who loves to practice. 

Martin, one of the key pieces in the widely criticized Jadeveon Clowney trade to Seattle just before the season. 

Martin now has 2.5 sacks, all of which came in the last two games. 

He started in place of the injured Brennan Scarlett, who replaced Clowney in the Texans' starting lineup this season.  

"All I know about Jacob Martin is that he plays 100 mph," O'Brien said. "He's a great teammate. He's awesome in the locker room, meetings. You should see the way the guy practices. I mean he practices, he's out there everyday. He doesn't complain about it. He just goes to work. I think when you have that type of work ethic, you're going to get better. That's what Jacob does."

'A lot to build on' with rookie OL Tytus Howard

The Texans announced Saturday rookie Tytus Howard was placed on the injured list with a nagging knee injury. 

Howard had started in eight games for the Texans, seven at right tackle and one at left guard.But he suffered a right knee injury against the Chiefs that still has not fully recovered. 

The Texans are shelving him for the season, which means Roderick Johnson and Chris Clark could share time at right tackle for the foreseeable future.

O'Brien spoke highly of the rookie first round pick when asked about him Monday. 

"I thought he had some good moments this year. He’s a great guy. We’re certainly glad to have him," O'Brien said. "He’s tough. He’s got great energy. He’s got a really good personality, good teammate. So I think there are a lot of things that he did well and there are a lot of things that he’d be the first to tell you that he can improve upon. But there’s a lot to build on."

So, who really came up with the trick play?

Deshaun Watson? A.J. McCarron? Tim Kelly? O'Brien?

For now, it just looks like a collaboration between offensive minds. 

"All kidding aside, we collaborate all the time with these guys, especially in the quarterback room," O'Brien said. "Deshaun has a really excellent football mind. So he sees things and he's done things in the past, whether it was here now that he has a lot of snaps here, or if it was at Clemson, that he'll say 'with this motion or this look, we did this, would you ever think about that?' And we map it out on the board and we talk about it. And then A.J.'s got a lot of experience in a lot of different offenses. ...

"A.J.'s really good during the game, too. A.J. does a good job during the game, so there's a lot of collaboration with Tim (Kelly) and (quarterbacks coach) Carl Smith and when I'm in there." 

Texans still starting slowly

It's been a struggle all season -- overcoming slow starts. 

The Texans did not start off well against the Patriots and it's a trend of which O'Brien is still trying to get to the bottom. 

The first possession Sunday night was a three-and-out. The Texans gained no yards and had to burn a timeout because they were not lined up correctly. 

It ultimately did not cost the Texans, since they went on to take the lead and never look back.

"If you look at the beginning of the game, it wasn't going very well," O'Brien said. "It really wasn't. ... We've got to start games better. Just start there. We've got a lot of improvement to do and a lot of football left. I think our players understand that and then there's a lot of good things that we did."