The Houston Texans were left searching for answers about how to turn things around after their third straight loss.
One thing they won’t do is switch quarterbacks, with coach Bill O’Brien saying Monday that Tom Savage will start on Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals.
Savage threw for 221 yards and a touchdown on Sunday in his second start since rookie Deshaun Watson sustained a season-ending knee injury in practice. But he was also intercepted twice and lost two fumbles in a 33-7 loss to the Los Angeles Rams, raising questions whether the Texans should replace him with T.J. Yates this week.
O’Brien brushed off that possibility, insisting the problems on offense aren’t all Savage’s fault.
“It starts with coaching,” O’Brien said. “We’ve all got to coach better, starting with me, but it’s never about one guy; it’s never been about one guy. Football’s about 11 guys trying to do the right thing on every play.”
While O’Brien shifted the blame off of Savage, the quarterback disagreed with his coach.
“To be honest with you, it’s on the quarterback when (we) put up seven points,” he said. “It’s on me.”
Sunday was Savage’s third start this season. He started the opener before being benched at halftime for Watson after losing two fumbles. He’s performed much the same in the last two weeks, with the offense managing one touchdown each in losses to the Colts and Rams. It’s a stark change from when Watson was running the unit and the Texans set a franchise record by scoring more than 30 points in five straight games.
O’Brien isn’t concerned about Savage’s confidence and scoffed at the notion that he needs to encourage him this week.
“I’m not going to come into the quarterback room with two pom-poms and do handstands and try to pump him up and say: ‘You’re the best, you can do it,’ like the little engine that could,” O’Brien said. “That’s not what I do. I just try to coach him, try to get him to play better.”
To do that O’Brien said Savage needs to work on ball security and reads, and the rest of the players on offense must do more to help him.
The Texans got a big game from DeAndre Hopkins on Sunday: seven receptions for 111 yards. But Savage had trouble connecting with Houston’s other receivers and none of the rest of them finished with more than 40 yards receiving.
His job could be tougher this week with Will Fuller’s status in question after the receiver injured his ribs against the Rams.
“He’s slightly built, so I don’t know,” O’Brien said of the 6-foot, 185-pound Fuller. “We’ll have to see how that goes during the week.”
With Savage having trouble getting Houston’s offense going on Sunday, O’Brien inserted Braxton Miller at quarterback for a couple of wildcat-type plays. Miller, who starred at quarterback at Ohio State before moving to receiver, didn’t attempt a pass.
“Just trying to mix it up a little bit,” O’Brien said. “I just felt like it didn’t really help the rhythm of the offense. It wasn’t Braxton’s fault. It just didn’t really help what we were trying to do. It didn’t have the effect that I thought it was going to have.”
Sunday’s loss left the Texans (3-6) in third place in the AFC South, three games behind the Jaguars and Titans. They’ll have to find a cure for their offensive woes quickly if they hope to have any chance of reaching the postseason for the third straight year.
“Any time you lose — what three in a row? You’ve got to be worried,” cornerback Kareem Jackson said. “But at the same time, I know the type of guys we got in the locker room. We’re a resilient group. I feel like we can come out of anything. We’ve just got to stay together and continue to fight.”