HOUSTON (CBS Houston): Texans head coach Bill O’Brien isn’t taking anything for granted despite the team’s big improvement from last season.

O’Brien says his team is already moving on to it’s final opponent of the season, the Jacksonville Jaguars, and they will be focused for this game.

“I love Christmas just as much as the next guy,” O’Brien said.  “I think the guys will be very focused even though it’s Christmas.  This is a meaningful game….we have to win.”

“Things have to happen for us to go in,” O’Brien explained, in reference to what needs to happen for the Texans to earn a playoff berth, something considered near impossible just a few weeks ago, “but the number 1 thing is we have to win.”

Despite it being Christmas week, O’Brien was very no-nonsense about his team, “The most important thing about this week is the Jacksonville Jaguars.”


Praising His Case

O’Brien had nothing but glowing things to say about QB Case Keenum.

“He’s a good leader, a poised guy,” O’Brien raved.  “I don’t think it’s an easy thing to walk into that locker room…and earn back your teammates’ respect.”

O’Brien wasn’t finished with his positive review.  When asked what stands out the most about Keenum, the coach said, “his huddle command, his knowledge, his intelligence…his command at the line of scrimmage.

For a guy to be able to come in, function in the huddle, function at the line of scrimmage…I think that says a helluva lot about the guy.”


Riddle Me This…

Coach O’Brien had an interesting answer regarding DE J.J. Watt’s potential MVP candidacy.

“I could care less about the MVP, and I know he could care less about it too,” O’Brien deadpanned.

However, he then went on to essentially stump for his guy.  “J.J. Watt is a great football player.  He affects the game on every single play.”  Coach then went on to name a dozen different types of plays that Watt impacts, demonstrating why Watt has the best resume for MVP.


It’s In There

Coach O’Brien explained the ‘offensive toolbox’ and how they get the team’s game-plan offense ready each week despite the turnover at QB caused by injuries.

“We have a toolbox,” O’Brien explained about the how they set the offensive plays up in their computer system.  “We take the tool that we think apply to that defense we’re playing…pull those plays out and apply them if we think they will work.”

He explained that because the 3 different starting QBs the team has used this season all had some sort of experience with the system (Fitzpatrick with team all year, Mallett knew system from New England, Keenum was with team all summer), it was easier to navigate the system and the plays than if a QB was coming in cold(a la Thad Lewis).


Newton’s Law

O’Brien gave props to RT Derek Newton, who had to slide over to RG during the game due to injuries.

“I give Newton a lot of credit,” the coach said.  “To be able to go from right tackle to right guard, that’s a whole new position, it’s a different world.  He did a commendable job.”

Coach O’Brien mentioned Newton did not have many reps at RG during the week leading up to the game, making his strong play there even more impressive.


Coming Together At The Holidays

O’Brien noted the team’s improved defensive play in recent weeks, culminating with a dominant effort vs the Ravens Sunday.

What has led to the improvement?  “Players have done a good job communicating.  (DC Romeo Crennel) has made good calls on game day.  We’re playing good team defense.

First year of a new type of defense…lots of extra meeting time and practice…it takes a while to learn each other’s vocabulary…”

After playing together all year, it all seems to be coming together for the team in late December…just in time.



RG Brandon Brooks was improving, according to O’Brien, but the coach said he thinks “it’s going to day to day.”

He explained Brooks “was kinda bent in an awkward direction (Sunday)” but that he’s working hard to get back on the field.



Patrick Creighton is the host of “Nate & Creight” on Sportsradio 610.  Follow him on Twitter: @PCreighton1