Coaching not to lose ends in losses for Houston and Seattle

A lack of aggression ends the 2019 season for the Texans and Seahawks

Louie DiBiase
January 13, 2020 - 12:28 am
Bill O'Brien

Photo: Denny Medley - USA TODAY Sports

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The Houston Texans and Seattle Seahawks are both headed home after losses in the Divisional Round of the NFL playoffs on Sunday.

Although there are a number of reasons both teams couldn't punch their ticket to Conference Championship weekend, coaching not to lose rather than going for the win was a glaring flaw that ended up being costly at the most crucial points of the season. 

There are times teams should play it safe with more of a conservative approach. There are also times to be aggressive and go for it.

In the moments to keep the foot on the gas, with the season hanging in the balance on the biggest stage, Texans head coach Bill O'Brien and Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll turtled. 

The Texans, already with an astonishing 21-point lead in the first quarter against the Kansas City Chiefs, were once again knocking on the door at the opposing 13-yard line. Houston needed just one yard to convert a fourth down and potentially put another demoralizing seven points on the Chiefs. Instead, O'Brien elected to kick the field goal and push the lead to 24-0. 

Having a 24-0 lead in a tough road environment is a great situation to be in, but you don't trust an elite quarterback like Deshaun Watson to get you one yard? To potentially go up four touchdowns? 

It wasn't just that one decision that showed O'Brien's conservative mentality. After the Chiefs took just two plays to score their first touchdown of the game, O'Brien and the Texans offense decided to dial up two straight run plays, up the middle with running back Carlos Hyde. 

Likely feeling the pressure after Watson failed to convert a third-and-4 attempt to wide receiver Will Fuller, O'Brien decides to be aggressive and fake a punt with a direct snap to a safety. It ends up falling short of the sticks, giving Kansas City the ball on Houston's 33-yard line. 

That is the fourth down he decides to go for and not the fourth-and-1 on the 13-yard line? 

The Chiefs would go on to score another touchdown and make the deficit just 10 points. More importantly, it would light the Kansas City offense on fire as they go on to outscore the Texans 44-7 the rest of the way. 

When you are in control against such a talented offense, in their house, don't let them back in it. They did. 

Pete Carroll and the Seahawks didn't have quite the same collapse against the Green Bay Packers, but the loss formed as a result of another conservative call. 

With 2:41 to go trailing 28-23, Seattle faced a fourth-and-11 on their own 36-yard line. Not an obvious decision to go for it, but the logic applied to Texans-Chiefs remains the same here. 

And do we really believe if the fourth down was shorter Carroll goes for it? 

Even if Russell Wilson fails to pull off his typical magic and the Packers get the ball back, the Seahawks still had two timeouts and the two-minute warning to work with. Even holding Green Bay to a field goal would still give Wilson another shot down by eight. 

Instead, Carroll elected to punt and give the ball back to the Hall of Fame quarterback to be, Aaron Rodgers on the other end of the field, and Rodgers made them pay. 

These costly decisions shouldn't come as a surprise. This has been who Bill O'Brien and Pete Carroll have been their entire careers. 

Time will tell if a season ending in large part because of this style changes the approach of either, but it should be a lesson that other teams around the league, including the Buffalo Bills, take note of. 

Playing not to lose often results in that team losing anyway. 

 

 

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