Texans’ backup QB still undecided after loss to 49ers

Houston Texans quarterback Tom Savage attempts a pass during the fourth quarter against the San Francisco 49ers at NRG Stadium.

Troy Taormina/Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

HOUSTON – With most of the Houston Texans starters taking a break on the sideline in the team’s fourth and final preseason game against the San Francisco 49ers, it was the backups’ time to showcase their skills on the field. However, they ended up losing the game 40-13 on Thursday night, ending the preseason on a sour note with a 2-2 record.

Heading into the game, the battle for the backup quarterback spot between Case Keenum and Tom Savage was supposed to be decided based on the level of play seen during the game, but both quarterbacks struggled against the 49ers, leaving more questions than answers heading into Saturday’s mandatory roster trim to 53 players.

"It wasn’t very good," Texans head coach Bill O’Brien said about the quarterback play. "I think what’s important to note about that is that it’s a team effort, whether it’s a protection breakdown or maybe the wrong route. Obviously, the quarterback made some mistakes, but its a team effort, and nobody out there on offense really did anything worthy of note, including the coaching."

As far as picking a backup for starting quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, O’Brien isn’t ready to name one over the other based on Thursday’s preseason game alone, citing either one could end up with the job.

"We’re comfortable with both guys," Texans head coach Bill O’Brien said. "They put a lot of work in even though tonight wasn’t a great night, it’s a body of work, and there’s been some decent play from those guys, so we’re comfortable. We will always do what’s best for the team, that’s something we’ll always do as long as we’re here, but as it relates to those two guys, they’ve shown some flashes of good things and some not so good things just like everybody else."

O’Brien even hinted that the Texans may opt to keep both quarterbacks on the final roster along with Fitzpatrick.

"These three guys have put a lot of work in. We will evaluate everything that they’ve done," O’Brien said. "We’ll take a good look at it and meet as a staff on it and we’ll decide what to do what’s best for the team. And if keeping these three quarterbacks is what’s best for the team, then that’s what we’ll do."

Keenum started the game for Houston, finishing 17 for 8 with 70 yards, zero touchdowns and one interception. Savage was 12 for 8, throwing for 43 yards, zero touchdowns and one interception that was returned 34 yards by 49ers linebacker Chris Borland for a six points. After the game, the rookie was attempting to remain positive despite the bad outing.

"I think it’s going to be a good adventure for me. I think as a young player you’ve got to be able to handle these situations and trust me, it sucks to lose," Savage said. "As a competitor you want to go out and win. It doesn’t matter if you’re playing checkers or playing football. So it stings, but you’ve got to keep improving."

Good news for the Texans, they are heading into the regular season with the core players on the roster in healthy for the first time, something that has eluded the first-year head coach during training camp and preseason.

"It’s important," O’Brien said about having all of his component players healthy for the start of the season. "We’re looking forward to Monday’s practice, we’re looking forward to tomorrow getting some conditioning and lifting done. We’re looking forward to moving on to the regular season."

Despite the Texans looking off in the last preseason game, O’Brien feels good about his players heading into the regular season overall.

"I feel good about the veteran leadership on this team," O’Brien said. "I feel good about both sides of the ball, offensively and defensively, knowing their assignment, knowing what we do schematically. I feel good about, for the most part, our draft class, our rookies, where they are right now, relative to being rookies. I feel that our role players, guys that we feel have really come on as far as special teams, offense and defense, whether it be a backup or a guy that’s on all the special teams… And there’s some things we have to really improve upon. That’s what we’ll continue to do starting tomorrow and Monday through Friday."

The Texans will open the regular season at home on Sept. 7 at noon against the Washington Redskins.

Follow Shawn Ramsey on Twitter: @ShawnPRamsey