O’Brien and the Texans are still very much alive in the AFC playoff picture, but they’ll get a might test Sunday night against the Patriots. No one inside Texans headquarters knows better about what makes the Patriots tick than O’Brien who served under Patriots head coach Bill Belichick from 2007 through 2011.
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No coach or program in the NFL is better at controlling the noise surrounding a team than Belichick and the Patriots, but it’s clear that rubbed off on O’Brien. As the Texans prepare for arguably the biggest game during O’Brien’s tenure, the Texans certainly sound like a Belichick team. They’re effusive in their praise of the opposition, and they’re saying a lot of words without actually saying anything.
It starts with O’Brien.
“I think every game is big though,” he told reporters when asked about the raised stakes of Sunday’s game. “I really do. I think when you’re in this league, you only play once a week, I don’t see in the regular season where necessarily one game is bigger than the other. I know the race that we’re in and those types of things, but I think in December every game is big.”
But, Bill, what about your very obvious, very real connections to the Patriots?
“I’ll get a lot of those questions this week and I’ll answer all of them But I think in the end, what it’s about is, it’s really about the two teams,” he explained. “It’s not necessarily — it’s not about Romeo (Crennel) or Mike Vrabel or myself or George Godsey or Vince Wilfork. It’s about the two teams playing each other, the 2015 Texans versus the 2015 Patriots. That’s what this week’s about.”
OK, so the head coach is polished. Surely, the players aren’t fully up to speed, right? Cornerback Kevin Johnson, a first-round draft pick cornerback who must have a bunch of confidence, obviously will say something about Patriots quarterback Tom Brady Brady to at least sort of stir the pot.
“It is going to be a tough matchup,” Johnson said. “Tom Brady is known as one of the best players to play the game, so we have to be on our game.”
Seriously, though, was O’Brien behind reporters holding a cue card when Johnson answered that?
A Google search of “Brian Cushing trash talk” will bring up multiple results, but apparently he’s going to save his talking for Sunday, too.
“(Brady is) a very good quarterback, he is going to give us some issues and different matchups and know what he is looking for, so we just have to go into the game plan expecting certain things that he is going to do, but as we all know and saw, (Sunday), he pulled some things out,” Cushing told reporters. “He does some different things that no one is expecting, that’s what makes him one of the best, if not the best ever.”
O’Brien obviously isn’t trying to be Belichick 2.0 in Houston. He’s going to want to do things his way, but there’s no denying — at least when you listen to the two clubs — that there’s at least one similarity.