Texans stuck with first non-winning season under Bill O'Brien after loss

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Houston Texans have not been mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, but for the first time under coach Bill O’Brien, the team will not finish with a winning record.

The Texans went 9-7 in O’Brien’s first three seasons in Houston, but after Sunday’s 24-13 loss to the Tennessee Titans, the team fell to 4-8. The AFC South-leading Titans and Jacksonville Jaguars both reached eight wins on Sunday; the Texans would have to run the table just to match that.

"Not good," O'Brien said of the Texans' record. "I've never been in this situation, so I'm learning on the job too as far as being in a losing situation here.

"We've lost a bunch of games, a bunch of close games, and just got to figure out how to continue to try to coach better and see if we can get these guys to execute a little bit higher."

The season certainly has been a disappointment coming off of back-to-back division titles, but the Texans have been hampered by injuries, including to two of their best players. Houston has lost rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson (torn ACL), defensive end J.J. Watt (broken leg), outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus (torn pectoral muscle), tight end Ryan Griffin (concussion) and rookie running back D’Onta Foreman (torn Achilles) to season-ending injuries.

And although that is a sizable injury list -- and the Texans lost six players to injury on Sunday -- quarterback Tom Savage said the Texans don't use injuries as an excuse.

“It’s one of those things, no one really cares [about injuries]," Savage said. "You could tell everybody in the world that we had injuries. No one cares. We have an ‘L’ on that game. We’ve got to find a way to win.”

The Texans have plenty of questions going into the offseason. The team has plenty of holes to fill on the offensive line and in the secondary, but their biggest question mark going into this season -- quarterback -- has been settled after the exceptional play of Watson before he suffered a season-ending injury.

The Texans’ offense was rolling with Watson under center for seven games, and when he tore his ACL during practice, he was leading the NFL in touchdown passes. He and DeAndre Hopkins clicked immediately, and the wide receiver was on his way to the best season of his career. Along with a healthy Will Fuller and Foreman next season, the Texans could have one of the best offenses in the NFL.

Houston caught glimpses of what could be with their franchise quarterback, who completed 61.8 percent of his passes for 1,699 yards and 19 touchdowns in 6 1/2 games. Watson also threw eight interceptions, but he had a passer rating of 103.0.

While the remainder of this season and any chance at the playoffs look grim, with the Texans having lost four out of five games since Watson tore his ACL, the future looks bright -- maybe the brightest it has looked under O'Brien -- with Watson at the helm in 2018.