Texans look for improvement ahead of rematch with Patriots
HOUSTON (AP) Despite a decisive win over the Raiders in the wild-card round, the Houston Texans know improvement is necessary if they hope to get the first divisional playoff win in franchise history on Saturday against New England.
''There's always room for improvement,'' coach Bill O'Brien said. ''That's what the league is all about - who can improve the fastest to get to where you want to go?''
Brock Osweiler returned to the starting lineup on Saturday after being benched two weeks ago after inconsistent play and multiple turnovers.
He looked better than he had before he was pulled, throwing a touchdown pass and running for another score. He also took care of the ball in just his fourth start this season where he didn't throw an interception.
But he only finished with 168 yards passing, leaving the Texans looking for more from him this week.
''We were more consistent than we have been,'' O'Brien said of the offense. ''I think we can still be better. There's always improvement to make.''
A key to Osweiler's success on Saturday was his ability to get DeAndre Hopkins involved in the game after struggling to get him the ball this season.
''There's certainly been some ups and downs as far as getting him the football throughout the course of the year,'' Osweiler said.
''But I think the one thing that you were really able to see (Saturday) was that Hop and I were on the same page ... (and) anytime I can get the ball to Hop, I'm going to do it.''
Hopkins finished with 67 yards receiving and a touchdown, giving the Texans something to build on this week against the Patriots .
The offense got a boost by the return of running back Lamar Miller , who missed the last two regular-season games with an ankle injury.
He ran for 73 yards and a touchdown, but was disappointed that he averaged just 2.4 yards a carry after averaging 4 per run in the regular season.
Despite those numbers, O'Brien was happy with his work.
''I think he looked good ... it was good to have him back in there,'' O'Brien said. ''I thought it was the right move for his health, for our football team to do what we did.
''I don't think he was totally 100 percent for the last two weeks of the season and I think he feels better now. He's meant a lot to our team.''
The Texans had often been settling for field goals instead of touchdowns when they got in the red zone in recent weeks.
But on Saturday they solved that problem when they scored touchdowns in all three trips to the red zone. They know doing that again must be a focus this week.
This will be Houston's second game against the Patriots this season after New England got a 27-0 win in Week 3 with third-string quarterback Jacoby Brissett running the offense.
Special teams play was a big problem for the Texans in that one where they lost two fumbles on kickoffs which led to 14 points for the Patriots.
One of the fumbles was by Charles James, who was released last month, and the other one was by rookie Tyler Ervin, who remains a punt and kick returner for Houston.
He fumbled two punts against the Raiders, but Houston recovered the ball both times.
O'Brien said they'll work on getting better in that area this week, but that he's been happy with Ervin's performance overall.
Before the second fumbled punt on Saturday he had a punt return for a touchdown negated because of a penalty.
''We have confidence in Tyler Ervin,'' O'Brien said. ''Tyler Ervin's done a nice job for us this year. We think that he's made a difference for us when he's been in there. He returned one for a touchdown when we ran into the kicker, but I thought that was an excellent return by him.''
As the Texans work to improve this week they'll have to listen to chatter about their underdog status entering this game. The Patriots are 15+-point favorites according to Pregame.com, and are 7-1 all-time against Houston, including a 41-28 win in the divisional round in 2013.
O'Brien insists that they aren't worried about the odds against them.
''What does that matter? The only thing that matters is what takes place in between the lines on Saturday night,'' he said.
''No, I don't really go too much to the Vegas betting line. I don't think that would be really a good motivation tool this week.''
NOTES: Backup QB Tom Savage is out of the concussion protocol after being inactive on Saturday after suffering a concussion on Jan. 1 against the Titans. ... S Quintin Demps is listed day to day with a hamstring injury.
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