Houston Texans head coach Bill O'Brien talks into his headset while on the sideline in the second quarter against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts on September 22, 2016. Photo by Matthew Healey/ UPI | License Photo
The rough beginning that Houston Texans quarterback Tom Savage experienced during his first NFL start won't prevent him from getting the nod again.
Although Savage had some uneven moments during the first half of a 12-10 win over the Cincinnati Bengals, he demonstrated enough improvement in the second half to remain the starter during the Texans' regular-season finale Sunday against the Tennessee Titans.
Texans coach Bill O'Brien made no public commitments to having Savage remain in place as the starter in the playoffs, but it's considered a highly unlikely scenario that he would go back to Brock Osweiler at this point. Especially since Savage has yet to commit a turnover and has managed the offense fairly effectively through two consecutive wins.
"Yeah, he'll start against the Titans," O'Brien said of Savage on Monday. "I thought that the first half was a combination of some missed assignments, he held the ball a little bit, could have been some better play calls by me in there. It was a combination of just bad some offense obviously. We came in at halftime, we regrouped. I thought the players did an excellent job of understanding the way we wanted to kind of change our attack in the second half, and it helped.
"As it relates to Tom, I thought he got into a rhythm in the second half and he was much better. I think everybody could see that. What did we learn from that? I don't know, we're still talking about that right now. You know, obviously Tennessee is a different opponent, different defense, the whole thing. But I thought Tom played better in the second half."
Savage completed just 2 of 7 passes for 13 yards and had a 39.6 passer rating during the first half as he was sacked three times. He was sacked on four occasions overall and hit 10 times.
Savage finished the game 18 of 29 for 176 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions.
The Texans and Savage leaned heavily on the strength of the NFL's top-ranked defense as they struggled mightily in the red zone and to move the football.
"At halftime, I said, 'Just keep doing what you're doing, we're going to pick it up offensively,'" Savage said. "I mean, hey, 12 points is 12 points in this league and the whole goal of this game is to score more points than them and we did that and we won. I think we can just keep building off that second half and ultimately put some points on the board.
"I went up to every single one of them and said, 'Hey we're going to get something going for you guys, keep doing what you've been doing this whole season really. I mean you guys kept us in this and we're going to go out there and we're going to try and make some plays and put some points on so we can get this win.'"
The Texans won in spite of shoddy pass protection, Savage missing a few reads and occasionally holding onto the football too long.
The good news with Savage is providing sound ball security so far. He hasn't committed a turnover through two games whereas Osweiler threw 16 interceptions until he was benched against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
"He's done a good job of taking care of the ball, knock on wood," O'Brien said. "That's the big thing, we have to continue to have 100 percent ball security. That's going to be the key going forward, especially in this time of year and in the playoffs. You're not going to win if you turn the ball over. Tom's done a decent job. There were a couple close ones, but they didn't intercept it. It was a good job by him of taking care of the ball."
However, O'Brien and Savage and everyone involved with the Texans knows the offense has to play better or it will be another short-lived playoff run. The Texans were shut out, 30-0, during an AFC wild-card loss last January at NRG Stadium.
"Look, we've got to score more," O'Brien said. "Look, we have to play better on offense. We get that. We work very hard to put together a plan. We have to put together a better plan. But I think what's happened is we've played pretty good complementary football. The defense has given us the ball in pretty good field position. I think the special teams played pretty well and helped us with field position."
The Texans' lone touchdown was scored by backup running back Alfred Blue, a 24-yard run preceded by a couple of first downs earned by Savage's arm and him scrambling for another.
"Eventually, we broke through and put together a drive where we were able to score," O'Brien said. "But you know, a lot has to do with the fact that our defense is playing at such a high level that we can get away with that right now. But that's not going to be the case going forward every single week. I'm not saying the defense isn't going to play well. I'm saying we have to score more than one touchdown. And that's what we're going to work hard to try to do this week."
A former fourth-round draft pick from Pitt, Savage has completed 41 of 65 passes for 436 yards, no touchdowns and no interceptions through two games for an 82.6 passer rating.
"I know I sound repetitive, but it's going out there and keep executing what we need to do," Savage said. "And it's good to go out there and get some experience for sure."