HOUSTON – There are few NFL venues where noise is amplified as well as it is at the cavernous home of the Houston Texans. Simply put, NRG Stadium has good acoustics. Especially when the roof is closed.
This setup was not exactly a good thing for Brock Osweiler, the Texans’ new $72 million quarterback, for much of Sunday night as the offense he drives kept careening off the road.
There was no escaping the noise. The boos carried, and they delivered a defiant message, too, from paying customers undoubtedly sick and tired of the parade of passers presented – and ultimately discarded – in recent years.
They booed in the first quarter, when an Osweiler pass was broken up to mark the third consecutive three-and-out. They serenaded with jeers as the Texans went into halftime. And it rained boos in the fourth quarter after a second-and-20 call ended with a run for a 1-yard loss.
Osweiler heard all of this.
“I understand why fans were frustrated,” he said after the Texans staged a late rally and stunned the Indianapolis Colts with a 26-23 overtime decision.
Many of the fans missed the heroics. By midway through the fourth quarter, with the Texans down by 14 points, a large chunk of the 71,000-plus who showed up were sick of booing, too.
They had seen enough and left the place, another type of statement in itself.
Then the Texans caught fire. The defense puts the clamps on Andrew Luck. Lamar Miller, who rushed for 149 yards, proved that he had another gear left. And Osweiler, lured to town in March with a four-year free agent deal, started hitting the big passes that flew out of control earlier.
Houston (4-2) scored 14 points in the final three minutes of regulation, then won with a 33-yard field goal by Nick Novak that was set up by Osweiler’s 36-yard strike to Jaelen Strong.
“I think a lot of fans missed a terrific performance in the third and fourth quarters by a team,” declared Osweiler, who passed for 180 of his 269 yards in the fourth quarter and overtime. “I think they learned tonight that this team is never going to quit fighting.
“For all of the negativity, the booing, I understand it. We weren’t playing well. But I’m so proud of this team because everyone stayed focused on their job. They ignored the outside noise, ignored the boos.”
No one should lose sight amid this moment of relief for Osweiler that it was achieved against one of the NFL’s worst defenses, a unit thin on playmakers, depth and surely, killer instinct.
A tougher test awaits next Monday when Osweiler heads back to Denver, where he helped the Broncos march to a Super Bowl 50 crown last season. Now he gets to face the full wrath of one of the NFL’s best defenses.
So far, the Texans’ limited track record with Osweiler against top competition on the road has been miserable. Houston lost road games to the Minnesota Vikings and New England Patriots by a combined measure of 58-13.
Osweiler was in no mood on Sunday night to consider whether he will have extra motivation for Denver, given the unceremonious split. Although Osweiler was groomed to be Peyton Manning’s successor, Broncos executive vice president of football operations John Elway balked at the young quarterback's asking price. The Broncos moved on with cheaper talent in Trevor Siemian and rookie Paxton Lynch.
“Bottom line,” Osweiler declared, “I’m going to treat this game no different than any other game.”
That might also be interpreted to project that a pick is coming. On Sunday night, Osweiler extended his dubious streak of throwing an interception in each game this season. But at least he made amends.
He also seemingly boosted the confidence of Texans owner Bob McNair -- who is signing the checks for a guaranteed $37 million to a quarterback who had started just seven NFL games before arriving in Houston. Like everyone else watching, McNair has seen an offense that typically sputters early.
“I think he showed what he can do,” McNair told reporters. “We need to do it for four quarters and not wait until the end, but it shows you that he has the ability and the mind-set and determination and confidence to lead the team back from just a very deep hole that we were in.”
Maybe the comeback will be a turning point for Osweiler, who didn’t completely deny a CBS report that surfaced Sunday that he’s engaged in heated exchanges with coach Bill O’Brien – who took over play-calling duties three weeks ago – during meetings.
“The interactions that have occurred between coach O’Brien and myself, or even coach (George) Godsey (the Texans' offensive coordinator) are nothing out of the norm,” Osweiler said. “Everybody wants to win.”
And at some point, they want to squash all sorts of noise, too.