O’Brien confirmed Monday that Tom Savage will take over as the starting quarterback after the 2014 fourth-round draft pick replaced an ineffective Osweiler in Sunday’s stirring comeback victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars jerseys.
Savage led the offense on five scoring drives in the game’s final 32 minutes, leaving O’Brien with little choice but to ride the hot hand at the sport’s most valuable position.
Sporting an easy, natural throwing motion with NFL jerseys and a stronger arm and a softer touch, Savage re-opened possibilities outside the numbers and down the field.
Whereas Osweiler had left those all-important areas abandoned in favor of a compressed, tight end-centric aerial attack that rarely challenged opposing defenses, Savage finally unlocked Pro Bowl wideout DeAndre Hopkins’ potential while incorporating speedy rookies Will Fuller and Wendall Williams on deep balls.
As a concession to Osweiler’s obvious limitations, O’Brien had compromised the offense to reduce costly mistakes and rely more heavily on an overburdened ground attack.
The contrast in trust level was evident when O’Brien called for a shotgun pass attempt on fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line on Savage’s 2016 debut drive. Allowing the inexperienced signal-caller to develop a rhythm, O’Brien proceeded to dial up 10 consecutive pass attempts on one fourth-quarter field-goal drive.
Although Savage lacks Osweiler’s mobility, he’s noticeably calmer and more compact in the pocket. Pro Football Focus tracked Osweiler with a 0.0 passer rating on four dropbacks under pressure compared to Savage’s 101.7 mark on 12 such attempts.
To be clear, no one is painting Savage as the savior. He entered the game in an ideal situation, afforded the green light to lock and load against a defense with no substantial game tape to take away his strengths and exploit his weaknesses. Osweiler paid for his two errant passes over the middle while Malik Jackson dropped Savage’s interception ball in a similar spot.
On the bright side, Savage displayed traits lacking in Osweiler’s skill set, allowing Houston to shed a one-dimensional offense that had grown stale over the past two months. On the other hand, the Texans are now set to enter a do-or-die stretch against the spoiler-minded Cincinnati Bengals and surging Tennessee Titans with a quarterback preparing to make his first NFL start.