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Winless Texans searching for ways to salvage season

AP

HOUSTON (AP) — Houston Texans coach Bill O’Brien slumped his shoulders and put his hand on the side of his head as he searched for ways to explain yet another loss by his winless team on Sunday.

In the end he really didn’t have any answers, only a vow to try and be better.

“We’ve just got to keep working,” he said. “There’s really no way out of it other than that. You have no choice.”

The Texans fell to 0-4 for the first time since 2008, losing 31-23 to the previously winless Minnesota Vikings on Sunday.

Houston’s NFL-worst run defense continued to struggle, giving up 162 yards, including 130 from Dalvin Cook.

“We obviously have to do something different,” defensive end J.J. Watt said. “We are 0-4. Whatever we’re doing is not working. Something needs to change. Something needs to be different. But the only thing that I know I can do is work harder.”

The home loss to the previously unimpressive Vikings after a brutal season-opening schedule will ratchet up pressure on O’Brien, whose team won the AFC South the previous two seasons.

“We never quit,” O’Brien said. “I think that’s really good. We’ve got a bunch of great guys. We’ve just got to figure out how to win a game.”

The Texans had a chance to win late. They cut the lead to 8 when Deshaun Watson connected with Kenny Stills on a 24-yard touchdown pass on fourth-and-10 with 5:52 remaining.

Houston’s defense got a stop and Will Fuller made an acrobatic one-handed catch on fourth down for what was initially ruled a touchdown with 1:12 left. But a review determined that the ball hit the ground before Fuller gained control, and Minnesota ran out the clock from there.

That play was the backbreaker, but plenty of missed opportunities and mistakes earlier in the game contributed to the loss.

DeAndre Carter fumbled on a punt return in the first quarter and the Vikings recovered, leading to a field goal that made it 10-0.

The Texans struggled in the red zone, failing to score a touchdown on all three trips inside the 20. And Watson fumbled a pitch to David Johnson on third-and-1 to back Houston up to the 5 before the throw to Fuller on the last drive.

When asked what his team needs to do to get on track, O’Brien rattled off a list of things.

“We have to continue to stop the run more consistently,” he said. “At times we do it, (then) we give up chunk plays in play action. We’ve got to do a better job there. We’ve got to find a running game, a consistent running game. We have to finish drives. Our red area was terrible today.”

There was speculation that O’Brien would return to calling plays on Sunday after offensive coordinator Tim Kelly had taken over those duties this season. But O’Brien said the only change against the Vikings was that he relayed the plays to Watson, instead of Kelly doing it.

“There was no difference in how we’ve been doing it the whole year, other than that,” O’Brien said.

While Watt said the 0-4 start was “depressing,” Watson said he isn’t worried about the team and that he wouldn’t let the struggles get to him.

“We’ve just got to keep fighting, keep pushing forward, and that’s it,” he said. “But for me personally, I’m not going to let it take my joy. I’m going to continue to live life, continue to work my (butt) off, continue to come in here every day and play football. It is what it is. But at the end of the day my joy, my spirit, my smile, my energy, the love of the game is still going to continue to be there.”

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