The Houston Texans are fighters.
But head coach Bill O'Brien doesn't think they shouldn't be fighting each week.
"We have to start these games better," O'Brien said. "I think if we do, we'll find ourselves on the winning side of the ledger but until we do that, we're going to be in these dogfights having to come back from 14 points down. Give these guys credit, they fight back, they never give in but we got to get on the right side of these things."
The Texans offense struggled with dropped passes and getting into a rhythm early in their 24-17 loss to the Carolina Panthers. After halftime, Ryan Mallett completed 7-of-7 passes and orchestrated Houston's first touchdown drive of the game with a 13-play, 80-yard drive.
"We need to play that way," O'Brien said. "We need to play at a good pace. The problem is that when you don't get that first first down, it's hard to get into that pace."
Despite 14 unanswered points by Carolina after that third-quarter touchdown, Houston never gave up. The Texans came within just one score after another 80-yard drive that ended in a Mallett touchdown run. A blocked field goal attempt by Jared Crick and the Texans defense kept the lead from increasing and also gave Houston possession near mid-field.
The Texans nearly pulled off a come-from-behind win in a game where Mallett threw the ball 58 times, the second-highest number of attempts in team history.
"I think we're tough but we've got to stop digging ourselves into these holes and hopefully, we can start the game better next week," O'Brien said. "We don't start these games very well, especially offensively."
O'Brien gave the example of the first offensive play of the game, a handoff to Alfred Blue for minus-one yard, as "a screwup on offense." He criticized both coaching and playing in the team's second loss of the year, vowing to improve coaching and execution in the upcoming week.
"We're all in it together," O'Brien said. "We've got to do a better job. We've got to try to start these games better but I love coaching these guys. They're a resilient bunch of guys that never give in and they keep fighting and that's what this team is all about right now."
The Texans will host Tampa Bay next Sunday at noon.
Check out these snapshots from the Texans' Week 2 matchup with the Panthers.