THE BIG DEAL

Arrival of Verlander, Upton gave Astros star power and a World Series title

The arrival of Justin Verlander (and Kate Upton) put the Astros over the top. Roland Martinez/Getty Images

The Astros won the World Series by two seconds.

That was how much time was left when they completed the deal to land Justin Verlander on Aug. 31. And make no mistake, without Verlander, the Astros don’t even make -- much less win -- the World Series.

Verlander was near perfect as an Astro. He did not win a game in the Series, but his presence was huge.

He brought a Hall of Fame resume. He brought star power. And he brought Kate Upton.

When it mattered most, he helped bring Houston a championship.

It almost did not happen. The deal went down to the wire because Verlander was not sure he wanted to come to Houston. In reality, he wanted to go to LA, where he has a home. But the Dodgers did not want to take on his contract, and instead opted for Yu Darvish.

And Houston will be forever grateful.

The city was reeling from Hurricane Harvey. The Astros were faltering, losing the best record in the AL to the Indians. Players grumbled about the team not making any moves at the first trade deadline. A promising season was falling apart.

Then came Aug. 31. The Astros worked out a deal, but had to wait for Verlander to approve it. Phone calls were made back and forth. Verlander and Upton debated, then decided. The paperwork went in two seconds before the deadline. Verlander’s arrival energized the city. The team. He was instantly embraced by both, and immediately made himself at home. By the end of the season, it felt like he had been here forever.

And the rest is history.

Astros history, as in the first World Series win in the franchise’s long, somewhat checkered past.

And make no mistake, it does not happen without the Verlander trade.  

The end result was a moment that was over 50 years in the making.

And it all came down to two seconds.

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A WEEKLY REVIEW OF CRENNEL'S COACHING

Now my job: Texans feast on Lions

Photo by Getty Images.

Thanksgiving is full of tradition. There's the typical family gathering, large meal, and of course, football. Sometimes, new traditions are added and old ones are retired. I think the Texans did both in their impressive 41-25 win over the Lions in Detroit. Old traditions were carried on (Lions losing on Thanksgiving), some were put to rest (Texans not being able to get turnovers), and new ones were started (multiple passing touchdowns by Deshaun Watson in six straight games).

The fact that this defense got three turnovers in the game was unbelievable! They got all three in the first quarter within the span of eight plays. JJ Watt's pick-six was insane. He went for a batted ball, ended up catching it, and ran it in. They forced Jonathan Williams to fumble on the Lions' very next play from scrimmage and recovered it. On the Lions' next possession, the Texans recovered yet another fumble after the challenge was reversed. Great call by the coaching staff to challenge and win. The defense looked good. Tyrell Adams stood out because he was in on those two fumbles, made 17 total tackles with 14 of them being solo tackles. They also brought pressure that seemed to make Matthew Stafford very inaccurate and resulted in four sacks. I give defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver credit for knowing he needs to blitz to get pressure, but the run defense has to improve.

The offense kept the tempo up in this game as well. The spread and hurry-up were used to keep the Lions already staggered defense off balance. Knowing the Lions were without a couple defensive backs, I thought it would be the perfect marriage of their defense and the Texans' offense. A buddy asked before the game about the line (Texans -3.5) and the over/under (52.5). I told him bet the Texans and the over because neither team can play defense and both have good quarterbacks. Offensive coordinator Tim Kelly put together another good game plan and Watson executed it flawlessly. One route combo I saw later on in the game I particularly enjoyed. Two receivers were tight to the left side. Cooks ran a hook/curl and settled in the middle of the zone while Fuller ran a vertical route. Duke Johnson ran a swing route to that same side. It left Cooks wide open as the attention went to Johnson in the flat, Fuller deep, and the action to the other play side. Route combos are important because it gives the quarterback different reads as he goes through his progressions and lets him pick apart the defense based on what he sees. Combine that with Watson's play and the way Kelly has changed his play calling now that he's liberated from he who shall not be named, we're seeing a beautiful thing.

As good as things were, there's still room for improvement. The defense gives up way too many easy yards, both run and pass. They can't get pressure bringing only four and will often give up big plays if the blitz is picked up. Plus the run defense is still an issue as evidenced by the Lions' first possession of the second half. The Lions ran the ball 10 plays straight for a total of 58 yards on that drive. Utterly ridiculous! Watson was good (17/25 318 yards and four touchdowns), but he missed two more touchdowns with passes slightly off, and continues to hold onto the ball too long at times. The difference between these two issues I've presented here is the fact that Watson has so played well, his "issues" are minor and very correctable, while the defense is terrible and there's no easy fix in sight. But let Romeo Crennel and Anthony Weaver tell it, they're getting the most out of these guys and they're playing disciplined.

The thought that this team may actually creep into the playoff picture may take shape better after next week if they can beat the Colts. I doubt it, but it is getting interesting. Let's see what else happens around them because they need help getting there.

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