FALCON POINTS

Best and worst of Texans on display  in heartbreaking opening loss to Saints

Michele C. Watson/Houston Texans

Oh, so close. Again.

The Texans played an instant classic Monday night, showing off all their best features - and their worst - in a dramatic, heartbreaking loss to the Saints. Deshaun Watson once again showed off his clutch gene. So, too, did Drew Brees. In a frenetic last minute, the Saints scored on the final play to send the Texans home disappointed.

It was an incredible finish to a game that could set the tone for the 2019 season.

From a fan's perspective, the first game of the season takes on extra meaning. The preseason teaches us nothing, so the excitement of seeing what your team can be is what makes opening night special.

In reality, it does not mean a lot in the grand scheme. Some teams are better prepared for the start of the season than others. Most teams are healthy, which they will not be as the season goes on. Some teams don't develop their identity until several games into the season. Others hit their stride right away.

Last year, the Texans took a while, starting 0-3 before getting a miracle win in Indianapolis and going on to finish 11-5.

Monday night, they almost pulled off an opening night miracle, falling to the Saints 30-28 on a last second 58-yard field goal. We saw the potential of what they can be, and what their issues will be. Let's take a look:

OFFENSE

Positives: Deshaun Watson and the offense have a chance to be explosive. He pulled off a huge, clutch final drive, hitting DeAndre Hopkins and Kenny Stills with big plays to give he Texans the lead with under 40 seconds to play.

They had more than their share of moments otherwise, with Watson throwing three TDs and an interception, leading a balanced attack and making plays with both his arms and legs. He looked poised and professional, other than the interception. The running game looked better than expected at times, with Carlos Hyde and Duke Johnson both making plays running and in the passing game, and teaming with Watson to average almost 8 yards per carry. When things were clicking, they played Bill O'Brien's perfect idea of complementary football. Watson finished with 268 yards, three TDs, 1 pick on 20 of 30 passing and added another 40 yards and a touchdown on the ground. He played well enough win the game.

Negative: The new offensive line was just like the old one, and it limited what they could do. It was basically the same starters as last year with Laremy Tunsil at left tackle. Tunsil looked a lot like a guy who had only been practicing with the team for a week. For what they paid to get him, he has to be better. In general, Watson took too many hits besides the six sacks. On his touchdown run, he should have gone out of bounds, but instead dived for the end zone and had to go to the injury tent. He simply can't take these hits and last the season. Some of it was on the O line; some on Watson. DeAndre Hopkins had some uncharacteristic drops, and an unnecessary penalty after Watson's interception. But overall, the struggles to protect Watson - the dominant theme last year - were on full display again.

DEFENSE

Positives: They got a red zone pick to stall a Saints drive and held New Orleans to just three points in the first half. But the Saints also missed a field goal and the Texans were able to control the clock and keep the defense off the field. Whitney Mercilus had a pick and a sack and looked good.

Negatives: With no Jadeveon Clowney, the Saints were able to double and triple team J.J. Watt, essentially taking him out of the game. The secondary, a mess last year, looks to be every bit as concerning this year. Yes, Drew Brees and the Saints are going to torch a lot of secondaries. But this was a serious problem for the Texans in 2018, and looks to be again. They allowed a 40-yard pass on third down late in the game, hurting their chances, then allowed Brees to get the Saints in field goal position with less than 40 seconds to play. They also struggled stopping the run - allowing a ridiculous 7.0 yards per carry, something else Clowney helped with last season. In essence, the Texans just aren't good enough to stop a high powered offense and will have to outscore teams like this. It won't be easy.

The bottom line

The Texans look very much like a team that will be able to handle mediocre squads and slow down average offenses. They are going to have a tough time with the explosive offenses on their schedule. The Saints are a legitimate Super Bowl contender and there is no shame losing in their building. But if the Texans want to be serious contenders in the AFC, they have to find ways to win against teams that have better talent. It will have to come with improvement on the offensive line, because the defense looks very shaky. Sean Payton's staff made better adjustments in the second half, but that was to be expected. All in all, not a bad effort for Week 1, and they should win a lot of games if they play like this.

Just not this time.

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Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

After splitting the first two games of the series, including the extra-inning affair on Saturday, the Astros looked to defeat the Angels on Saturday to secure the series win and leave Los Angeles with a winning record. On the mound were two pitchers looking to shrug off bad debuts to the season. Here is how the game went on Sunday afternoon:

Final Score (11 innings): Astros 6, Angels 5.

Record: 5-4, first in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Blake Taylor (1-0, 0.00 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Jacob Barnes (0-2, 3.86 ERA).

James walks his way into trouble

After a disastrous start to his pitching season where he was unable to record an out, Shohei Ohtani was able to sit down the Astros 1-2-3 on just eight pitches in the top of the first. However, Houston would take advantage of his struggling command in the top of the second, working three straight walks to load the bases with no outs. They then would get two more walks with two outs to grab an early 2-0 lead and end Ohtani's day early yet again.

Meanwhile, on the mound for Houston was Josh James. He, too, allowed some walks but was able to work around them in the first two innings, erasing two in the bottom of the first and one in the second for two scoreless innings.

That changed in the third when he would walk the bases loaded with two outs before Albert Pujols continued his nearly twenty-year reign of being a thorn in Houston's side, hitting a grand slam, Los Angeles' first hit of the day, to put the Angels up 4-2. James would get the final out of the third, but that would conclude his day, making it two straight starts he would be unable to reach the fourth inning. His final line: 3.0 IP, 1 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 6 BB, 4K, 1 HR.

Valdez impresses as Bregman makes it a one-run game in the seventh

Framber Valdez was first out of Houston' bullpen, likely to try and eat up several innings. He would accomplish that mission, getting through the next three innings scoreless, holding the 4-2 score. It remained locked on that score despite Houston getting runners on base in each of those innings, as they would struggle to turn players on base into runs yet again in this series.

Alex Bregman gave the Astros a spark in the top of the seventh, leading off the inning with a solo home run to straightaway center to make it a one-run game. Valdez returned for yet another inning, another scoreless frame to keep it 4-3 going to the eighth.

Reddick ties it in the ninth, Astros win in extras

Houston would threaten to tie in the top of the eighth, getting a pinch-hitting Carlos Correa to third base after a single to leadoff the inning, but would be unable to score him, leaving it at 4-3. Valdez would record another scoreless inning in the bottom of the eighth, giving the Astros one more chance to tie or go ahead in the top of the ninth.

Michael Brantley led off the inning with a double and was pinch-run by Myles Straw, who would score the tying run on an RBI-single by Josh Reddick, but the Angels would hold the Astros there. Valdez remained in the game trying to push extra innings and would do so, erasing a leadoff walk.

Kyle Tucker started the top of the tenth on second base and moved to third on a sac fly by Carlos Correa to start the inning before scoring on another sac fly, this time from pinch-hitting Garrett Stubbs to give Houston a 5-4 lead. Valdez, well above his comfortable pitch count, was still on the mound in the bottom of the tenth, and allowed his first run, though unearned, on a leadoff RBI-single to tie the game again at 5-5. He would get one more out before Houston moved to another reliever, bringing in Andre Scrubb.

After an intentional walk to Albert Pujols, Scrubb would walk the bases loaded before getting a popout, then Houston would turn to Blake Taylor. Taylor would come through, getting a big strikeout to send the game to the eleventh. Springer started on second in the top of the inning and would score and put the Astros back in front on a one-out RBI-single by Alex Bregman. In the bottom half, Taylor would get through the inning, giving Houston the win and series victory.

Up Next: The Astros will have a day off tomorrow before picking up a three-game set with the Diamondbacks in Arizona on Tuesday. The opening game of that series will be at 8:10 PM Central. While Arizona is expected to start Madison Bumgarner, the Astros will have to pivot as they had Framber Valdez slated for that start, who made a lengthy appearance out of the bullpen on Sunday.

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