RAMS ROLL OVER HOUSTON

Defensive effort wears down in 33-7 Texans loss

Defensive effort wears down in 33-7 Texans loss
Tom Savage had another rough day. Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

Anyone who thought this game was going to be a blowout wouldn't have been laughed at. The Rams came into the week with the No. 1 scoring offense, averaging 33 points a game and the Texans still had Tom Savage. There was a lot of concern that this game would be over before it even really began but the first half was a surprise. The Texans' defense was strong to start the game and their offense gave them little help. At halftime it looked like it could be a low scoring game. The Rams didn't let it end that way. They made big plays and ran away with the game 33-7. 

The very first drive made Houston fans fear the worst as defensive tackle Aaron Donald got to Savage for a sack fumble that was recovered to the Texans 12-yard line. 

It was the first possession by the Rams that Houston felt like there was hope. They forced a 3-and-out and a field goal by kicker Greg Zuerlein to make the game 3-0. The offenses then traded punts twice and Savage was able to get something going.

He led them on a nine-play drive into the red zone where penalties by the Rams and a few mid-range throws put them in great position to tie the game. For the second week in a row, Ka'imi Fairbairn missed a makeable field goal.

The Rams took over on the 24 yard line and took only 6 plays to go 62 yards. Zuerlein made his second field goal and gave them a 6-0 lead. The big play on that drive for the Rams was a 43-yard screen pass from Jared Goff to Todd Gurley that set them up on the right side of the 50-yard line. The very next play was a 15-yard run by Gurley and it looked like the Texans' defense was falling apart. But they held again and it was time for them to get help from the offense.

They actually did. The Texans took over on their 25-yard line and marched 75 yards in 8 plays for a touchdown. Big passes for Savage included a 17-yarder to Stephen Anderson, an 18-yarder to DeAndre Hopkins, and the 26-yard pass to Bruce Ellington for the score. Unexpectedly the Texans led 7-6, with a defense that was holding the other team at bay.

The Rams must have sensed a momentum shift was needed if they were going to get back in the game. After their offense stalled again they attempted a trick play on 4th and 7. Their punter Johnny Hekker completed a pass to wide receiver Pharoh Cooper. A great open field tackle by safety Kurtis Drummond held the play to 6 yards and gave the ball back to the Texans offense at the Rams 38-yard line. 

But Savage couldn't make anything happen. In 6 plays they made it to the 20-yard line where he threw an interception to linebacker Mark Barron. That led to a 2-minute drill by Jared Goff and another field goal sending Los Angeles into halftime with a 9-7 lead.

A slow start to the second half ended on the Rams second possession. Their 9-7 lead quickly grew to 16-7 when the third play of their second drive was a 94-yard pass from Goff to Robert Woods. For the Texans offense, that was too much. From then on they had to force plays and were not able to make anything happen.

Meanwhile; special teams--another area of weakness--allowed a 27-yard punt return that gave LA great field position and set them up for a three play touchdown. A loss of five on the first play was followed by completions of 24 and then 17 yards to Sammy Watkins, the second a touchdown. Now it was 23-7 Rams and there was no looking back.

One play later LA had the ball back. Linebacker Samson Ebukam sacked Savage and forced a fumble putting the ball at the Texans 12-yard line. One play after that the score was 30-7 on a pass from Goff to Woods, his second touchdown reception of the day and 14 points in 19 seconds for them.

The Texans were done after that. There are no 30 point plays in the NFL. The Rams just controlled the clock on their next possession, taking 6:26 seconds to finish with a field goal and 26 point lead with 7:38 left in the game. Meanwhile their defense was now in prevent mode and could wait for Savage to throw another interception, which he did.

For everyone who thought there was a slim chance the Texans could salvage anything the rest of the way, today was a wake up call. Sure, the Rams have a great offense but Savage turns the ball over too much. Today he threw two interceptions and fumbled twice. He was wildly inaccurate most of the day and held the ball too long. They managed only 89 yards on the ground and despite the one touchdown looked like they couldn't get it done.

There are still 7 games left in the season and each one of those is a chance for something good to go Houston's way. It will start next week at home against a Cardinals team that is equally having its struggles. 

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The Astros are back in action Friday night against Seattle. Composite Getty Image.

The Astros were a season low 12 games under .500 (12-24) on May 8th but were able to turn things around and entered the All-Star break with a respectable 50-46 record.

The turnaround can be attributed to better performances on the field by a multitude of players, but there are still things that could be improved to ensure a successful second half of the season.

As it currently stands, Houston is only one game behind the Seattle Mariners in the American League West division race, and the Astros should have key players returning from injury to further bolster their playoff ambitions.

The return of the King

Kyle Tucker has been on the injured list with a shin contusion for six weeks now, and looks to return in the near future.

The Astros have done surprisingly well without their three-time All-Star outfielder thanks to contributions from guys like Joey Loperfido, Jake Meyers and Marcio Dubon in the outfield. Plus, Jose Altuve, Yordan Alvarez, Alex Bregman, Yanier Diaz and Jeremy Pena carrying the offense while King Tuck is away.

Before getting hurt, the 27-year-old was hitting .266/.395/.584 through 60 games. Houston already has one of the best offenses in baseball, and adding Tucker back would give the Astros another high-quality bat to further bolster their lineup.

The latest update is Tucker has been playing catch and could start a rehab assignment soon if all goes well.

Fix the rotation

Starting pitching has been a major issue this season due to a multitude of injuries.

Cristian Javier, Jose Urquidy and J.P. France have all been lost for the year with various surgeries and guys like Justin Verlander and Luis Garcia are trying to work their way back from their injured list stints.

Garcia was recently pulled from his rehab assignment and won’t pitch again until he is ready. Meanwhile, Verlander could be closer to his return and is throwing bullpen sessions as of July 14. Getting both of these pitchers back at some point this season will be a huge boost to this roster.

The current Astros’ rotation consists of Framber Valdez, Ronel Blanco, Hunter Brown, Spencer Arrighetti and Jake Bloss. Although not a bad rotation by any means, the starting pitching depth is getting pretty thin and Houston can ill afford another injury to their staff.

Astros general manager Dana Brown has been vocal about his desire to add starting pitching, and could have some options heading into the trade deadline. Players like Jack Flaherty, Garrett Crochet or Yusei Kikuchi, just to name a few, could be low risk high reward pitchers the Astros could acquire to add depth to their rotation.

Another option would be to call up A.J. Blubaugh from Sugar Land. The 24-year-old has a 6-2 record with a 3.46 ERA in 71.1 innings pitched this season for the Space Cowboys and could be a necessary depth piece to add to the rotation.

Play Astros baseball

The Astros have been playing better baseball as of late and have won 18 of their last 23 games. With players like Kyle Tucker and Justin Verlander potentially returning soon, there is reason to believe Houston can make the playoffs for the 8th consecutive season.

The 'Stros will try to take sole possession of first place in their division from the Mariners when the two teams meet for three games at T-Mobile Park starting on Friday night.

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