RAMS ROLL OVER HOUSTON

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 media has mixed feelings about the James Harden trade. Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

James Harden was 100-percent exactly right earlier this week when he said the Houston Rockets were "just not good enough."

How could they be? Not when their moody superstar scorer, who makes about half a million dollars per game, shows up chubby, looking like a kielbasa about to explode in the microwave. Hey, some people eat when they're unhappy, it's a defense mechanism. In Harden's case, the only defense he's exhibited this season. At least he had a good excuse for missing pre-season training camp and alienating his teammates - he was busy partying with Cinnamon and Cherish in Atlanta and Vegas without a mask. Worst of all, he went into the tank his last four games in a Rockets uniform, standing around, arms folded, scoring fewer than 20 points each time, all Rockets losses. Fans in the front row were asking him to move, he was blocking their view of players who cared about winning. James Harden sabotaged his own team, a team that offered him $50 million a year to stay. Something that crazy could only happen in professional sports these days.

There's a saying that drives the American labor movement: "a fair day's wage for a fair day's work." It's the motto of the American Federation of Labor. The National Basketball Players Association is not a member. Harden's sulking on the court, cheating the Rockets and their fans, was unforgivable.

Harden, sitting out games while somehow being on the court, forced the Rockets to trade him - and quick - to Brooklyn. The trade, when you ignore the fine print and unindicted co-conspirators Cleveland and Indiana, sent Harden to Brooklyn in exchange for Caris LeVert (immediately flipped for Victor Oladipo), Jarrett Allen, three first-round draft picks and four swapped first-rounders. It's true, when you trade a superstar, you never get back equal value. The other team wins.

If it makes Rockets fans feel any better, the media in New York already has problems with their new problem child. I should say newest problem child. Kyrie Irving plays for the Nets.

"They (the Nets) gave up everybody! There's nothing left now. I just want to cry, It's awful," weeped WFAN Radio talk host Evan Roberts. For those who don't subscribe to weekly Arbitron ratings reports, WFAN is the most powerful, top-rated sports talk station in the Apple.

"You're leading down the road of doom. Harden and Durant could be gone in a year and a half. I'm not convinced this gives them a better chance to win a title. I'm living a nightmare again. They better freaking win."

Circle March 3 on your Rockets schedule. That's when the Brooklyn Nets, with their Big 3 of Kevin Durant, James Harden and possibly Kyrie Irving visit Toyota Center. I hear talk radio salivating over the record jeers that will cascade over Harden's name, although I'm not buying it. Fans don't think like the media does. I'm thinking that Rockets fans will welcome Harden back - one night only - with cheers.

Toyota Center public address announcer Matt Thomas: "Usually when former Rockets come to town for the first time since leaving, I give them a positive introduction. It's up to the fans how to react."

James Harden spent eight seasons with the Rockets. He is a spectacular player who watched other NBA players engineer trades so they could compete for a title. Harden didn't think the Rockets were good enough, and he's right. So he wanted out. We've all been there, a job we didn't like for a company we didn't like, for a boss we didn't respect. Harden wanting to be traded is understandable. How he went about it was deplorable. He hurt his co-workers.

Houston will make Harden pay for his disrespectful departure. He has an upscale restaurant set to open here. The name of the steakhouse will be "13." Harden's business partners may want to change that number ... before the restaurant's telephone number is disconnected. There are plenty of other restaurants in Houston. Rich people who can afford steakhouse prices hold grudges.

Rockets fans searching for a silver lining say, "We got two decent players and a whole bunch of precious first-round picks" for a malcontent who would rather be anywhere (except maybe Sacramento) than Houston." Yes, a bunch of first-round picks does bode well for the future. Anywhere, except maybe Houston.

Houston's draft war room isn't the most successful operation in the NBA. Over the past decade prior to 2000, under the direction of general manager Daryl Morey, the Rockets made 16 draft picks. Not one of them is still in a Rockets uniform, many of them have sought employment outside of America, some outside of basketball. Among their first-round whiffs: Nikola Mirotic, Terrence Jones, Sam Dekker - all out of the league. Best of all, Royce White, who played three whole games in his NBA career and finished with a scoring average of 0.00 points per game.

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