Team scrimmage news and notes

Deshaun Watson and Randall Cobb established chemistry during Texans' team scrimmage

Photo Courtesy of the Houston Texans

Back up quarterback A.J. McCarron and running back Buddy Howell were left baffled by the results of the previous play. With the ball in their possession, there was a miss-communication between McCarron and Howell that resulted in a failed handoff. As the ball fell to the ground bouncing freely, outside linebacker Jacob Martin gained its possession to score a touchdown for the defense.

Head coach and general manager Bill O'Brien described Martin's defensive act as an example of the high "energy" he plays with, and it was one of several highlights that took place inside the NRG Stadium, Thursday night, during the Houston Texans' team scrimmage.

On a night when the Texans witnessed Deshaun Watson establishing chemistry with Randall Cobb on a few deep throws and an improved pass-rush defense, ended with their star quarterback along with Kenny Stills, Michael Thomas, and J.J. Watt leading a discussion at midfield about social injustice. The passionate team meeting was the pinnacle of Houston's team scrimmage.

"We spoke with players and we just felt that, relative to everything that's going on, we had some good discussions today — these are ongoing discussions," O'Brien said. "As a team, we decided that we want to go out there and scrimmage — get something done. We play two weeks from now, so we felt like that was important. We also felt like it was important to give the guys time to talk about things."

The uproar over the shooting of Jacob Blake — an unarmed African American male who was shot seven times by Wisconsin police on Sunday — reached its tipping point in the world of sports on Wednesday.

The Milwaukee Bucks set off a chain reaction by boycotting their playoff game against the Orlando Magic that resulted in an abundance of professional teams canceling their planned events. In the NFL, nine teams canceled practice — including the Washington Football Team, who postponed their scheduled team scrimmage on Thursday. But with their season set to begin against the Chiefs in less than two weeks, the Texans — as a team — felt it was best to proceed with their planned scrimmage while keeping the fight against social injustice at the forefront.

Stills, who was emotionally distraught during practice on Monday, had a performance that could have been detrimental to an opponent team's defense. He connected with Watson on several pass attempts, and recorded a touchdown in the process. The team scrimmage might have been enough for safety A.J. Moore to gain more playing time in 2020, as the third-year defensive back notched a sack and an interception on McCarron.

Unfortunately, Houston's team scrimmage did not end without a visit from the always unwanted injury bug. Wide receiver Chad Hansen sustained an apparent shoulder injury after taking a hit by cornerback Lonnie Johnson Jr. O'Brien said there will be more information on Hansen's injury on Friday.

As the players departed the field to head to the locker room, one significant theme stood out following Thursday's team scrimmage. The Texans' fight to help end systemic racism is just as serious as their quest to capture their first Vince Lombardi Trophy in 2020.

"I think Doc Rivers, what he said after their game really hit home for me," O'Brien said. "I think that's something that should be played on loop. It was so passionate and just so real. I just have a lot of respect for Doc. I think Andy Reid had some great things to say. I would say the big word is 'empathy' and how can we come together and figure out how to put actions in place that create change."

"I think that's what our players are talking about. Our players are very bright guys and we have a lot of good pros on this team. They wanted to scrimmage and they also wanted to talk about what's going on. So, we'll just keep working on it."

Absent from Thursday's scrimmage: Dylan Cole. Brandin Cooks. Isaiah Coulter. Keke Coutee. Phillip Gaines. Cullen Gillaspia. Jonathan Greenard. J.J. Watt.

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Houston now focused on postseason

Altuve and Correa homer, Astros drop final regular-season game

Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

With no playoff impact at stake if the Astros won or lost the game, Houston took Sunday's final regular-season game as a chance to get their lineup a few more at-bats before shifting focus to Tuesday's first game of the post-season. Here is a quick recap of the game against the Rangers:

Final Score: Rangers 8, Astros 4.

Record: 29-31, second in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Wes Benjamin (2-1, 4.84 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Chase De Jong (0-1, 14.73 ERA).

Houston's main bats get a final tune-up

Knowing they'd only have a couple of at-bats to work with, some of Houston's big bats took advantage, starting with Jose Altuve. He crushed a pitch in the top of the first, a solo homer to put the Astros in front 1-0. After the Rangers tied the game 1-1 in the bottom of the second, Altuve started the third with a walk before moving to third base on a Michael Brantley single, which improved Brantley's season average to .300.

Aledmys Diaz would pick up the RBI on a groundout to score Altuve, putting Houston back in front 2-1. In Correa's last at-bat in the top of the fourth, he extended the lead to 3-1 with a solo home run of his own.

Rangers hand Astros a loss to end the regular season

After getting the early run against Chase De Jong, the Rangers would put together a big inning against him in the fourth. After two one-out singles, Rougned Odor would give Texas their first lead of the day on a three-run homer to make it 4-3.

De Jong would continue to struggle in the inning, getting just one more out while loading the bases, prompting a move to the bullpen to bring in Nivaldo Rodriguez to try and eat up more innings. The Rangers greeted him with a two-RBI single to extend their lead to 6-3 before ending the fourth. Odor would hit his second home run of the game in the bottom of the fifth, a solo shot to make it a four-run lead at 7-3.

Rodriguez allowed another run in the bottom of the seventh, making it 8-3. Diaz, who drove in a run earlier, would account for another RBI in the top of the eighth, getting Houston's third solo homer of the day. That would make it an 8-4 game, which would go final as the Rangers would win the regular season's last game.

Up Next: Houston's first game of the playoffs will be on Tuesday, with the start time and opponent TBD while the rest of today's games wrap up, and the schedule is announced. Regardless, the Astros are expected to begin that best-of-three series with Zack Greinke (3-3, 4.03 ERA).

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