Texans 28, Patriots 22

Finally, Texans knock off Patriots with one of the most impressive, complete performances of the season

Finally, Texans knock off Patriots with one of the most impressive, complete performances of the season
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Deshaun Watson

The Texans pulled off one of the biggest regular season wins in their history, finally beating the New England Patriots 28-22 on Sunday night football. It was one of their most impressive performances in a long time, and the game was not as close as the final score. Here is how it all played out:

Offense

Positives: Deshaun Watson was terrific against the best defense in football. He completed 18 of 25 passes for 234 yards, three touchdowns and ran for another on one of the more awesome trick plays you will ever see. The best part? No turnovers. Duke Johnson was a weapon both running the ball and catching passes out of the backfield...They scored a first-quarter touchdown for the first time since Oct. 27 against the Raiders, thanks to an early interception. Their second touchdown drive was a thing of beauty, a 13-play, 88 yarder. That the Texans had two long drives against a Patriots defense that was on a historic pace was quite the accomplishment.

Negatives: They continue to struggle on first possessions of games, going three and out on their first try in this one; they have scored just three points on 12 opening drives this season. Once again, they had trouble protecting Watson, who was sacked three times and narrowly avoided a couple others. Will Fuller dropped a touchdown pass in the third quarter. Other than that, not many complaints.

Defense

Positives: Despite some struggles in the second half, the defense had one of its best games of the season. They made life miserable for Tom Brady, the secondary played very well, and they came up with play after play. Bradley Roby announced his return with authority, picking off Brady to set up the Texans first touchdown. He also got a dumb 15-yard penalty afterward, but the offense bailed him out. He had another interception, but it was erased by a holding call on him. But later that same series, he sacked Brady on a a blitz. They sacked Brady three times and held him to barely over 50 percent passing on the game.

Negatives: On the Patriots first touchdown drive, the Texans were a mess. They gave up a third and 17, gave up a first down on first and 30 and then failed to cover James White on the touchdown. For a defense that had been terrific all night, the drive was a disaster. The Patriots added two garbage time touchdowns but it was too little too late. Still, whatever Romeo Crennel is doing with the prevent defense needs to stop. They basically folded up as though the game was over and let the Patriots have two easy scores. It didn't matter, but it has before this season and likely will again.

The bottom line...

This was a terrific win for the Texans. Bill Belichick was 5-0 against O'Brien before Sunday night's game. The Texans had an excellent game plan, executed it well, and moved to 8-4 on the season, keeping pace with the Chiefs for the three seed and staying a game ahead of surging Tennessee. The Texans also checked off another box on the season. They beat a good team on the road in Kansas City. They beat a Colts team that has had their number. And finally, they have slain the Patriots dragon. In a primetime game, no less. They have two almost gift wins left on the schedule, so 10-6 would get them at least a wild card. The Ravens game aside, this team is really playing well and will only get better. The secondary, a weakness to start the season, has become a strength, and Watson is improving every week. Also, some credit to O'Brien and Crennel, who had terrific game plans (up until Crennel started up his prevent defense).

This was just a great all-around win, and the Texans are now 19-6 in their last 25 games. That's strong.

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The Astros are back in action Friday night against the A's. Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images.

The Astros need to whip up on the Oakland A’s this weekend in California as they did in sweeping four from them last week at Minute Maid Park. That was the start of a homestand which ended up with seven wins in 10 games. That goes down as a successful homestand, especially since it felt like the Astros’ prior winning homestand came while Donald Trump was President (it actually started in late July). Still, 7-3 doesn’t feel like a smashing success with it ending by dropping two of three games to the lowly Los Angeles Angels.

It is not exactly with bated breath that anyone should be waiting on Jose Abreu’s return to the lineup, but it’s coming. It should not be on this road trip. After the three games with the A’s the Astros move up the coast for a big four game set with American League West leading Seattle. The M's start all right-handed pitchers. That is no time to sit Jon Singleton to see if Abreu has managed to pump a few drops of gas into his tank while spending the better part of this month at the Astros’ minor league complex. It’s not as if Singleton has been stellar since Abreu’s departure, but by comparison, he’s been Lou Gehrig-esque. The series with the Mariners isn’t make or break but the Astros are strongly advised to get at least a split. That it should be Framber Valdez starting the opener Monday night doesn’t breed tremendous confidence, coming off his meltdown outing against the Angels. Another start, another opportunity.

The Mariners are at the Nationals this weekend, starting it a mere four and a half games ahead of the Astros. In four of the five other divisions the Astros' 22-28 record would have them at least 10 games off the lead.

One step forward, two steps back

Speaking of washed-up first basemen, Joey Votto should be a future Hall of Famer. The 40-year-old Canadian is trying to make it back to the big leagues via the minor leagues with the Toronto Blue Jays. Votto was an absolutely tremendous player with the Cincinnati Reds. As the Beastie Boys said, “Ch-check it out.” Over Jeff Bagwell’s first ten seasons with the Astros he hit .305 with a .417 on-base percentage and .552 slugging percentage, yielding a phenomenal .970 OPS. Over Votto’s first ten full seasons with the Reds: .313/.429/.540 for an exactly phenomenal .970 OPS. Where am I going with this? Read on!

Votto had phenomenal strike zone and bat control. He turned 30 during the 2013 season. That year Votto had 581 at bats. He popped out to an infielder once the entire season. Alex Bregman turned 30 the third day of this season. Bregman popped out to the shortstop four times in the Angels series. So much for Bregman’s “knob past the ball” epiphany that saw him hit three home runs over two games last week. Going into the weekend Bregman has one hit in his last 23 at bats. His season stats continue to be pitiful: a .209 batting average and .607 OPS. Bregman has only struck out once in the 23 at bats of his latest deep freeze. It’s that so much of his contract is feeble. There is a lot of season left for Bregman to build up to decent numbers, but one-third of the regular season will be complete after the Astros play the Mariners Monday night.

While Bregman’s season to date has basically been one long slump, Jose Altuve is in a funk of his own. Since blasting a homer Monday, Altuve is hitless in 12 at bats. Mini-slumps happen to everybody but Altuve’s woes trace back farther. Over his last 15 games, Altuve is batting .175. He last had more than one hit in a game May 5. He’s also drawn just two walks over those 15 games. It’s tough to ever sit Altuve, but he’s probably playing a little too much. Altuve turned 34 earlier this month. He has started 48 of the Astros 50 games at second base. Mauricio Dubon should be getting a start per week at second (and probably another at third given Bregman’s level of play). Over a full season not playing the field once per week still means 135 starts. Altuve should mix in some more at designated hitter (he has just one DH game so far this season). Wear and tear is a real thing, players don’t grow less susceptible to it as they get to their mid-30s.

King Tuck

On the flip side, Kyle Tucker! So far this season, he’s making himself as much money as Bregman is costing himself. Only Shohei Ohtani (1.069) starts the weekend action with an OPS higher than Tucker’s 1.060. The law of averages dictates that Tucker won’t finish as high as 1.060, but if he does, it would be the greatest full-length season offensive performance in Astros’ history. Jeff Bagwell posted an absurd 1.201 OPS in the strike-shortened 1994 campaign. Yordan Alvarez came in at 1.067 in his 87 games played rookie season of 2019. Lance Berkman’s 2001 was a monster. Enron Field was more hitter-friendly then than Minute Maid Park is now, but Berkman’s numbers were “Oh My Gosh!” spectacular. .331 batting average, 55 doubles (second in franchise history to Craig Biggio's 56 in 1999), 34 homers, .430 on-base percentage, .620 slugging percentage, and 1.051 OPS. And that was just Berkman’s second full season in the majors. Lance finished fifth in National League Most Valuable Player Award voting. Giant-headed Barry Bonds won MVP with his 73 home runs among other sicko stats.

* Catch our weekly Stone Cold ‘Stros podcast. Brandon Strange, Josh Jordan, and I discuss varied Astros topics. The first post for the week generally goes up Monday afternoon (second part released Tuesday) via The SportsMap HOU YouTube channel or listen to episodes in their entirety at Apple, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

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