Texans 27, Patriots 20

Five observations from the Texans 27-20 win over the Patriots

Five observations from the Texans 27-20 win over the Patriots
Texans win! Photo by Getty Images

The Texans got just their third win of there season on Sunday, beating the New England Patriots 27-20. Five obersvations from the win:

1) A look to the future: While this season is done, the Texans need some young players to solidify some spots for next season. Keke Coutee could be one of them. He started his career well, but injuries and Bill O'Brien's dog house stymied him. Pressed into service Sunday, he had just two catches for 10 yards, but one went for a touchdown, and he also returned punts. Maybe he can be a useful piece moving forward. Meanwhile, Jordan Akins looked like a beast with five catches for 83 yards. On defense, Tyrell Adams was hit and miss, but he continues to play well and could be a part of next year's rebuild. Rookie Jonathan Greenard had his first career sack. Finally, Justin Reid has regressed since his excellent rookie year, but on Sunday he played one of his better games. The Texans will need him to play at this level down the road.

2) Deshaun's big statistical season continues. Watson threw for 344 yards and 2 touchdowns and rushed for another 36 yards and a score. His numbers are going to look fantastic at the end of the season. It's baffling that a team with that kind of quarterback production is 3-7. There have been a lot of empty yards there in some blowouts, but on raw numbers, Watson has been terrific. He has not thrown a pick in six of the 10 games this season, and has not thrown one for five straight games. He is on pace for over 4,000 yards and 30 touchdowns and he has not lost a fumble this season. That's impressive.

3) Give the OL some credit. Laremy Tunsil was a scratch with an illness, but Roderick Johnson filled in and did an OK job. They had some penalties, but they also gave Watson tons of time to throw the ball and did not allow a sack. They did not run block worth a damn, but that almost goes without saying. On that note...

4) Stop us if you have heard this before...The Texans could not run the ball other than Watson. Duke Johnson had 15 yards on 10 carries. C.J. Prosise had 4 on 3. Simply pathetic. It might be time to look at other team's practice squads and bring in some new blood. What could it hurt? Whatever they are doing just isn't working. Meanwhile, they did do a nice job slowing New England's terrific running game on the other side of the ball. Holding the Patriots to 86 yards is a big win for this group. As a matter of fact...

5) The defense is still terrible, but...They don't force turnovers. They can't cover homeless guys at receiver. And did anyone think New England was not going to score a touchdown on the next to last drive? But for the first time since the Bush Administration (pick either one), they came up with a big stop on fourth down to clinch the game. Overall, they have shown some improvement over the past few weeks. The Browns ran for over 200 yards, but the defense held them to 10 (what should have been 17 points), which should have been good enough to win. On Sunday, they sacked Cam Newton a couple times and made a few stops, which is how this team is going to have to win games. The formula is simple; stop the other team a few times and hope Deshaun plays elite. That was what the Texans did on Sunday, and it led to a big win.

The bottom line: This was the Texans best performance of the season, and first win over a team not named Jacksonville. It's too little, too late, but at least the fans had something to smile about. That's been very rare in 2020.

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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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