GAME OBSERVATIONS

The good, bad and ugly from the Texans OT win over the Cowboys

Ka'imi Fairbairn (left) gets some love from J.J. Watt after Sunday night's game. Bob Levey/Getty Images

The Texans got a hard-fought 19-16 overtime victory over the team that resides up 45 North. Both teams are now 2-3, but only one of them looks as if it is ready for a playoff run. Let’s take a look as how I saw it play out:

The Good

-Deshaun Watson had a good game. He went 31 for 42 with 314 yards and a touchdown. He also rushed 10 times for 40 yards. Watson seems to be in a much better rhythm.

-DeAndre Hopkins made the play of the game with a 49-yard catch in overtime. He made three Cowboy defenders miss tackles en route to putting the Texans in position for Ka’imi Fairbairn’s 36-yard game-winning field goal. His patented one-handed handling of the ball even on that play is frustrating, but more on that later.

-Bill O’Brien’s decision to go for the touchdown on fourth down a few seconds before halftime was the right move. Sure it took points off the board if you assume the field goal would have been made, but up 10-6 and getting the ball back after the half at home on Sunday Night Football against an intra-state rival, I would have gone for it as well. But…

The Bad

-…the play called on the fourth down was ridiculous. Mere feet away at the goal line is time for big boy football. Line up and run the ball down their throats or mash them in the face.

-Hopkins had a fumble on the Texans’ first possession of the second half which exacerbated not getting points before halftime. His loosey goosey carrying of the football caught up with him as it was easily punched out. Mishandling of the ball by showing off your hand size/strength is stupid.

-Overtime two weeks in a row, partly due to poor effort and coaching decisions isn’t an ideal way to get to 2-3. Hell, 2-3 isn’t impressive either. Especially when you factor in the offensive play calling that didn’t change until last week’s win against the Colts.

The Ugly

-Offensive line play continues to be an issue. Watson got hit way too much for my liking. Sure, some of his hits are avoidable, but the hit that caused him to throw the pick at the end of the fourth quarter was due to not being able to handle the blitz on the right side by Jaylon Smith.

-Speaking of that pick, it was another bad decision Watson made under duress. He also missed the underneath option on a failed potential red zone touchdown throw again. As much of a reputation as he’s gotten for being so calm, he’s often made poor decisions when pressured. That play could’ve ended the game if it was returned any better.

-The run game continues to struggle. A paltry 88 yards on 31 carries with almost half of that coming from your quarterback is pitiful. This team led the league in rushing after the first three games and has fallen flat in its last two.

A win is a win in the NFL. But some wins feel like loss, just like last week, this feel like a loss. The Texans played good enough to win, but you can’t expect a team to keep this up. Barely scraping by is no way to portray a commitment to winning. This organization can’t keep settling for mediocrity. The fan base will only hold for so long. Eventually, they’ll turn on the team and ownership will only have themselves to blame. Here’s to hope, which seems to be enough for Texans’ fans right now.

Most Popular

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome

Listen Live

ESPN Houston 97.5 FM
Good news for Jose Altuve. Photo by Harry How/Getty Images.

One never knows how things will play out but of the known General Manager candidates, Jim Crane nailed it in hiring Dana Brown out of the Atlanta Braves' organization where he was Vice President of Scouting. The 55-year-old Brown's scouting and development pedigree is stellar. The Braves have been a talent-producing machine in recent years. Obviously all the credit isn't Brown's but his four years with the Braves preceded by a productive pipeline he was part of in Toronto speak highly of him. Not that it was or should have been the guiding principle to Crane's decision-making, but the Astros now have the only African-American General Manager in Major League Baseball (Ken Williams is Executive Vice President of the Chicago White Sox).

Brad Ausmus is a super-smart guy, but if had he gotten the GM gig it would have been in large part because he was teammate besties with Jeff Bagwell. While “It's not what you know it's who you know” plays a role in many, many hires, it would have been a poor rationale for tabbing Ausmus. Maybe Ausmus would have done a great job. Maybe Brown does a lousy job. Brown was the much more strongly credentialed candidate. While Bagwell has moved way up Crane's confidante list, Brown played college baseball with Craig Biggio at Seton Hall.

Speaking of Halls…

If I could tell you as absolute fact that exactly two members of the 2023 Houston Astros will someday make the Baseball Hall of Fame, who are you picking? Jose Altuve isn’t a lock just yet but he is obvious pick number one. So for the second spot are you going with Alex Bregman or Yordan Alvarez? We’ll get back to this a couple of paragraphs down.

As was basically a given, former Astro (and Phillie, Met, Red Sox, and Brave) Billy Wagner was not elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame this week, but as I suggested last week the voting returns were very favorable toward Wagner making the Hall next year, or if not next year in his final year of eligibility on the Baseball Writers Association ballot for the Class of 2025. “Wags” in the Class of ’24 is looking good. Wagner jumped from 51 percent to 68 percent “put him in” votes. The only guy this year to get the necessary 75 percent for election is worthy third baseman Scott Rolen. Two years ago Rolen got 53 percent of the votes needed, last year 63 percent, before getting the call to Cooperstown with 76.5 percent this year. Wagner going from 51 to 68 to 75-plus looks likely. Of course it’s not as if Wagner can pad his case with a good 2023 season, but this is how the process works. The other ballot returnee well positioned to make it next year is former Colorado first baseman Todd Helton. Unlike this year there’s a sure-fire first time ballot guy going in next year. Third baseman Adrian Beltre will undoubtedly wear a Texas Rangers cap on his plaque.

As expected Carlos Beltran didn’t come close to election in his first year of eligibility, but drawing 46 percent of the votes sets him up well to eventually get the Cooperstown call. Beltran was a fabulous player and his Hall credentials are solid. However, no one reasonable would argue that Carlos Beltran was as good or better than Barry Bonds. In his first year of eligibility back in 2013 Bonds garnered 36 percent of the vote. There has been some turnover in the voter pool over the last decade, but it's clear that Beltran’s central role in the Astros’ sign stealing scheme was not held against him to the extent that PED use (actual and/or suspected) was held against Bonds and Roger Clemens. And Alex Rodriguez. And Sammy Sosa. And Manny Ramirez. And others. Foremost right now that’s encouraging for Beltran, but it’s also encouraging down the line for fellow Astros of 2017-18.

What does this mean for Jose Altuve?

If Jose Altuve retired today (perish the thought!) he’d have a good case for the Hall. He had superstar seasons in 2016, 2017, and 2022, and has five other seasons that while not in the realm of his three best certainly rate as excellent. If you judge a player by his five best seasons, there aren’t 10 second basemen in the history of the sport who’d rank ahead of Altuve. Among those who clearly would: Joe Morgan, Rogers Hornsby, Eddie Collins, and Nap Lajoie. Among those four only Morgan played more recently than 1937. Then there’s a group of arguable guys like Jackie Robinson, Ryne Sandberg, Roberto Alomar, and yes Craig Biggio. Altuve has had the prime of a Hall of Famer. What sort of final numbers will he accrue? In late May or early June he should reach the 2000 hit plateau. How many more prime years does Altuve have left before inevitable decline? His career batting average is .307. Four years ago it was .316. Will Altuve retire a .300 hitter?

Bregman or Alvarez? Bregman gets extra points for being an everyday third baseman as opposed to a left fielder-designated hitter, but by age alone Yordan is the better play. Bregman turns 29 on opening day this year. Yordan doesn’t turn 26 until late June. When Bregman was 25 (2019 season) he put up a season more valuable than Alvarez’s tremendous 2022. In the three years since Bregman hasn’t approached that level, though his big second half last season could be a springboard back to that stratosphere. Yordan is in that stratosphere and figures to stay there for a while if his health holds up.

Can't get enough Astros coverage?

Stone Cold ‘Stros is the weekly Astro-centric podcast I am part of alongside Brandon Strange and Josh Jordan. On our regular schedule it airs live at 3PM Monday on the SportsMapHouston YouTube channel, is available there for playback at any point, and also becomes available in podcast form at outlets galore. Such as:

Apple Podcasts

AudioBoom

Google Podcasts

iHeart

RSS

Spotify

Stitcher

YouTube

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome