Here are 5 important takeaways from the Texans loss to the Bengals

Deshaun Watson
Another Sunday, and another loss for the Texans. Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images
Texans vs Jags: Good, bad & ugly London Edition

In the Texans' 37-31 loss to the Bengals, there was more of the same old Texans. There was also a couple bright spots and some causes for concern. They didn't quit and kept fighting, but they also made crucial mistakes that led to the loss. A play here and a play there, the outcome could've changed. Or, maybe it was meant to turn out the way it did.

1) One thing that reminded me of the same old Texanswas their slow start on both offense and defense. Their first possession on offense ended in a three and out. It was the eighth time this season they've started a game with a three and out. Starting half your games by giving the ball right back to the opponent isn't ideal. Neither is allowing your opponent to score on their first possession of the game. This was the ninth straight game the Texans have allowed an opening possession score which is the longest single season streak in the last 20 years. Slow starts are a surefire way to put a lesser talented team at a disadvantage.

2) Keion Crossen played a good game at corner. At 5'10 185lbs, Crossen did his best to slow down the Bengals' twin towers at receiver. A.J. Green and Tee Higgins are both 6'4 and weigh 210lbs and 215lbs respectively. Not an easy task to shut them completely out or contain them for that matter, but I thought Crossen did an admirable job. He should be on this roster next season for sure because he's cheap labor and could use the reps to get better before being offered an extension.

3)Brandin Cooks and David Johnson both showed flashes of their past selves in this game. Johnson had 15 touches for 139 yards and two touchdowns, while Cooks caught seven passes for 141 yards and a touchdown. Was their performances worth keeping them? Maybe, maybe not. I'd be more inclined to keep Cooks, but Johnson can't do anything to make me think he should stay on this team past this season.

4)Watson piled up more impressive passing numbers again this week. However, he took a couple shots that gave everyone a scare. While he's been on fire lately, I've seen a couple instances in which I wish he had a tad more accuracy. On Cooks' 50-yard reception, he had the corner beat and Watson threw a Matt Schaub-esque deep ball in which Cooks had to wait for. They settled for a field goal on the drive, but that could've been a touchdown with more air time leading Cooks. On another deep ball to Cooks, Watson overthrew him. He did the same to Steven Mitchell on a key 3rd down before halftime. These are things Watson will get right. One can hardly blame him considering he was playing behind another makeshift offensive line.

5)Another week, another one score loss for the Texans. This now makes seven one score losses of their 11 on the season. The optimist would say "this team is a few plays here and there away from being 11-4 instead of 4-11." The pessimist would say "this team is trash and will be trash for years to come wasting Deshaun Watson's prime years!" One could argue either side and make valid points. I'd tend to side with the pessimist at this point, but could make a slight case for the optimist. Let's hope the new head coach and general manager can change the culture

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Jose Abreu looks lost at the plate. Composite Getty Image.

It’s a long baseball season, sure the Astros have started 4-8, and there are plenty of fingers to point around. But there’s no need to push the panic button.

Not yet.

Last year, the Astros didn’t start much better – they were 5-7 after a dozen games. It just seemed different, though. Nobody was wringing hands over the slow start. After all, the Astros were the defending World Series champions, coming off a 106-win season and figured to make mincemeat of the American League West again. Business as usual.

This year is different. The Astros are losing games in very un-Astros-like fashion. While the starting pitching has been surprisingly fine, at least the starters healthy enough to take the field, the bullpen has been a mess. The back end relievers, supposedly the strongest in all of baseball, have been disappointing. Bryan Abreu’s earned run average is 5.79. Ryan Pressly’s ERA is a sky-high 11.57 and closer Josh Hader, the best shutdown in the bigs, is at 6.00. The Astros are losing games late.

The Astros starting rotation is comprised mostly of seat-fillers. The Astros are sitting in the doctor’s waiting room for Justin Verlander, Framber Valdez, Jose Urquidy, Luis Garcia and Lance McCullers to be declared fit for battle. McCullers’ contribution to the team in recent years has primarily been confined to H-E-B commercials.

Impatient fans and copy-hungry media need a target to blame for the Astros’ slow start and they’ve zero’d in on first baseman Jose Abreu.

For good reason. Abreu, 37, a former American League MVP, is being paid 19.5 million this year and next. He is having a miserable time at the plate. Originally slated for No. 5 in the batting order, now dropped to No. 7 and sinking in the west, Abreu is hitting a paltry .088. But that number actually is deceptively positive. He has three hits (all singles) in 34 at bats, with 12 strikeouts, no home runs and no RBI. Frankly one of Abreu's singles was a pity hit from a friendly scorekeeper who could have given Royals shortstop Bobby Witt Jr. an error on Abreu’s weak grounder Tuesday night.

We can go all-analytics and brain-busting stats to explain Abreu’s troubles at the plate. But let’s use simple baseball language: Abreu is horrible. He’s done. Maybe it’s time for the Astros to cut bait. He is untradeable.

Abreu had a disastrous 2023 season, batting .237, the lowest average of his 11-year career. But after 12 games last year, he was hitting .271, not bad at all. Or as Larry David would say, pret-tay, pret-tay, pre-tay good.

This year he’s fallen off the end of the Earth. Fans groan as he swings meekly at breaking balls outside the zone. Or he fails to catch up to 95 mph-plus. Or he can’t connect on low inside pitches. Look, when you’re batting .088, it’s all bad.

Last year, the Astros actually had two, as Little Leaguers put it, automatic outs in the lineup. Abreu hit .237 and catcher Martin Maldonado blasted .191.

This year, it’s a tight battle between who’s the worst of the worst. Maldy is hitting .091 with two hits in 22 at bats and no RBI for Abreu’s old team, the Chicago White Sox. Abreu is hitting .088 for Maldonado’s old team, the Astros. This could go down to the last week of the season.

If Abreu is still with the Astros at season’s end. The Astros are no longer the high exalted dominant force in the American League West. They can’t afford an .088 hitter in the lineup. They can’t play eight against nine.

It didn’t help when manager Joe Espada recently said, “I got a ton of confidence in Abreu. I'm not going to talk about strategy. José Abreu has been a really good hitter for a very long time, and I have 100 percent confidence in José that, at some point, he's going to start hitting.”

How long is at some point? Didn’t Astros fans go through this last year with manager Dusty Baker refusing to sit Maldonado despite Maldy killing rallies in a tight pennant race?

The Astros don’t have a strong support system, especially backing Abreu at first base. But there are options. Mauricio Dubon is a jack of all trades. He could play first. Despite the funny line in Moneyball, first base statistically is the easiest position to play in baseball. Backup catcher Victor Caratini can fill the gap until the Astros sign a free agent first baseman.

Or the Astros could do something that would light a fire under fans: call up rookie Joey Loperfido, who’s belted five homers and driven in 13 RBI in 10 games for the Sugar Land Space Cowboys.

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