STOOTS ON TEXANS

11 observations from Texans' 30-24 loss to Chiefs

11 observations from Texans' 30-24 loss to Chiefs
Texans lose in OT to Kansas City. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images.
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The Houston Texans played hard again but lost to the Kansas City Chiefs 30-24. Here are 11 observations from the game.

1. The team plays hard for head coach Lovie Smith. Smith said after the game his one-win football team doesn’t play like they have one win. He’s right. Back-to-back performances for the team against opponents who should have outclassed them.

2. Davis Mills showcased some of the abilities that had the franchise invest in him this offseason. He was quick with decisions at times and safely extended a few plays. It was an overall positive performance for Mills who hasn’t had a lot of those this season.

3. The fumble to basically end the game is an ugly ribbon on the day. The Texans needed just a field goal to win, and Davis Mills fumbled the ball away to the Chiefs. I suppose it was trying to do too much, but wasn’t the worst decision ever from a quarterback in Mills’ position. A sack likely means a Texans punt.

4. The Jeff Driskel experiment should be over. It was a surprising novelty last week, but it didn’t work this week.

5. The rushing Driskel experiment torpedoed a drive for the Texans. The team trailed by three and was in the red zone. Driskel hadn’t carried the ball on the drive, in fact, Royce Freeman was having the drive of his life. He’d been mauling defenders. Pep Hamilton inserted Driskel, who lost yards. The Texans would kick a field goal.

6. Where has Royce Freeman been? He was a breath of fresh air on the running back depth chart. He had the most consistent attempts of the day. He’s been with the organization for over a year and he’s just now getting an opportunity. Slightly annoying.

7. Lovie Smith trusted his defense at midfield on a fourth and one. He confirmed as much postgame. His defense allowed a 90+ yard Kansas City drive. His offense needed just one yard to keep a drive alive. Smith might have missed that one.

8. The Texans have no constant feel for their kicking game. Ka'imi Fairbairn has a 61-yard field goal in this stadium. They have passed on 54-yard attempts at home and let him kick 54-yard attempts on the road. Today, with eight seconds left, the Texans opted for a kneel down instead of giving their kicker a long attempt after one play.

9. The offensive line for the Texans kicked ass Sunday. It has been in a groove for the past few weeks. Laremy Tunsil should be an All-Pro. Tytus Howard bumped inside with injuries to the offensive line, and Charlie Heck played fine at right tackle. Good job by this unit.

10. The defense had some solid moments against Patrick Mahomes. They were very aggressive and made him pay for extending plays. Lovie Smith even dialed up a well-timed blitz or two. The Chiefs turned out to be too much, but it was a valiant effort.

11. The NFL is about wins and losses. The Texans have the fewest wins. The Texans have the most losses. The Texans are playing harder, but it is likely too little too late for this group. Frank Ross the special teams coach and his crew have an argument to stick around, but the rest don’t. It’s too little, too late for the current coaching staff.

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The Astros have their work cut out for them. Composite Getty Image.

Through 20 games, the Houston Astros have managed just six wins and are in last place in the AL West.

Their pitching staff trails only Colorado with a 5.24 ERA and big-money new closer Josh Hader has given up the same number of earned runs in 10 games as he did in 61 last year.

Despite this, these veteran Astros, who have reached the AL Championship Series seven consecutive times, have no doubt they’ll turn things around.

“If there’s a team that can do it, it’s this team,” shortstop Jeremy Peña said.

First-year manager Joe Espada, who was hired in January to replace the retired Dusty Baker, discussed his team’s early struggles.

“It’s not ideal,” he said. “It’s not what we expected, to come out of the shoot playing this type of baseball. But you know what, this is where we’re at and we’ve got to pick it up and play better. That’s just the bottom line.”

Many of Houston’s problems have stemmed from a poor performance by a rotation that has been decimated by injuries. Ace Justin Verlander and fellow starter José Urquidy haven’t pitched this season because of injuries and lefty Framber Valdez made just two starts before landing on the injured list with a sore elbow.

Ronel Blanco, who threw a no-hitter in his season debut April 1, has pitched well and is 2-0 with a 0.86 ERA in three starts this season. Cristian Javier is also off to a good start, going 2-0 with a 1.54 ERA in four starts, but the team has won just two games not started by those two pitchers.

However, Espada wouldn’t blame the rotation for Houston’s current position.

“It’s been a little bit of a roller coaster how we've played overall,” he said. “One day we get good starting pitching, some days we don’t. The middle relief has been better and sometimes it hasn’t been. So, we’ve just got to put it all together and then play more as a team. And once we start doing that, we’ll be in good shape.”

The good news for the Astros is that Verlander will make his season debut Friday night when they open a series at Washington and Valdez should return soon after him.

“Framber and Justin have been a great part of our success in the last few years,” second baseman Jose Altuve said. “So, it’s always good to have those two guys back helping the team. We trust them and I think it’s going to be good.”

Hader signed a five-year, $95 million contract this offseason to give the Astros a shutdown 7-8-9 combination at the back end of their bullpen with Bryan Abreu and Ryan Pressly. But the five-time All-Star is off to a bumpy start.

He allowed four runs in the ninth inning of a 6-1 loss to the Braves on Monday night and has yielded eight earned runs this season after giving up the same number in 56 1/3 innings for San Diego last year.

He was much better Wednesday when he struck out the side in the ninth before the Astros fell to Atlanta in 10 innings for their third straight loss.

Houston’s offense, led by Altuve, Yordan Alvarez and Kyle Tucker, ranks third in the majors with a .268 batting average and is tied for third with 24 homers this season. But the Astros have struggled with runners in scoring position and often failed to get a big hit in close games.

While many of Houston’s hitters have thrived this season, one notable exception is first baseman José Abreu. The 37-year-old, who is in the second year of a three-year, $58.5 million contract, is hitting 0.78 with just one extra-base hit in 16 games, raising questions about why he remains in the lineup every day.

To make matters worse, his error on a routine ground ball in the eighth inning Wednesday helped the Braves tie the game before they won in extra innings.

Espada brushed off criticism of Abreu and said he knows the 2020 AL MVP can break out of his early slump.

“Because (of) history,” Espada said. “The back of his baseball card. He can do it.”

Though things haven’t gone well for the Astros so far, everyone insists there’s no panic in this team which won its second World Series in 2022.

Altuve added that he doesn’t have to say anything to his teammates during this tough time.

“I think they’ve played enough baseball to know how to control themselves and how to come back to the plan we have, which is winning games,” he said.

The clubhouse was quiet and somber Wednesday after the Astros suffered their third series sweep of the season and second at home. While not panicking about the slow start, this team, which has won at least 90 games in each of the last three seasons, is certainly not happy with its record.

“We need to do everything better,” third baseman Alex Bregman said. “I feel like we’re in a lot of games, but we just haven’t found a way to win them. And good teams find a way to win games. So we need to find a way to win games.”

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