Critical lessons learned from Texans' frustrating results vs. Panthers

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Sitting at 3-3, the Houston Texans headed to Carolina looking for their fourth win of the season as three point favorites against the winless Panthers.

Unfortunately for Houston, the team came up short, losing 15-13. Panthers QB Bryce Young outplayed CJ Stroud on Sunday, and the Texans running game was terrible once again. Which had many questioning the play calling from OC Bobby Slowik.

It's time to pivot

Slowik's unwillingness to get away from the running game, especially when it's not working, is causing some real concern. This offense needs to run through Stroud, and 24 pass attempts like we saw against Carolina isn't going to be enough.

It's also becoming clear that Tytus Howard needs to go back to playing tackle, and Houston needs to find a new answer at left guard.

Some other big lessons learned from the disappointing loss involves the passing game. Tank Dell and Dalton Schultz have to be able to produce in the same game. Schultz's increased production over the last few weeks seems to coincide with Tank Dell missing time from a concussion.

With Tank Dell back this week, Schultz only caught two passes for 5 yards. Penalties also hampered the Texans, especially a delay of game that knocked the Texans out of field goal range, leading to a punt.

Finally, the Texans offensive regression is starting to be more apparent. Houston only scored 3 points in the second half against the Saints, and the team went scoreless in the first and fourth quarters of the Panthers game.

On the bright side, Houston's defense is improving each week. We wondered if DeMeco Ryans had enough talent on defense to crack the Top 10. And as of right now, they've allowed the 6th fewest points per game at 18.3 points against per game.

Be sure to watch the video above as we react to the loss and look ahead to next week.

If you enjoy the videos, subscribe to SportsMapTexans on YouTube for our latest content.

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The All-Star break came at the right time for Houston. Composite Getty Image.

The All-Star break is officially here, and the Astros sit just one game behind the first place-Mariners in the AL West. Houston had an opportunity to gain another game on Seattle, but were unable to win one of the final two games against the Rangers over the weekend.

But considering the 'Stros abysmal start to the season, being just one game out of the division lead feels like a win. Not that long ago, fans were calling for Joe Espada's head, with some wishing the Astros would bring Dusty Baker out of retirement. And let's not forget about the Jose Abreu saga, that now feels like a fever dream.

As we know, baseball is a long season. At some point talent would win out, and here they are with sights on winning the division and heading back to the postseason.

Certainly, Houston's star players deserve credit for digging the team out of an enormous hole. But getting back in playoff contention was a team effort. Jake Meyers has excelled in his role in center field, justifying the team's decision to give him a chance to be the team's starter.

And while Jeremy Pena hasn't turned into a power-hitting perennial All-Star, he has shown a lot of improvement after a lackluster 2023. The fact that his on base percentage is higher than Alex Bregman's should not be ignored.

Also, let's not forget that the Astros got on this roll without help from the injured slugger, Kyle Tucker. When Tucker does return to the lineup, you have to wonder what that will mean for the slumping Chas McCormick. He could be the odd man out with Joey Loperfido's emergence and Pedro Leon putting up big numbers in Sugar Land.

Finally, we have to talk about the pitching. Lance McCullers Jr. and Luis Garcia have hit some snags in recovery. It's now looking like Garcia might be back in August, and it's hard to believe McCullers will be back this season since he's been shutdown from throwing. Add Justin Verlander's injury to that mix, and you have some real concerns for the pitching staff.

Ronel Blanco has been terrific, but he's showing signs of fatigue, with his velo down a couple ticks in recent starts. It's hard to believe the Astros can get to the finish line without trading for another starting pitcher.

Big series looming

When the Astros return to action on Friday, they square off with the Mariners. Which means a series win over Seattle would put the 'Stros in first place in the division.

Be sure to watch the video above as we examine the importance of the upcoming series with the Mariners, if the club should be concerned with the surging Rangers, and much more!

Catch our weekly Stone Cold ‘Stros podcast. Brandon Strange, Josh Jordan, and Charlie Pallilo 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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