GOING DEEP

How the Texans have experienced an offensive surge in recent weeks

The offense is finally rounding into form. Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images.

Overlooked between Romeo Crennel's failed two-point conversion and their atrocious defense, the Houston Texans have experienced an offensive surge over the last two games.

For the first time this season — and the first since Week 6 of 2019 — the Texans have scored 30 or more points in back-to-back games. The 36 points obtained during their loss to the Tennessee Titans on Sunday was Houston's highest point total since last October, when the Texans erupted for 52 in a win over the Atlanta Falcons.

The solution to unlocking the Texans' full potential on offense has been the result of offensive coordinator Tim Kelly trusting his quarterback. In a heroic effort against the Titans, Deshaun Watson had one of the finest performances of his young career. He completed 75.7 percent of his passes for 335 yards, to go along with four touchdowns in a losing effort.

Since the firing of Bill O'Brien on October 12, Watson has looked more comfortable running Houston's revamped offense. It appears that he has increased his audible calls over the two-week period, which has allowed him to showcase the versatility of Houston's offense.

The results have concluded in the Texans averaging 33.0 points while putting up 449.0 yards over the last two games. In the four games before Houston's recent surge, the Texans averaged 20.0 points and 327.0 total yards per game.

"If we could score 100 points — I would," Watson said following the loss on Sunday. "We always want to score touchdowns when we touch the ball. That's our idea, regardless of the situation of the game. My idea is to get points on the board every drive. And if we don't have that mentality, then we're doing something wrong."

Over the last two weeks, Watson has witnessed a near 30 point increase in his QBR (85.1). His return to elite status stems from Watson's improved chemistry with his reconstructed receiving corps since the loss of DeAndre Hopkins.

Brandin Cooks has seen an increase in his on-field production since the significant shake-up at the helm. After he failed to record a catch against the Vikings, Cooks has averaged 114.5 yards on 17 catches over the last two games. Against the Jaguars, he became the only receiver other than Will Fuller to register over 100 reception yards on the season. And Fuller notched a season-high 123 yards on six catches in the loss against the Titans.

Darren Fells — who is filling in for the injured Jordan Akins — has also seen an increase in his on-field performance. Over the last two games, the 6-foot-8 tight end as registered 142 yards on eight receptions, to go along with two touchdowns.

"It says that we have guys who can make plays and that our quarterback sees that he has weapons around he can utilize," interim head coach Romeo Crennel said. "He's taking advantage of what the defense gives him and throwing to the open guy. I think it's a good sign that the offense is making good progress. Hopefully, we can continue to build on that."

For the Texans to salvage their season, they will have to do so heavily relying upon their recent surge on offense — but only in the passing game.

Entering Week 7 of the season against the Packers, the Texans have possessed the worst defense in the NFL. They are currently ranked 31st for allowing the second-most total yards on defense (2,538), while given up a league-worst 1,065 yards on the ground.

"I wouldn't say we were different — we just had more opportunities to take the shot. We took advantage of getting third and short and capitalizing...we had the opportunity to take shots, and we did that. It wasn't anything different out there. We just continue to build on that." — Watson.

Coty M. Davis is a reporter for ESPN 97.5 Houston/SportsMap covering the Houston Texans. He is also the co-host of Locked On Texans, a part of the Locked On Podcast Network. Follow Coty on Twitter @CotyDavis_24.

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Yordan Alvarez's homer in Wednesday's game gave him 100 RBI on the season. Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

Winners of three straight, six of their last seven, and eight of their last ten, the Astros had the chance to move yet another game closer to clinching their playoff spot if they could secure the series with a win against the Angels on Wednesday. Even though it looked as though they were headed towards a loss in extra innings, they would ultimately come out ahead.

Final Score (12 innings): Astros 9, Angels 5

Astros' Record: 91-61, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Yimi Garcia (4-9)

Losing Pitcher: Sam Selman (0-1)

Garcia goes six shutout innings

Although he didn't have swing-and-miss dominance in this start, Luis Garcia could still capitalize on a struggling Angels offense and post a shutout quality start against them. He allowed three walks and three hits throughout his outing but stranded all of them while getting outs on balls in play. His final line: 6.0 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 3 BB, 1 K, 79 P.

Alvarez reaches 100 RBI as Houston's offense keeps rolling

That performance had Garcia in line for the win, as two homers handed him a 3-0 advantage which he held. Houston once again used early offense to take a first-inning lead, as a leadoff walk by Jose Altuve turned into a monster 456-foot by Yordan Alvarez, pushing him to 100 RBI on the season. The score held at 2-0 until the top of the fifth, when Jason Castro led that frame off with a solo homer to extend the lead to three runs.

Extras in Anaheim

Phil Maton was first out of Houston's bullpen in the bottom of the seventh, but a single, double, and walk loaded the bases with no outs to put him in a jam. A lineout kept the runners put for the first out, but a single and a walk would make it a one-run game and left the bases loaded as Maton would get pulled.

Kendall Graveman entered to try and stop the bleeding, but after a force out at home to put that within reach, Jack Mayfield came through for Los Angeles with a go-ahead three-run double, giving the Angels their first lead of the series at 5-3. In the top of the eighth, a walk by Alex Bregman brought Alvarez back to the plate, and he would nearly miss a game-tying homer and instead got an RBI-single to make it 5-4.

Alvarez would still come in to tie the game, hustling home from second on an RBI single by Yuli Gurriel to knot things up 5-5. Brooks Raley was Houston's next reliever, and he sat down LA in order with two strikeouts. Still tied in the bottom of the ninth, Ryan Pressly came in to force extras, and despite being shadowed by the winning run on the bases after a leadoff single, retired the next three batters to send the game to the tenth.

Astros keep battling and take it in the twelfth

Jake Meyers took second base as Houston's free runner in the top of the tenth, but he would go nowhere as the Astros went down in order, giving the Angels another chance at a walk-off. Instead of giving Shohei Ohtani a free pass immediately, Houston would let Blake Taylor throw two balls to him before giving him the intentional walk.

Taylor then gave up a single to load the bases with no outs, and after getting a force out at home for the first out, Yimi Garcia would replace him. Thanks to a great play by Chas McCormick, giving him multiple in the game, the Astros would live to see another inning as he would make a great catch in right field and then throw out Ohtani at home.

In the top of the eleventh, a sac fly by Yuli Gurriel moved Aledmys Diaz to third, but that's as close as Houston would come, leaving them stuck at five runs. After Garcia retired three more batters in the bottom of the eleventh, the game moved to the twelfth, where Houston would get back in front on an RBI single by Jake Meyers, then padded the new lead on a two-RBI double by Jose Altuve, who would also score on a sac fly by Alex Bregman, making it 9-5. Josh James came in and wrapped things up in the bottom half as Houston secured the series victory and reduced their magic number to two against Oakland and three against Seattle.

Up Next: The finale of this four-game series, and the last time these two teams will meet this year, will be an 8:38 PM Central start on Thursday. The expected pitching matchup is Alex Cobb (8-3, 3.59 ERA) for Los Angeles and Lance McCullers Jr. (12-4, 3.11 ERA) for Houston.

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