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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Houston scored in droves

Astros drub Twins in finale to take series win

Houston's offense showered Minnesota with hits in Sunday's finale. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

After splitting the first two games, with Houston's offense uncharacteristically ineffective in the loss on Saturday, they tried to turn things around with a win to take the series on Sunday. The Astros would bounce right back at the plate, getting hits and runs all through the afternoon to rout the Twins.

Final Score: Astros 14, Twins 3

Astros' Record: 37-28, second in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Framber Valdez (3-0)

Losing Pitcher: Michael Pineda (3-4)

Valdez keeps rolling

Framber Valdez continued to impress in 2021 after starting his season on the IL, posting another quality start with a win against the Twins. After four scoreless frames, he allowed a solo homer to start the bottom of the fifth, just the third hit of the game for Minnesota to that point. He went on to retire the next three batters to get through the inning.

He faltered a bit in the bottom of the sixth, allowing a leadoff double followed by a single, with a run coming across on an error on that play. He once again rebounded to finish that frame, then put up a 1-2-3 seventh to finish his day off, notching another quality start and a win. His final line: 7.0 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 2 K, 1 HR, 97 P.

Houston keeps their foot on the gas

While Valdez's outing was a highlight of its own, Houston's offense was the story of the day. They put their foot down on the pedal all day and did not let up, starting in the top of the first when Jose Altuve turned the first pitch of the game around for a single, later scoring on a sac fly by Alex Bregman to put the Astros in front 1-0.

After two scoreless innings, they got right back on the scoreboard in the fourth with a two-run homer by Kyle Tucker, then kept pouring it on with two runs in the fifth on a sac fly by Yuli Gurriel and an error, making it 5-0 at the time. The runs kept coming in the top of the sixth, with a two-RBI double by Michael Brantley, who would score later on a two-run bomb by Yordan Alvarez. Then, in the top of the seventh, Brantley struck again to push it to double-digits with a two-RBI single to make it 11-2 and give Brantley 4 RBI on the afternoon.

With Houston swapping out starters with the hefty lead, even their pinch-hitters were getting involved, with Chas McCormick leading the top of the eighth off with a solo shot to make it a ten-run game. They then loaded the bases with no outs, setting up a sac fly for Myles Straw to make it 13-2.

Astros take the series

In the bottom of the eighth, Ralph Garza Jr. came in as the first reliever out of the bullpen for Houston. He recorded two quick outs but then met Nelson Cruz, who lasered a solo homer to put it back at a ten-run game before finishing the frame. Houston put their twentieth hit on the board in the top of the ninth, their highest total this season, en route to another scoring inning with a sac fly by Robel Garcia to make it 14-3. Garza came in for his second inning of work to wrap things up in the bottom of the ninth, giving the Astros a successful end to this series and road trip.

Up Next: Houston will travel home before an off day on Monday to rest before 20 days of consecutive games. They'll kick off a six-game homestand on Tuesday, welcoming in the Rangers for two starting at 7:10 PM Central. Lance McCullers Jr. (3-1, 2.96 ERA) will make his return from the IL for the Astros, though Jake Odorizzi will "piggy-back" him, and Kyle Gibson (4-0, 2.13 ERA) will take the mound for Texas.

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