KEYS TO THE GAME

How these 2 major factors could determine the Texans' success against Ravens

Protecting Deshaun Watson is critical. Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

The last time Houston played Baltimore, things got ugly for Deshaun Watson and the Texans offense. The Ravens defense sacked Watson 6 times and Houston fell behind 34-0 before eventually losing 41-7 in the worst showing by the Texans all regular season.

Protection, Protection, Protection

"Clearly, we don't want to give up any sacks," offensive coordinator Tim Kelly said. "That's one area where like we've talked about before, everyone's involved in that. So, we need to make sure that we're doing a better job of really understanding how important every single play is and going out there and executing to the best of our ability at every single play, every single snap. That's one thing we're stressing to our guys. We're excited to see them out there on Sunday and being able to hopefully put that into action."

Last week against the Chiefs, the Texans offensive line struggled to give Watson time to make plays downfield. Watson was sacked 4 times and it felt as if he was under duress the entire game. It will not get any easier on Sunday as the Ravens defense is one of the leagues best. Led by pass rushers Calais Campbell, Derek Wolfe, and Matthew Judon, the Baltimore defense blitzed the second most amount of times out of any NFL team in their season opening 38-6 win over Cleveland.

"(They have) great players, Calais Campbell's been in the league for a long time," left tackle Laremy Tunsil said. "He's a crafty vet. This is his thirteenth year I believe, and he's a Pro Bowl guy, so we've got to be on our A game. The same with Judon, he's been in the league for a while so he was just at the Pro Bowl last year. Two good players. The whole defense is actually a great defense, a lot of great players… Like I said, we've got to execute our game plan and see the results at the end of the game. That's all we can do."

Success on third down

Pass protection is a major emphasis by the coaching staff this week and if the protection is improved it should allow the Texans to have longer sustained drives and keep Lamar Jackson and the Ravens elite offense on the sidelines. In last year's game, the Texans were only 2-10 on 3rd downs, a stat that must improve for Houston to have a chance at pulling off the upset at home.

"Last year's game is last year's game. This is a new year, so we're not really focused on what happened in that," Watson said. "It got away. They did their job and did what they had to do at home. This year and the talent they got is very, very top-notch. One of the best defenses we're going to see throughout the year. They do a good job of creating different pressures up front, doing a different variety of blitzes, keeping you on your toes and p's and q's. We've just got to make sure that we're locked in and focus on our tasks, our game plan and take it one play at a time."

Jake Asman is a national host on SportsMap Radio. You can listen to The Jake Asman Show weekdays from 8 AM - 10 AM Central.

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Houston's losing streak extended to five games

With key Astros missing, Detroit completes the series sweep

An overall bad day for the Astros on Wednesday. Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

On Wednesday afternoon, the Astros received a big blow to their chances in the series finale against Detroit and potentially longer. Five players: Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Yordan Alvarez, Martin Maldonado, and Robel Garcia would all be moved to the IL due to health and safety protocols, leaving them scrambling to get a whole team together for the game against the Tigers.

The Astros would not be able to overcome both the loss of players and the onslaught of another strong start by Detroit in Wednesday's game which put them too far out front for Houston to come back from to avoid a series sweep.

Final Score: Tigers 6, Astros 4

Astros' Record: 6-6, third in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Michael Fulmer (1-0)

Losing Pitcher: Lance McCullers Jr. (1-1)

Tigers knock out another starter early

Detroit continued their success of making Houston's starter work hard in early innings, getting after Lance McCullers Jr., and giving him an early exit. After a lengthy fist, they broke through in the second getting two hits, a walk, a hit batter, and an RBI groundout to put up three runs on 34 pitches.

He would have a quicker 1-2-3 third, but after giving up a single, a walk, and hitting another batter to load the bases and reach 87 pitches, he would be removed in favor of Joe Smith. Smith would allow all three of the inherited runners to score, adding those runs to McCullers Jr.'s final line: 3.2 IP, 4 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 3 BB, 3 K, 87 P.

Astros try to claw back into it

After Smith would go on to load the bases again in the inning, still with two outs, Houston made another pitching change to bring in Brandon Bielak to get the third out and stop the bleeding at 6-0. The Astros would get on the board in the fifth, getting a runner on base to set up a two-run homer by Jason Castro to cut the lead to 6-2.



Bielak remained in the game to try and eat up as many innings as possible. While he continued to hold the Tigers to their six runs through the six innings, the Astros clawed back into the game. In the bottom of the sixth, Houston put their first two batters on base with a walk and single before an RBI-single by Yuli Gurriel to make it 6-3. They would threaten for more but be held there for the time being.

Astros can't cash in, Tigers complete sweep

Ryne Stanek was Houston's next reliever in the top of the seventh, getting a 1-2-3 frame to keep it a three-run game, as did Brooks Raley in the eighth. In the home part of the inning, the Astros put their first two runners on base on an error and a walk, then loaded them with a one-out single by Carlos Correa. They'd waste their chance to make something happen, though, with an inning-ending double-play.

Ryan Pressly, who had no save opportunities in recent games, entered to get some work in the top of the ninth. He worked around a leadoff double for a scoreless inning, sending the 6-3 game to the bottom of the ninth. The Astros had yet another chance to make something happen, loading the bases with no outs to bring the go-ahead run to the plate. After two outs, Yuli Gurriel would bring one run in with a walk, but that's as close as they'd come, extending their losing streak to five games and getting swept by the Tigers.

Up Next: Houston will get a much-needed day off tomorrow to try and leave this poor homestand behind them. They'll pick things up in Seattle on Friday, with first pitch of the opener of three games at 9:10 PM Central. The expected pitching matchup is Jose Urquidy (0-1, 5.23 ERA) for the Astros and Yusei Kikuchi (0-0, 3.75 ERA) for the Mariners.

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