LANCE ZIERLEIN

LZ's Facts: Watson under pressure and O-line changes

Deshaun Watson has not thrived under pressure. Zach Tarrant/Houstontexans.com

Fact: Teams who start the season 0-2 make the playoffs just 12.1% of the time and win the division just 5.6% of the time. Based on the way Jacksonville looked against New England, I feel like I can safely tell you that you can tear your “Texans win AFC South” ticket up.

LZ Says: That sounds like really bad news, but the good news is that in each of the last five seasons, there has been a team who started 0-2 and still made the playoffs including the Saints last season who finished 11-5.

Fact: After two games, Deshaun Watson is completing just 35% of his passes at 4.2 yards per attempt, and a 27.9 Passer Rating when pressured. Pretty terrible. When he’s not pressured, you ask? He completes 69.6% of his passes at 8.7 yards per attempt, and a 109.1

LZ Says: Watson’s response to pressure didn’t look good over the last two games and now we have data points confirming just how bad it was. It’s Watson’s job to have a pre-snap plan and post-snap poise to deal with pressure, but it’s also Bill O’Brien’s job to do a better job scheming around the fact that his offensive line doesn’t have the talent to hold up consistently - especially against blitzes. O’Brien is going to activate more RPO (run-pass option) looks, more play-actions, and passing on early downs. These could all help to slow down the opposing rush. Moving the pocket could help too.

Fact: The Houston Texans offensive line may need to be shuffled within the next couple of games if things don’t get better in pass protection quickly.

LZ Says: With Seantrel Henderson out for the year, there aren’t a ton of options at tackle that don’t involve Kendall Lamm and I know the fans don’t want to see that. However, if Martinas Rankin keeps struggling  to handle speed rushers off the edge, we could see Davenport moved back to his more natural left side with Lamm plugged in on the right. I’m not saying I’m excited about it happening, I’m just saying it could happen. The same goes for Senio Kelemete at left guard. He’s really more of a solid NFL backup who has been thrust into the starting lineup. If he keeps playing up-and-down football, Greg Mancz could get the call to step in for Kelemete sooner than later.

Fact: The punt block debacle was a fundamental breakdown from the top to the bottom.

LZ Says: Let’s work our way from the bottom up in this one. The Texans asked a rookie, Natrell Jamerson, to fake a punt block and then peel back out to the gunner before the snap. Jamerson was late getting out to his responsibility and it lead to a touchdown for the Titans. He messed up. But now let’s work to the next level - Brad Seely, the special teams coach. How in the world do you show the same “fake punt block” look the week before and come back to it the very next week? Kevin Byard was asked about the fake punt touchdown throw and he even said that the Titans prepared for that look and were hoping to see it. Congrats, you got what you wanted. And ultimately, the buck stops on the head coach, Bill O’Brien, whether he likes it or not.

 

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Houston dropped two of three

Astros drop series finale to Oakland, A's win series

Jose Urquidy couldn't hold Oakland back on Saturday. Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

With Oakland finally ending their drought against the Astros on Friday night to split the first two games of the series, and with the Angels staying in step with them as both teams started the day 6-2, the Astros needed a win to keep momentum in their favor on Saturday.

Instead, Oakland would outslug Houston once again to take the series finale and take the series win. The loss moves Houston to 6-3 and down to second place, at least for now, until the 6-2 Angels complete their game on Saturday evening.

Final Score: A's 7, Astros 3

Astros' Record: 6-3, second in AL West

Winning Pitcher: Frankie Montas (1-1)

Losing Pitcher: Jose Urquidy (0-1)

Urquidy gives up four over six

Much like the night before, Oakland was able to bring in runs against Houston's starter, this time Jose Urquidy, Saturday afternoon in their second time through the order. Their first time through, Urquidy was cruising, allowing just one baserunner in the first three innings on a single in the top of the third.

Things shifted in the top of the fourth, with the A's getting back-to-back singles to set the stage for a two-run frame with dual RBI-singles to take a 2-0 lead. Oakland doubled that in the fifth, getting a two-out single to set up a two-run homer by Ramon Laureano to make it 4-0. Urquidy would go on to finish six innings, but with no run support to that point, would leave in line for the loss. His final line: 6.0 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 0 BB, 7 K, 93 P.

A's pad their lead before Houston gets on the board

Meanwhile, although getting five hits, the Astros could not get anything on the board against Frankie Montas through six innings. Brandon Bielak took over out of the bullpen for Urquidy in the top of the seventh, but after loading the bases, he would allow a dagger two-RBI single to make it a 6-0 deficit for Houston.

With Montas starting the seventh looking to face a batter or two before Oakland moved to their bullpen, Kyle Tucker would finally get Houston on the board with a leadoff solo home run, cutting the lead to 6-1 and ending Montas' day. Houston would get a two-out rally going, with an RBI-double by Jose Altuve followed by an RBI-triple by Michael Brantley to make it a three-run game at 6-3.

Oakland takes the series win

Ryne Stanek tried to keep it a three-run game and give the Astros a chance to stay in it in the top of the eighth but instead would give up a two-out solo home run to push Oakland's lead back to four. That 7-3 score would go final as Houston would go scoreless in the eighth and ninth.

Up Next: Houston will have a day off on Sunday before continuing this homestand Monday night by welcoming in Detroit and former manager A.J. Hinch for three games. In the series opener, the Tigers will send young star Casey Mize (0-0, 2.25 ERA) to the mound, while the Astros will get another start by Zack Greinke (1-0, 1.38 ERA).

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