Barry's View

Off the top of my bald head: A look at the aftermath of Chiefs-Texans

Off the top of my bald head: A look at the aftermath of Chiefs-Texans
Barry Warner has different views on things. Barry Warner

Barry Warner is a veteran broadcaster who can be heard on SportsMap 94.1. His columns appear on Mondays.

The unbeaten Kansas City Chiefs came to Houston on a short week to play the precocious rookie De Shaun Watson and the Texans defense led by JJ Watt. I spent some time in the NBC booth before the game with Al Michaels and Cris Collingsworth. Both were excited about the matchup and to see the rookie quarterback passed up by the Browns and Jets, just to name a few.  No analyst spends more time researching tape than Collingsworth, who was amazed at both the kid's arm, poise and adjustment in such a short time. Al’s biggest hope was that the Clemson star would stay grounded and not become a diva. I told him that will never happen. This winner is special as a person and will have a similar impact in future years as J.J. Watt.

At his Pro Day at Utah in 2005 Alex Smith was a perfect 50-for-50 passes with no ball coming close to hitting the ground. In a first for pro scouts, they all applauded his efforts.  Of course, that was without a rush.  Last night at NRG it must have felt the same with linebacker Whitney Mercilus lost for the season with a torn pectoral. Five plays later, Watt fell to the ground attempting to rush Smith. The air was sucked out of NRG as he was taken to the hospital. He is done for the season.

The three-time Defensive Player of the Year played three games last year and in five games this year. That adds up to 8 of 32 games.

Jadeveon Clowney moved down from linebacker to a pass rusher but was not a factor and the Chiefs rolled 42-34.

Big night for Smith vs. Texans DBs

Smith is shedding the “game manager” tag and is the MVP through five games.  With no pass rush to worry about, the mobile veteran was 29 of 37 for 234 yards, three touchdowns and no picks. Travis Kelce, the best tight end in the NFL this season caught 8 for 98 yards in just the first half before leaving with a concussion.

GM Rick Smith McNair stunned folks around the league extending the contract of safety Andre Hal. The safety takes worse angles than a dyslexic kid in advanced geometry.  Marcus Gilchrist proved he is a journeyman at safety. Father Time has caught up with corners Jonathan Joseph and Kareem Jackson as the secondary was Swiss cheese all night.

Andy Reid may be the best play caller in the NFL with the utilization of multiple formations and talent.

Secret weapon

The unsung hero is the well- traveled Assistant Head Coach Brad Childress, who has one of the most unique jobs in the NFL. Most of his time is spent analyzing college spread offenses and options.  They are then adapted to the various plays that Reid calls to set up defenses and eating up chunks of yardage.  The touchdown to De Anthony Thomas as he came across the formation for an easy touchdown with no Texan defenders close was an example of Childress’s input.  That made it 32-20. Moments later the Texans not so Special Teams let Tyreek Hill return a punt for 82 yards untouched.

Time of possession was a joke.  Smith and the Chiefs had 38 minutes compared to the Texans at just 22 minutes.  The game was not nearly as close as the final, with many of the Texans points coming in garbage time. Justin Colquitt punted for the first time at the 7:18 mark of the third quarter.

A six-point game became a 19 pointer.

Watson a positive

Once again, the winner from Clemson showed why giving up two draft picks was a steal.

Watson led the offense with 27 second half points against the best team in the NFL. He has thrown nine touchdown passes in the last two games.

Never the same?

As a member of the media, we have the opportunity to see the best of the best when covering a game.  Regardless of the outcome, it is a privilege to be paid to watch Hall of Fame performances, even by the opposition playing a Houston team.  

Watching J.J. Watt from his first snap as a rookie through three seasons as the Defensive Player of the Year, has been like covering legends like Earl Campbell, Hakeem Olajuwon, Moses Malone, Clyde Drexler, Calvin Murphy, baseball icons Nolan Ryan, Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell. Their careers ending in the respective Hall of Fames for their sports.

There is no doubt that Watt once again will go through another season of grueling rehab and once again wear jersey number 99.  But he will NOT be the same player, reduced to a mere mortal, ending up in the Hall like the abbreviated careers of Sandy Koufax and Terrell Davis.

It is doubtful he will ever receive any award other than Comeback Player of The Year, if he can stay healthy.

 That is too sad for all football fans.

 Chirp.

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The Astros are back in action Friday night against the A's. Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images.

The Astros need to whip up on the Oakland A’s this weekend in California as they did in sweeping four from them last week at Minute Maid Park. That was the start of a homestand which ended up with seven wins in 10 games. That goes down as a successful homestand, especially since it felt like the Astros’ prior winning homestand came while Donald Trump was President (it actually started in late July). Still, 7-3 doesn’t feel like a smashing success with it ending by dropping two of three games to the lowly Los Angeles Angels.

It is not exactly with bated breath that anyone should be waiting on Jose Abreu’s return to the lineup, but it’s coming. It should not be on this road trip. After the three games with the A’s the Astros move up the coast for a big four game set with American League West leading Seattle. The M's start all right-handed pitchers. That is no time to sit Jon Singleton to see if Abreu has managed to pump a few drops of gas into his tank while spending the better part of this month at the Astros’ minor league complex. It’s not as if Singleton has been stellar since Abreu’s departure, but by comparison, he’s been Lou Gehrig-esque. The series with the Mariners isn’t make or break but the Astros are strongly advised to get at least a split. That it should be Framber Valdez starting the opener Monday night doesn’t breed tremendous confidence, coming off his meltdown outing against the Angels. Another start, another opportunity.

The Mariners are at the Nationals this weekend, starting it a mere four and a half games ahead of the Astros. In four of the five other divisions the Astros' 22-28 record would have them at least 10 games off the lead.

One step forward, two steps back

Speaking of washed-up first basemen, Joey Votto should be a future Hall of Famer. The 40-year-old Canadian is trying to make it back to the big leagues via the minor leagues with the Toronto Blue Jays. Votto was an absolutely tremendous player with the Cincinnati Reds. As the Beastie Boys said, “Ch-check it out.” Over Jeff Bagwell’s first ten seasons with the Astros he hit .305 with a .417 on-base percentage and .552 slugging percentage, yielding a phenomenal .970 OPS. Over Votto’s first ten full seasons with the Reds: .313/.429/.540 for an exactly phenomenal .970 OPS. Where am I going with this? Read on!

Votto had phenomenal strike zone and bat control. He turned 30 during the 2013 season. That year Votto had 581 at bats. He popped out to an infielder once the entire season. Alex Bregman turned 30 the third day of this season. Bregman popped out to the shortstop four times in the Angels series. So much for Bregman’s “knob past the ball” epiphany that saw him hit three home runs over two games last week. Going into the weekend Bregman has one hit in his last 23 at bats. His season stats continue to be pitiful: a .209 batting average and .607 OPS. Bregman has only struck out once in the 23 at bats of his latest deep freeze. It’s that so much of his contract is feeble. There is a lot of season left for Bregman to build up to decent numbers, but one-third of the regular season will be complete after the Astros play the Mariners Monday night.

While Bregman’s season to date has basically been one long slump, Jose Altuve is in a funk of his own. Since blasting a homer Monday, Altuve is hitless in 12 at bats. Mini-slumps happen to everybody but Altuve’s woes trace back farther. Over his last 15 games, Altuve is batting .175. He last had more than one hit in a game May 5. He’s also drawn just two walks over those 15 games. It’s tough to ever sit Altuve, but he’s probably playing a little too much. Altuve turned 34 earlier this month. He has started 48 of the Astros 50 games at second base. Mauricio Dubon should be getting a start per week at second (and probably another at third given Bregman’s level of play). Over a full season not playing the field once per week still means 135 starts. Altuve should mix in some more at designated hitter (he has just one DH game so far this season). Wear and tear is a real thing, players don’t grow less susceptible to it as they get to their mid-30s.

King Tuck

On the flip side, Kyle Tucker! So far this season, he’s making himself as much money as Bregman is costing himself. Only Shohei Ohtani (1.069) starts the weekend action with an OPS higher than Tucker’s 1.060. The law of averages dictates that Tucker won’t finish as high as 1.060, but if he does, it would be the greatest full-length season offensive performance in Astros’ history. Jeff Bagwell posted an absurd 1.201 OPS in the strike-shortened 1994 campaign. Yordan Alvarez came in at 1.067 in his 87 games played rookie season of 2019. Lance Berkman’s 2001 was a monster. Enron Field was more hitter-friendly then than Minute Maid Park is now, but Berkman’s numbers were “Oh My Gosh!” spectacular. .331 batting average, 55 doubles (second in franchise history to Craig Biggio's 56 in 1999), 34 homers, .430 on-base percentage, .620 slugging percentage, and 1.051 OPS. And that was just Berkman’s second full season in the majors. Lance finished fifth in National League Most Valuable Player Award voting. Giant-headed Barry Bonds won MVP with his 73 home runs among other sicko stats.

* Catch our weekly Stone Cold ‘Stros podcast. Brandon Strange, Josh Jordan, and I 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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