Texans 37, Colts 34

Stars come out of hiding in Texans 37-34 OT win over Colts

J.J. Watt had another big game. Bobby Ellis/Getty Images

With a lot of pressure on Houston to finally get a win this season, the defense was the star in today’s 37-34 win in overtime against the Indianapolis Colts. What looked like a big win for the Texans came crashing down in the second half as they surrendered an 18-point lead and allowed the game to go to overtime. They couldn’t hold against the powerful arm of Andrew Luck and a big lead dwindled to nothing before the game’s end.

The teams traded field goals in overtime, but it was Houston getting a key defensive stop to give them one more chance at victory. Jadeveon Clowney’s sack of Andrew Luck to make it 3rd and 21 on the Colts side of the field was the big play they have been waiting for from the fifth-year player. But it was just a part of what they had done all day against the Colts.

The Texans defense helped build a big lead in the first half with constant pressure on Andrew Luck and multiple forced turnovers to keep them in a positive game script. It allowed the offense to work methodically down the field. It looked like this would be a signature win for Houston’s young season.

J.J. Watt continued his return from injuries with another dominant performance up front. He finished the day with two sacks, two forced fumbles, and a tackle for loss. He was active all day, much like he was in the years he won defensive player of the year. But he wasn’t the biggest star on the defense today. That honor belongs to Jadeveon Clowney.

Clowney finished the day with two sacks, four tackles for loss, and a touchdown on a fumble recovery. It was that touchdown that helped Houston draw even with the Colts early, tying the game at 7 points after Houston’s first offensive drive stalled. From there the Texans took control and built a 21-10 halftime lead, getting it as high as 28-10 before the Colts made their comeback.

The Texans secondary was a major weakness that Luck exploited early and often. The Colts threw for 464 yards, four touchdowns and gained 23 first downs through the air. The defensive front held their own but in the second half the Indianapolis offense found their groove and converted 3 of their 4 drives for touchdowns, eventually tying the score with 45 seconds left in the game.

Offensively, the play from Deshaun Watson looked like it was designed. He threw the ball on only 52% of the plays while Houston led for 45:42 of the game. He finished the day 29 of 42 for 375 yards, 2 passing touchdowns and 1 interception with another 41 yards and a touchdown on the ground. He accomplished that despite being sacked 7 times and being forced out of the pocket a lot more than desired. The yardage totals were good but winning the time of possession (Houston 40:04 to Indy 29:56) was big for Houston’s chances at victory.   

Once again, his wide receivers had big performances. DeAndre Hopkins hauled in 10 receptions for 169 yards and a touchdown. Will Fuller was on pace for another big day until he exited in the first half with an injury, but not before grabbing his third touchdown of the season. Rookie fourth round selection Keke Coutee, who made his debut today, filled in well. He caught 11 passes for 109 yards and was a go to target for short routes underneath.

Houston had another solid day rushing the ball, finishing with a team total of 119 yards and the one touchdown by Watson. Lamar Miller led the way with 15 carries for 49 yards and Alfred Blue for 12 carries for 31 yards of his own. The importance was that Houston was able to move the ball well most of game. The offense was 50% on third down and even converted a 4th-and-7 at one point.

It was a solid effort for Houston and thankfully they came out with a win.

 

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The media has mixed feelings about the James Harden trade. Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

James Harden was 100-percent exactly right earlier this week when he said the Houston Rockets were "just not good enough."

How could they be? Not when their moody superstar scorer, who makes about half a million dollars per game, shows up chubby, looking like a kielbasa about to explode in the microwave. Hey, some people eat when they're unhappy, it's a defense mechanism. In Harden's case, the only defense he's exhibited this season. At least he had a good excuse for missing pre-season training camp and alienating his teammates - he was busy partying with Cinnamon and Cherish in Atlanta and Vegas without a mask. Worst of all, he went into the tank his last four games in a Rockets uniform, standing around, arms folded, scoring fewer than 20 points each time, all Rockets losses. Fans in the front row were asking him to move, he was blocking their view of players who cared about winning. James Harden sabotaged his own team, a team that offered him $50 million a year to stay. Something that crazy could only happen in professional sports these days.

There's a saying that drives the American labor movement: "a fair day's wage for a fair day's work." It's the motto of the American Federation of Labor. The National Basketball Players Association is not a member. Harden's sulking on the court, cheating the Rockets and their fans, was unforgivable.

Harden, sitting out games while somehow being on the court, forced the Rockets to trade him - and quick - to Brooklyn. The trade, when you ignore the fine print and unindicted co-conspirators Cleveland and Indiana, sent Harden to Brooklyn in exchange for Caris LeVert (immediately flipped for Victor Oladipo), Jarrett Allen, three first-round draft picks and four swapped first-rounders. It's true, when you trade a superstar, you never get back equal value. The other team wins.

If it makes Rockets fans feel any better, the media in New York already has problems with their new problem child. I should say newest problem child. Kyrie Irving plays for the Nets.

"They (the Nets) gave up everybody! There's nothing left now. I just want to cry, It's awful," weeped WFAN Radio talk host Evan Roberts. For those who don't subscribe to weekly Arbitron ratings reports, WFAN is the most powerful, top-rated sports talk station in the Apple.

"You're leading down the road of doom. Harden and Durant could be gone in a year and a half. I'm not convinced this gives them a better chance to win a title. I'm living a nightmare again. They better freaking win."

Circle March 3 on your Rockets schedule. That's when the Brooklyn Nets, with their Big 3 of Kevin Durant, James Harden and possibly Kyrie Irving visit Toyota Center. I hear talk radio salivating over the record jeers that will cascade over Harden's name, although I'm not buying it. Fans don't think like the media does. I'm thinking that Rockets fans will welcome Harden back - one night only - with cheers.

Toyota Center public address announcer Matt Thomas: "Usually when former Rockets come to town for the first time since leaving, I give them a positive introduction. It's up to the fans how to react."

James Harden spent eight seasons with the Rockets. He is a spectacular player who watched other NBA players engineer trades so they could compete for a title. Harden didn't think the Rockets were good enough, and he's right. So he wanted out. We've all been there, a job we didn't like for a company we didn't like, for a boss we didn't respect. Harden wanting to be traded is understandable. How he went about it was deplorable. He hurt his co-workers.

Houston will make Harden pay for his disrespectful departure. He has an upscale restaurant set to open here. The name of the steakhouse will be "13." Harden's business partners may want to change that number ... before the restaurant's telephone number is disconnected. There are plenty of other restaurants in Houston. Rich people who can afford steakhouse prices hold grudges.

Rockets fans searching for a silver lining say, "We got two decent players and a whole bunch of precious first-round picks" for a malcontent who would rather be anywhere (except maybe Sacramento) than Houston." Yes, a bunch of first-round picks does bode well for the future. Anywhere, except maybe Houston.

Houston's draft war room isn't the most successful operation in the NBA. Over the past decade prior to 2000, under the direction of general manager Daryl Morey, the Rockets made 16 draft picks. Not one of them is still in a Rockets uniform, many of them have sought employment outside of America, some outside of basketball. Among their first-round whiffs: Nikola Mirotic, Terrence Jones, Sam Dekker - all out of the league. Best of all, Royce White, who played three whole games in his NBA career and finished with a scoring average of 0.00 points per game.

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