ESPN NEEDS TO DO SOMETHING

Take heart Houston, another team actually had a worse week

Photo by Sergio Flores/Getty Images.

Remember that opening line from the Cliff Notes version of Charles Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities?

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times"

That was Thursday, the best of times. In one day, for the first time ever, sports fans could watch (deep breath) the NBA, NFL, MLB, NHL, college football, PGA, LPGA, WNBE and the U.S. Open tennis tournament on TV.

That was Thursday, the worst of times. All three of our major teams, the Astros, Rockets and Texans lost big important games back-to-back-to-back in an all-day feast of defeat.

The Astros lost to the division-leading A's and fell below .500, at risk of missing the playoffs. The Rockets lost to the Los Angeles Lakers, putting them on the brink of elimination from the playoffs. Then the Houston Texans dropped their Opening Night game to the defending Super Bowl champs Kansas City Chiefs. All three of Houston's teams were Vegas underdogs. It was a three-team parlay of failure.

Around Houston today you can hear guys yelling to their wives, "I think I blew out the TV remote last night. Where do we keep the batteries?"

It was the busiest day for TV sports and it plain sucked to root for Houston teams. For all the sports world to see, the Houston Astros looked like a team in desperate need of a rebuild. The Astros are stuck in a meltdown trip to California, dropping lopsided series in Oakland and Anaheim, with the first-place Dodgers coming up.

The Rockets fell to the brink of elimination, one loss from goin' fishing. The Lakers completely flummoxed the Rockets high-octane offense. It's never a good sign when your highest-paid player is inconsistent in crunch time. Or when a key player is sidelined for allegedly breaking bubble rules in Orlando. And when the Lakers' defense pretty much takes scoring machine James Harden out of the game.

And especially when there doesn't seem to be a Plan B.

It wouldn't be a surprise if Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta is staring at the team's organizational chart today, contemplating a major overhaul from the top down.

The Texans looked beaten from the moment they took the field, after staying in their locker room for the national anthem. That was the easiest game to analyze: you don't have to be Tony Romo to take one look and realize that the Chiefs are just better than the Texans. Period. End of story. Look out below: the Texans next three games are against the Ravens, Steelers and Vikings.

Years from now, when Sept. 10, 2020 is remembered for being the busiest day in sports TV history, there will be a footnote saying: Houston lost its baseball game, its basketball game and its football game.

There is one bit of good news coming out of Thursday's beatdown: the Astros, Rockets and Texans all have the day off Friday.

Still there were fun moments in our bleak day. I put my remote in overdrive, switching between the Rockets and Texans and the women's U.S. Open semifinals. Naomi Osaka has become a thoughtful, spiritual hero wearing face masks bearing names of African-Americans who were killed or injured by police brutality. Osaka also has the goods when it comes to tennis, too. She defeated American slugger Jen Brady. The headline match saw Victoria Azarenka postpone Serena Williams' drive to match Margaret Court's 24 Grand Slam wins. Seriously, tennis needs to do something about Azarenka screaming at the top of her lungs on every shot. It's obnoxious.

Also, the TNT guys on Inside the NBA were hilarious as always. The biggest disparity in TV history continues to be the NBA studios shows on TNT and ESPN.

TNT with Ernie Johnson, Kenny Smith, Charles Barkley and Shaquille O'Neal is unique, the perfect blend of comedy and insight. Meanwhile, the studio show on ESPN: boring and unwatchable. Do something, ESPN.

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A WEEKLY REVIEW OF CRENNEL'S COACHING

Now my job: Texans feast on Lions

Photo by Getty Images.

Thanksgiving is full of tradition. There's the typical family gathering, large meal, and of course, football. Sometimes, new traditions are added and old ones are retired. I think the Texans did both in their impressive 41-25 win over the Lions in Detroit. Old traditions were carried on (Lions losing on Thanksgiving), some were put to rest (Texans not being able to get turnovers), and new ones were started (multiple passing touchdowns by Deshaun Watson in six straight games).

The fact that this defense got three turnovers in the game was unbelievable! They got all three in the first quarter within the span of eight plays. JJ Watt's pick-six was insane. He went for a batted ball, ended up catching it, and ran it in. They forced Jonathan Williams to fumble on the Lions' very next play from scrimmage and recovered it. On the Lions' next possession, the Texans recovered yet another fumble after the challenge was reversed. Great call by the coaching staff to challenge and win. The defense looked good. Tyrell Adams stood out because he was in on those two fumbles, made 17 total tackles with 14 of them being solo tackles. They also brought pressure that seemed to make Matthew Stafford very inaccurate and resulted in four sacks. I give defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver credit for knowing he needs to blitz to get pressure, but the run defense has to improve.

The offense kept the tempo up in this game as well. The spread and hurry-up were used to keep the Lions already staggered defense off balance. Knowing the Lions were without a couple defensive backs, I thought it would be the perfect marriage of their defense and the Texans' offense. A buddy asked before the game about the line (Texans -3.5) and the over/under (52.5). I told him bet the Texans and the over because neither team can play defense and both have good quarterbacks. Offensive coordinator Tim Kelly put together another good game plan and Watson executed it flawlessly. One route combo I saw later on in the game I particularly enjoyed. Two receivers were tight to the left side. Cooks ran a hook/curl and settled in the middle of the zone while Fuller ran a vertical route. Duke Johnson ran a swing route to that same side. It left Cooks wide open as the attention went to Johnson in the flat, Fuller deep, and the action to the other play side. Route combos are important because it gives the quarterback different reads as he goes through his progressions and lets him pick apart the defense based on what he sees. Combine that with Watson's play and the way Kelly has changed his play calling now that he's liberated from he who shall not be named, we're seeing a beautiful thing.

As good as things were, there's still room for improvement. The defense gives up way too many easy yards, both run and pass. They can't get pressure bringing only four and will often give up big plays if the blitz is picked up. Plus the run defense is still an issue as evidenced by the Lions' first possession of the second half. The Lions ran the ball 10 plays straight for a total of 58 yards on that drive. Utterly ridiculous! Watson was good (17/25 318 yards and four touchdowns), but he missed two more touchdowns with passes slightly off, and continues to hold onto the ball too long at times. The difference between these two issues I've presented here is the fact that Watson has so played well, his "issues" are minor and very correctable, while the defense is terrible and there's no easy fix in sight. But let Romeo Crennel and Anthony Weaver tell it, they're getting the most out of these guys and they're playing disciplined.

The thought that this team may actually creep into the playoff picture may take shape better after next week if they can beat the Colts. I doubt it, but it is getting interesting. Let's see what else happens around them because they need help getting there.

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