CODY STOOTS

Texans: 3 headlines, 2 questions, 1 bet for Week 5

Deshaun Watson needs to avoid getting hit. Andy Lyons/Getty Images

It's Monday and there's plenty to still digest from the Texans game. 

Red Zone Has Fans Seeing Red

It started off so nice. The Texans got into the Cowboys red zone at the end of the first in thanks to the first of many Deandre Hopkins big plays and then the old ugly penalties raised their head. Negative yards, but, alas, a new Texans team. First and goal from the 14 turned into third and one thanks to Watson's legs. Keke Coutee would score on a shovel pass on the next play. 

That was about the last time the red zone play looked cohesive and positive for the Texans. 

From the play calls to the execution and everything in between, it was tough to see the Texans constantly settle for field goals when they were so close. It was especially frustrating to see them come away with no points on a bad play to end the half, and later, on fourth and nearly two, call a play that easily would have got them the points in the second quarter. 

"Not this year," O'Brien exclaimed when someone brought up the Texans success from last season in the red zone. O'Brien then took a good portion of the blame. 

"It starts with me," he said. "I've got to do a better job teaching it and designing it."

O'Brien said there is a menu of plays they can call in the red area and they called them all but "not many of them worked."

Yes, Bill O'Brien has to be better. That's a given. From design to the coaching of execution. This is on Watson and the pass catchers too. Watson can't take off as much and as quick and someone has to win their matchup and get open. If Watson is tossing from the pocket to guys who seemingly have won their matchup the success rate is going to be higher and it sure as heck will be better looking.

Deshaun Watson Hit Maker and Hit Taker

Deshaun Watson again made plays few quarterbacks in the NFL are capable of making and no Texans quarterback has ever been capable of making. He showed massive improvement from just last week on a variety of areas. This is an important skill for a young quarterback to display. Watson also completed 75 percent of his passes which shows how effiecient he is with the passing when the offense is humming. 

Now, let's hope he uses it this next week. He can't put his body in harm's way like he did Sunday against the Cowboys. That isn't practical. This team is going nowhere without him so he needs to remain healthy. If it means sacrificing a few yards on any given play so be it. Also, the interception was a clear example of trying to do too much. It isn't ideal in that situation, but a sack is the right move. The Cowboys didn't but could have won the game off that turnover. 

Bill O'Brien chalked up some of the hits as it is Watson's style and that's a product of how he plays and how he likes to play. It has to change. It wasn't like he was being tackled like a running back either. He was taking big pops from the Dallas defense. He has to take better care of himself. 

Dallas Stars Neutralized

The Texans deserve kudos for how they handled the two best players on the Cowboys in this game. Demarcus Lawrence entered the game the NFL's sack leader and Ezekiel Elliot entered this week as the NFL's rushing leader. You wouldn't know either of those was the truth if you watched this game. 

"Good team defense," O'Brien said. "Ezekiel Elliot is a great player. I thought that our guys really played good team defense."  

Lawrence found himself with just one tackle in the final stat sheet. Now, don't get me wrong. He was disruptive and he required attention but kudos to Kendall Lamm who two weeks in a row has dealt with hot pass rushes.

O'Brien said the team "put a lot of guys" on Lawrence but credited the players who won their one-on-one matchups against the prolific pass rusher. 

Elliot was, of course, the focal point of the defense. He earned just 84 yards total, with 54 of them being rushing yards on 20 attempts. Benardrick McKinney and Zach Cunningham set the tone at linebacker and the secondary was quick to clean up any action that headed their way with Justin Reid, Kareem Jackson, and Tyrann Mathieu all stuffed him at least once. J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney also got their patented stops. D.J. Reader had a really nice game at defensive tackle as well. 

The defense should be commended. They played a heck of a game to slow the Cowboys only good offensive skill player. 

How much trouble are the Texans in at running back?

Alfred Blue had the majority of the snaps go his way as Lamar Miller was available for an emergency only according to Bill O'Brien. He had a really nice day catching the football with eight catches and 73 yards of offense. Rushing though was a different story. 

Blue had one rush for 17 yards that made up a good chunk of his 46 on the ground. The other 19 of his 20 carries went for an average of 1.5 yards per rush. 

Lamar Miller hasn't exactly been a world-beater either carrying the ball. After two strong showings to start the year Miller rattled off an average of 2.5 yards per carry the past two games he played and of course, he missed this one. 

The offensive line has something to do with it but so does O'Brien and his rhythm as the play caller. Rushing to the outside was a disaster against Dallas and that simply wasn't going to work. They don't seem to trust Buddy Howell as they were shorthanded and he didn't see the field. Tyler Ervin isn't used as a rusher. 

Something needs to happen here because the Texans will have to call on this element of their team when a defense is slowing down Watson one day and they're going to have to hope it is a lot better than the past three games. 

Is the pass protection coming together?

This might sound crazy but there's some progress here. They might have found just the right mix with Kendall Lamm at right tackle and Julién Davenport at left tackle. Martinas Rankin is the future at tackle for this team, or one would hope, but there was too much inconsistency and not nearly enough success to keep putting him out there. Thus, the Davenport start. 

Against the Colts the Texans allowed seven sacks and 11 quarterback hits. Last night against the Cowboys they allowed one sack and 10 quarterback hits. Not the best line but a dramatic improvement considering the pass rush of the Cowboys is way better than the Colts. Watson can't afford extra shots in a game, he already takes enough, so this team has to make sure they keep improving on protecting him. 

Lamm has been a revelation at tackle because he had not played well in any action he had prior to this. Davenport is clearly more comfortable at left tackle than right tackle. The interior has gaps, Nick Martin has had some whiffs notably among the interior, but they have come together nicely enough. 

The real concern is rushing the football. Watson isn't getting a ton of designed run yards, more so that he takes off. When you take out Watson's rushing yards the Texans team average per rush was 2.28 yards per carry. That's putrid and they will not win a lot of football games if they can't get going on the ground. 

I bet the Texans don't underestimate the Buffalo Bills on Sunday

The Texans know they are in for a fight, especially after Buffalo handed the Titans a loss for their second victory of the year. Sunday should be another ugly and nasty game with the Bills trying, like the Cowboys, to muddy things up and make the Texans beat themselves. If this was a one win Bills team coming to town I would be worried about the look ahead with Jacksonville in week seven. Now, with the Bills handing a fellow AFC South team a loss, the Texans have to take notice and not underestimate the Bills.

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ROCKETS BEAT THUNDER

Rockets blast Thunder in home opener, 124-91

Rockets take care of business in home opener. Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images.

The Houston Rockets had an impressive outing versus the Oklahoma City Thunder after an embarrassing loss against the Minnesota Timberwolves Wednesday night. They took care of business at home on Friday night, which was a surprising blowout. The Rockets didn't have to worry about Karl-Anthony Towns screaming at Alperen Sengun or Anthony Edwards telling Coach Silas to call a timeout. Instead, they took their frustrations out on the Thunder (another younger core).

"We responded and bounced back from that game 1," Silas said. "I wouldn't say it was taking anything out. It was just learning and applying to what you learn and that's going to be us this year. Applying to what you learn and getting better and having some games like we had the other day. Veteran teams have some games when they don't play as well they want."

Christian Wood led the way, as he controlled the paint on all aspects with rebounding and putbacks. He played an incredible game after having a poor performance versus the Timberwolves. Silas showed complete trust in allowing Wood to open sets, as he walked the ball down the court several times, and in transition too. Wood became aggressive on the perimeter with open shooting and tough shots, and long strides towards the rim. He finished the night with 31 points and 13 rebounds off 66 percent shooting from the field.

The young core for the Thunder had a tough night defending Wood from every aspect. Hopefully, he keeps this play up. Silas loved the space that was created throughout the game for Wood, which included the help from Eric Gordon, as he continued to play better. Wood continues to develop underneath the Silas umbrella. He had a great feel for off-the-dribble shooting a few times. Wood becomes more dangerous when space is created on the court.

"It allows me to show what I can do. It allows the floor to be open and I can create for other guys and create for myself," Wood said.

As Gordon continues to impress, his teammate Kevin Porter Jr was amazed with his performance.

Gordon looked marvelous inside and outside of the paint, as it looked like a time ripple. The younger guards of the Thunder had a tough time staying in front of Gordon. His size and strength gave the Thunder a huge problem. Gordon is shooting the ball better too, as he is shooting the three-ball at 70 percent this season. Although it's a small sample size, Gordon is trying to overcome his shooting struggles from last year. Gordon finished with 22 points on 66 percent shooting versus the Thunder.

"EG is the biggest part of this squad," Porter said. He comes in and just scores. We need somebody off the bench to do that. He is our guy when me and J come out, it's EG time and he knows that, and comes in aggressive. So much energy on the bench, and we need that every night from him if we want a chance to win."

As I recently mentioned Porter, his facilitation did look better versus the Thunder than the Timberwolves. Porter had nine turnovers in his first game but managed to have two Friday night. He made great slip passes and found open teammates in the open corner. Porter forced a good number of passes versus the Timberwolves but looked more relaxed Friday night. The hardest position in the NBA is the point guard position, but Silas will not allow Porter to fail. Instead of nine turnovers, Porter dished out nine assists. Silas said:

"Bounce back right, going from nine turnovers to nine assists… I think he had two turnovers tonight, which is great. He is making plays for his teammates, and he was really focused."

Porter's shiftiness and creative ability allowed his teammates to get open looks near the rim. He had 18 points because of his step-back threes and first step going towards the basket. Thankfully, Porter is a great ball handler, which confuses defenders on different spots on the court. It's almost like watching a ballerina skate on ice in the Olympics. Hopefully, his confidence continues to get better throughout the year. Porter shot the three-ball at 50 percent tonight. Efficiency is key for Porter this year.

"I'm just trying to let the game slow down," Porter said. "I had a lot of turnovers last game and I just wanted to piggyback and learn from them and learn from some of my forced passes and reads. And sometimes I still force it a little bit. My guys hate that, and sometimes I'm still passive and I'm working on that. When to pass and score and bounce it out, and tonight I felt like I did a good job of that."

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