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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Houston's magic number stays at 2

Astros drop series finale to Mariners after rough start by Greinke

Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

With their magic number at 2 to secure their spot in the 2020 MLB postseason, the Astros returned to T-Mobile Park in Seattle for this three-game series' finale and rubber game. Here are the highlights from the game:

Final Score: Mariners 3, Astros 2.

Record: 28-28, second in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Nick Margevicius (2-3, 4.57 ERA)

Losing pitcher: Zack Greinke (3-3, 4.03 ERA).

Greinke unable to complete five innings

While the Astros were being held scoreless, the Mariners were putting up runs on Zack Greinke. They took an early 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first with back-to-back singles followed by an RBI-double with one out. Greinke would stop the damage there, then looked to settle in over the next few frames.

He allowed just one baserunner in the second through fourth innings, a one-out single in the bottom of the fourth. Then, in the fifth, the Mariners would knock him out of the game by getting a one-out single that would come around to score on a two-out RBI-double, followed by an RBI-single to extend the lead to 3-0. Greinke faced one more batter, allowing a single before Dusty Baker would take the ball and move to the bullpen. His final line: 4.2 IP, 8 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 5 K, 0 HR, 92 P.

Astros try a late rally, come up short

On the other end, the Astros were unable to break through against Nick Margevicius, getting just one hit and two walks through the first four innings. They had a chance to get on the board in the top of the fifth, starting the inning with back-to-back singles before a walk loaded the bases with one out to turn the lineup over. They'd come up empty, though, with George Springer striking out before a long flyball to center by Jose Altuve to end the inning.

After finishing the fifth for Greinke, Andre Scrubb returned for a scoreless sixth, working around a one-out walk. Still 3-0, Blake Taylor took over on the mound in the bottom of the seventh, erasing a leadoff single and two-out walk to keep Seattle from extending their lead. Houston had another chance to score in the top of the eighth, getting two runners in scoring position, but again would strand them.

Cy Sneed was the next reliever out for the Astros, working around a two-out walk to send the game on to the ninth. The Astros would avoid the shutout, getting a two-RBI single by pinch-hitting Josh Reddick in the top of the ninth to make it a one-run game at 3-2. That's as close as they'd come, though, as the Mariners would eventually get the final out to take the series and keep the Astros' magic number stagnant at 2.


Up Next: There is one series left in the regular season for Houston, and it awaits them in Arlington with a four-game series against the Rangers, who are well eliminated from playoff contention. The first of the four games will start at 7:05 PM Central on Thursday with a pitching matchup of Lance Lynn (6-2, 2.53 ERA) for Texas and Cristian Javier (4-2, 3.33 ERA) for the Astros.

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