TEXANS UPSET TITANS

11 observations from the Texans' 22-13 win over the Titans

11 observations from the Texans' 22-13 win over the Titans
Texans beat Titans! Photo by Silas Walker/Getty Images.

The Houston Texans ended their losing streak with a victory over AFC South rivals the Tennessee Titans. Houston pulled off the 22-13 upset in Nashville. Here are 11 observations from the game.

1. There might be many people who hoped the Texans lost this game, and really the rest of them for the rest of this season, but they didn't. It must feel good for the team to end a horrid losing streak. Fans may want the team to tank, but the players active on gameday don't tank. They want to win, and that they did.

2. The defense again played well. Lovie Smith's unit has done a wonderful job with a lightly talented defensive unit. More than a few times, Smith's defense had played well in the first half. This week they pitched a shutout.

3. Kamu Grugier-Hill nearly had an interception for a touchdown and considering the Texans would settle for a field goal, he needed to score for the team to get six points. He has been one of the brightest spots on the defense. Grugier-Hill along with cornerback Desmond King should both be players the team should try to bring back.

4. Speaking of good linebacking play, it is amazing what Zach Cunningham can do when used like he has been used his whole career. Cunningham looks a lot like the player who was second in the AFC in tackles last season and a lot less like the shell of himself he was early in the season.

5. Terrance Mitchell has been a solid player for the Texans, and he is one of the few players signed through next season. He has been a good, inexpensive find for general manager Nick Caserio.

6. The offense was unimpressive, but enough. After a big interception return, the Texans had to settle for a field goal. One drive ended in a Tyrod Taylor rushing touchdown after an impressive march down the field. The Texans didn't squander their second gift, converting a muffed punt for a touchdown.

7. Tim Kelly's offense was serviceable at times, but it felt like he was too conservative at times. The weather was bad, but short dump-offs where the quarterback could be on the move would have been nice to see. The team averaged just 1.8 yards per play in the second half.

8. Tyrod Taylor bounced back after the worst game of his career the last time out. He took care of the ball and used his legs as a weapon. The floor, last game notwithstanding, is a little higher when Taylor is in the game.

9. The offensive line played pretty well. This is rarely something you can say about the Texans. The pocket got a little messy a few times, and the push wasn't always amazing, but no sacks is a massive improvement.

10. David Culley used both his challenges and lost both. The first one was a good challenge of a potential Nico Collins touchdown catch. Culley later challenged a spot, but then after the team lost the challenge, went for it. There is no sense in challenging when the plan was to go for it.

11. The Texans went from a stranglehold on the second draft spot to the fourth overall pick as of right now. The Jets and Jaguars hopped ahead of them. The Giants, Bears (pick owned by Giants), and Seahawks (pick owned by Jets) are all right behind them. The Jets are next up for the Texans where the loser will improve their draft position.

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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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