TEXANS 29, JETS 22

Texans come up with just enough plays to get past Jets 29-22

Deshaun Watson led the Texans in rushing. Steven Ryan/Getty Images

Houston walked out of The Meadowlands with a 29-22 victory Saturday, earning its 10th win of the season. In a game that was closer than expected, the Texans got the win and earned Head Coach Bill O'Brien his best record in five seasons on the job. His team can now clinch the AFC South division with a loss by the Colts and Titans this week. It wasn't a great win against the now 4-10 Jets, but it was enough to keep the momentum going. Ka'imi Fairbairn was the player of the game hitting 5 for 5 on field goals to keep the Texans scoring on drives that stalled on the opponent's side of the field.

Houston's third ranked rushing attack was hampered early when starter Lamar Miller went down with an ankle injury. His loss limited the game plan and the Texans finished the game with only 48 total yards; Watson getting 27 of those on three carries. The emphasis on the passing game left the offensive line exposed and Deshaun Watson's inability to throw the ball away led to six sacks for -55 yards.

Watson was able to move the offense enough to get in scoring range on several drives. He finished the game 22 of 28 for 294 yards and two touchdowns, which was enough to secure a win. He was helped by his star players, guys like DeAndre Hopkins who had 108 of his 170 yards in the first half. He caught Houston's early touchdown but would add a second touchdown in the fourth quarter to retake the lead after the Jets went ahead 22-19 on an Elijah McGuire Touchdown run.

Big plays on the defense kept Houston in the game. Early on, J.J. Watt got his sack total to 13.5 and then forced the fumble by Jets running back Elijah McGuire that set up Houston's early touchdown. Jadeveon Clowney was all over the field against the run, including a tackle for loss and being on the receiving end of a holding penalty where he clearly would have been in the backfield. He was also the man who sacked Darnold on 3rd down of the Jets last drive to ensure the Texans win. But despite the pressure they applied, they were only able to get the two total sacks and Darnold finished the game 24/38 for 253 yards and two touchdowns.

The Texans defense gave up 90 yards on the ground against a team that averaged 106-yard per game but gaps in coverage allowed plays that kept the game closer than it should have been. This wasn't Houston's best game, but it was enough to secure the win and get closer to the divisional crown and with a little luck, a playoff bye week.

They face the Super Bowl Champion Eagles on the road next week, but they may be without their starting running back and reeling from an injury riddled season. They will have to keep doing enough to win out and hope for some luck on their way into the playoffs.

Houston accused of more wrongdoing

New report of illegal sign-stealing puts Astros back under scrutiny

Jason Behnken / Getty Images

Back in 2017, the Houston Astros could be considered the darlings of the MLB. They helped pull a Harvey-ravaged city out of despair and into a celebration in a matter of months with the acquisition of Justin Verlander and subsequent World Series victory. The young team full of potential suddenly had the attention of not only fans but other MLB clubs and the league's front office.

On Tuesday, that attention reared itself yet again in a severely negative way, with the Athletic reporting (subscription required) that former-Astro Mike Fiers was alleging and confirming that his former team used illegal means to steal signs in their 2017 championship season. Fiers, along with three other anonymous sources with the team in 2017, claims that the team used cameras and other technology to monitor opposing catchers to relay signs to batters in real-time. The Astros have released the following statement:

"Regarding the story posted by The Athletic earlier today, the Houston Astros organization has begun an investigation in cooperation with Major League Baseball. It would not be appropriate to comment further on this matter at this time."

While GM Jeff Luhnow had this to say:

Another negative blow to the team's reputation

This is not the first time the Astros have been under a microscope in recent years, the most recent being less than a month ago when assistant general manager Brandon Taubman taunted reporters in the Astros clubhouse following their ALCS series-clinching win. The Astros fumbled that event, coming out with a rebuttal against the reporter, which would eventually be retracted, and Taubman terminated from his employment.

Neither is this the first time the Astros have dealt with accusations of sign-stealing and other forms of cheating. In this year's ALCS, the Yankees complained about a "whistling" noise from Houston's dugout they believed to be a method of relaying pitches to batters at the plate. Also, in the 2018 postseason, the Astros found themselves under fire for having an employee taking photos of the opposing team's dugout.

It's just part of the game until it's not

Both pitch tipping and stealing signs are things that are nearly unavoidable in baseball. With the catcher having to relay a sign to the pitcher 60.5 feet away using his hands, the opposing team will inevitably try to decipher what's coming. The same is true of tipping, where if a pitcher has a tell before a specific pitch, that information will quickly spread through the dugout.

However, there is a line teams should not cross, and that comes by way of utilizing technology to aid further the ability to steal signs, and using that to give an immediate advantage to a batter amid an at-bat. The Astros are not the first team to be alleged of this type of grievance, as the Red Sox received a fine after utilizing a smartwatch to try and steal signs.

It's a widely known and accepted fact that teams will try anything within reason to get a leg up on their opponent. However, with technology ever improving both for organizations to use and be caught by, it's no surprise that this is becoming an issue that the MLB will have to deal with, and soon.

Ramifications could loom large

Will the Astros be found guilty and made an example of to deter other teams for trying similar tactics? It appears we will have to wait for the conclusion of this investigation to find out. While it may not be an indictment of the entire team, it will bring into question the integrity and character of many of the team.

Still, no matter the outcome, the report alone and continued negativity surrounding the Astros organization has made them villains of many, a role that many would not have expected this team to play if asked just two years ago.

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