Fred Faour

Texans defense finally shows up, roughs up Cowboys in 19-16 win

Tyrann Mathieu and the defense came up big. Bob Levey/Getty Images

Two weeks ago, the Texans had a 2.8 percent chance of making the playoffs after starting 0-3.

Today, they wake up with a 2-3 record, only one game out of the AFC South lead. 

In a tough, bruising, hard-fought game, the Texans outlasted the Dallas Cowboys, winning 19-16 in overtime.

Last week, the offense we had been waiting on all year finally showed up. And this week, Deshaun Watson put up some sexy numbers - 33 of 44 for 375 yards and a touchdown and one interception. Watson also rushed 10 times for 40 yards, but was pounded by the Dallas defense and was visibly shaken several times.

DeAndre Hopkins made the play of the game, with a tremendous individual effort on a 49-yard catch in overtime that led to the game-winning field goal. The Texans offense was really good, other than in the red zone. 

But the stars of this game were on the defensive side of the ball. And this week, the defense we had been waiting to see all season showed up. 

The Texans defense had been terrible through four games. But Sunday night, they put together their best effort in months. They held Zeke Elliot to just 54 yards on 27 carries for an average of 2.7. He added seven catches for 30 yards, but the Texans limited one of the best offensive weapons in football.

They were also physical throughout. They only sacked Dak Prescott twice, but that was a credit to the quarterback's elusiveness. They constantly got pressure and forced contested throws. He managed just 208 yards passing and one TD.

The most impressive part of the performance was the much maligned secondary. They attacked routes. They covered well. Most importantly, they did something they had not done since Week 1 - pick off a pass. In fact, they got two. 

The stars were plenty on this night. J.J. Watt had another sack, his sixth of the season. Jadeveon Clowney split one with Bernardrick McKinney. Zach Cunningham played his best game, including a huge stop in overtime. Kareem Jackson had an interception and was terrific in run support. So, too, was Tyrann Matthieu. Even Jonathan Joseph had three passes defensed. Rookie safety Justin Reid made several plays, including an interception. 

As a team, they held Dallas to 4 of 14 on third down, an achilles heel all year for the Texans. 

To put it simply, a group that had been a joke for four games finally won a game for the Texans. They were tough, physical and made plays. And they had to, because Dallas' defense matched their effort, and almost their performance. 

The end result? That 2.8 percent is looking a lot more possible. And if this defense can show up the rest of the season, the Texans might still make some noise. 

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Houston goes up 1-0 in the series

Altuve, Correa help lift Astros to ALCS Game 1 win over Red Sox

Carlos Correa's go-ahead homer in the seventh inning of ALCS Game 1 helped lift the Astros to a 1-0 series lead. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Despite one rough loss to the White Sox in the ALDS, the Astros looked like the dominant team they are capable of being, taking that series 3-1 to advance and taking ownership of home-field advantage in the ALCS against the Red Sox, who upset the Rays. In Game 1, despite trailing for the middle portions of the game, Houston would get more highlight moments from the faces of the franchise to start the series with a win.

Final Score: Astros 5, Red Sox 4

ALCS Series (Best of Seven): Houston leads 1-0

Winning Pitcher: Ryne Stanek

Losing Pitcher: Hansel Robles

Houston strikes first, but Boston sends Valdez to an early exit

Both starting pitchers worked in and out of trouble in the early goings of ALCS Game 1, starting with Framber Valdez in the top of the first. After erasing a leadoff single by inducing a double play, he went on to load the bases on a single and two walks but would strand all three runners to keep Boston off the board. The Astros jumped in front in the bottom half, with Jose Altuve working a leadoff walk, moving to second on a one-out single by Alex Bregman, advancing to third on a wild pitch, then ultimately scoring on a sac fly by Yordan Alvarez to put Houston ahead 1-0 after one frame.

They had a chance to extend their lead in the bottom of the second, taking advantage of a shaky inning by Chris Sale, who loaded the bases with one out as Houston would get two singles and a hit-by-pitch. That flipped the order over to the top, but a great diving catch by former Astro Kiké Hernández would end the inning. Hernández led off the top of the third against Valdez, and he would tie things up with a solo homer.

Things went downhill from there for Valdez and the Astros, as a one-out walk followed by a single gave the Red Sox the go-ahead run in scoring position. On a groundball that likely should have been a double play to end the inning, it would get through Altuve's legs, scoring a run and keeping the inning alive for Boston. They took advantage, getting an RBI double to extend their new lead to 3-1. Valdez would get one more out before Dusty Baker would give him the early hook, bringing in Yimi Garcia, who finished the frame.

A battle of the bullpens, Altuve ties it up

Like Valdez, Sale would also not make it through three innings, getting two outs while putting two on base before Boston would start their bullpen's night as well. Both sets of relievers settled the game down, with the Red Sox stranding two of Houston's runners in the third as well as the fifth, maintaining their two-run lead. After Garcia finished the third, Cristian Javier entered to eat up a couple of innings, and he would do just that by getting through two frames with just one hit, four strikeouts, and no runs.

Next, Phil Maton took over in the top of the sixth and erased a leadoff walk to keep things in striking distance for the home team. In the bottom of the sixth, Houston put another runner on base, getting a one-out single by Chas McCormick. Two batters later, with two outs, Jose Altuve provided yet another career postseason highlight, tying the game 3-3 with a two-run home to re-energize the Minute Maid Park crowd.

Astros take ALCS Game 1

Now a brand new ballgame in the top of the seventh, Brooks Raley came in to face three batters, getting two strikeouts while allowing a single before Dusty Baker would move on to Ryne Stanek, who would get the third out. With two outs in the bottom of the seventh, Carlos Correa continued his march to a monster off-season contract, putting Houston back on top with a solo homer, making it 4-3.

Houston kept the script after Stanek with the new lead in hand, going to Kendall Graveman as the setup man in the top of the eighth. Despite a two-out single, he would get out of the inning with the lead intact, putting Houston three outs away from the victory. After a walk, single, and hit by pitch to start the bottom of the eighth with the bases loaded, Altuve would drive in his third run of the game, getting a sac fly to extend the lead to two runs at 5-3.

That insurance run proved pivotal, as closer Ryan Pressly was met with a leadoff solo home run by Hernandez, his second of the night for Boston, to make it 5-4. Pressly refocused and was able to get the next three batters in order, though, wrapping up the win to start Houston off with a 1-0 series lead and putting them three wins away from advancing to the World Series.

Up Next: The two teams will have a moderately quick turnaround, with ALCS Game 2 scheduled to start at 3:20 PM Central on Saturday ahead of NLCS Game 1 between the Dodgers and Braves getting the night slot. The pitching matchup is expected to be Nathan Eovaldi for Boston, who is 1-0 with a 2.61 ERA in his two starts this postseason, going opposite Luis Garcia, who had a rough outing in the ALDS for Houston, giving up five runs without completing three innings in Chicago.

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