Fred Faour

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

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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Following Houston's 6-4 road trip, the Astros returned home to finish the first "half" of the season before the All Star break hosting Florida and Texas. Houston's road trip was filled with clutch performances in New York, dominance in taking 3 of 4 in Toronto, and a dose of close calls and tough realities with a short-handed team against Minnesota.

Now the Astros hope to take care of business against the lowly Marlins and division rival Rangers. The Texas series, in particular gives Houston the opportunity to reassert their hold on the #2 spot ahead of the Rangers who have won their last 5 games in a row (as of the time this was published). Both teams have won 7 of their last 10 games and hope to catch a free-falling Seattle team to overtake the division lead.

Dana Brown told the media last week he expects both Justin Verlander and Kyle Tucker to be reactivated following the All-Star break but Tucker's updates continue to be more promising than Verlander's and MUCH more promising than Lance McCullers. Astros manager informed the media this week that McCullers has been shut down from throwing after his arm did not respond well to his recent bullpen sessions and the team is formulating the plan for what's next for the embattled pitcher. McCullers hasn't pitched since the 2022 postseason and underwent season-ending flexor tendon surgery last June. McCullers is under contract with Houston until 2026.

An eventual return for Kyle Tucker would spur a juggling act from Joe Espada to find a proper balance of time for all his outfielders, none of which have separated themselves offensively. Chas McCormick had a great month of June recording an .804 OPS but that run looks more like an anomaly as his scuffles have continued over the past 2.5 weeks, recording just 4 hits over his last 32 plate appearances.

While Jake Meyers has wowed fans and teammates with his glove this season, his offense has hit a skid, hitting just .184 with a .565 OPS over the past month. After rookie Joey Loperfido's torrid debut, he too has struggled with the bat, hitting just .216 with .599 OPS over the same time period.

An unexpected bright spot has been the recent play of first baseman Jon Singleton. Over the last 4 weeks, "Big Jon" is batting .302 with an .802 OPS. It's worth mentioning that Singleton's season numbers are better than Florida's Josh Bell, who drew interest from Astros fans over the past several seasons as a potential answer at first base. Bell has 135 more ABs this season so its not quite an apples-to-apples comparison but there's no doubt Singleton's contributions were sorely needed following the release of Jose Abreu.

To watch part 1 of this week's episode of Stone Cold StrosStone Cold Stros, just click the video above or to listen to the entire episode on podcast, search "Stone Cold Stros" in your favorite podcast app or click one of the following links.

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