TEXANS 23, REDSKINS 21

Texans defense keeps win streak alive with victory over Redskins

Texans defense keeps win streak alive with victory over Redskins
Brennan Scarlet (57) made a big play. Joe Robbins/Getty Images

The Texans powered their way through turnovers and offensive struggles to win their seventh in a row, 23-21 on the road in Washington D.C. It looked like it would be all Houston early as they jumped to a 17-7 lead before the half, but the Redskins fought back and took a late lead. In the end, the defense made sure their team stayed on top of the division with a 7-3 record.

Defense was the name of the game today as the Texans and Redskins combined for five turnovers and only 598 yards of offense. The difference in the game was a 101-yard interception returned for a touchdown by standout rookie Justin Reid. That score gave the Texans a 17-7 lead on a day where Deshaun Watson was not playing the way the Texans have come to expect during their six-game winning streak. He finished the day with two interceptions and three sacks while throwing for 208 yards and a touchdown, completing 16 of 24 passes.

Houston still ran the ball well, even after injuries to interior linemen Zach Fulton and Senio Kelemete early in the game. Lamar Miller averaged 4.3 yards per carry on his way to an 86-yard effort. Alfred Blue had another solid day backing him up with eight carries for 46 yards.

Keke Coutee had a good game in his return from injury, collecting five receptions for 77 yards, keeping pace with DeAndre Hopkins who had five receptions for 56 yards and a touchdown. Rookie tight end Jordan Akins only had two receptions on the day for 42 yards, but it was his 28-yard catch and run on the Texans first drive that really got the offense started early.

Houston moved the ball 68 yards in 10 plays on the first drive but settled for a field goal at the five-yard line. They didn’t settle on their second drive as Watson connected with DeAndre Hopkins for the eighth time this season as the Texans took a 10-0 lead.

Washington cut into the lead with a touchdown run by Adrian Peterson and Watson followed with his first interception of the day but after both teams punted Alex Smith had his team back in the red zone. Justin Reid made sure that drive ended the Texans way by intercepting the ball in the end zone and running it back for a touchdown and a 17-7 lead. That play was the difference in the game because the second half defense by the Redskins stymied Houston and allowed only six points.

From the start, J.J. Watt and the Texans front seven applied constant pressure on Alex Smith. The defense finished the game with seven quarterback hits and five sacks. One of those sacks, a third quarter takedown by Kareem Jackson, resulted in a gruesome injury to Smith. The injury was listed as an ankle injury, but the replay looked much worse. Colt McCoy took over and led two touchdown drives to give the Redskins their first lead, and their first lead change in a game all season.

Through the air, the Texans pass defense made life difficult, breaking up eight passes and intercepting two of them. Houston might have scored on the second, a great one-handed grab by Brennan Scarlett that set his team up on the Washington 22-yard line. But Ka’imi Fairbairn missed his first field goal of the day. It was not his only one.

With 52 seconds left in the game and the Texans leading by only two points he had a chance to make it a five-point game when he badly booted a 45 yarder that never had a chance. That gave the Redskins one last chance to kick a game winner, which came up short from 63-yards.

Houston is still in control of the AFC South after another Jacksonville loss and the Colts beating up on the Titans to even each teams’ record to 5-5, two games back of the Texans. Next week Houston comes home to face the Tennessee Titans on Monday night. Houston lost the early season matchup to Tennessee and will need to keep the win streak rolling in a crucial divisional game.

 

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Jose Abreu looks lost at the plate. Composite Getty Image.

It’s a long baseball season, sure the Astros have started 4-8, and there are plenty of fingers to point around. But there’s no need to push the panic button.

Not yet.

Last year, the Astros didn’t start much better – they were 5-7 after a dozen games. It just seemed different, though. Nobody was wringing hands over the slow start. After all, the Astros were the defending World Series champions, coming off a 106-win season and figured to make mincemeat of the American League West again. Business as usual.

This year is different. The Astros are losing games in very un-Astros-like fashion. While the starting pitching has been surprisingly fine, at least the starters healthy enough to take the field, the bullpen has been a mess. The back end relievers, supposedly the strongest in all of baseball, have been disappointing. Bryan Abreu’s earned run average is 5.79. Ryan Pressly’s ERA is a sky-high 11.57 and closer Josh Hader, the best shutdown in the bigs, is at 6.00. The Astros are losing games late.

The Astros starting rotation is comprised mostly of seat-fillers. The Astros are sitting in the doctor’s waiting room for Justin Verlander, Framber Valdez, Jose Urquidy, Luis Garcia and Lance McCullers to be declared fit for battle. McCullers’ contribution to the team in recent years has primarily been confined to H-E-B commercials.

Impatient fans and copy-hungry media need a target to blame for the Astros’ slow start and they’ve zero’d in on first baseman Jose Abreu.

For good reason. Abreu, 37, a former American League MVP, is being paid 19.5 million this year and next. He is having a miserable time at the plate. Originally slated for No. 5 in the batting order, now dropped to No. 7 and sinking in the west, Abreu is hitting a paltry .088. But that number actually is deceptively positive. He has three hits (all singles) in 34 at bats, with 12 strikeouts, no home runs and no RBI. Frankly one of Abreu's singles was a pity hit from a friendly scorekeeper who could have given Royals shortstop Bobby Witt Jr. an error on Abreu’s weak grounder Tuesday night.

We can go all-analytics and brain-busting stats to explain Abreu’s troubles at the plate. But let’s use simple baseball language: Abreu is horrible. He’s done. Maybe it’s time for the Astros to cut bait. He is untradeable.

Abreu had a disastrous 2023 season, batting .237, the lowest average of his 11-year career. But after 12 games last year, he was hitting .271, not bad at all. Or as Larry David would say, pret-tay, pret-tay, pre-tay good.

This year he’s fallen off the end of the Earth. Fans groan as he swings meekly at breaking balls outside the zone. Or he fails to catch up to 95 mph-plus. Or he can’t connect on low inside pitches. Look, when you’re batting .088, it’s all bad.

Last year, the Astros actually had two, as Little Leaguers put it, automatic outs in the lineup. Abreu hit .237 and catcher Martin Maldonado blasted .191.

This year, it’s a tight battle between who’s the worst of the worst. Maldy is hitting .091 with two hits in 22 at bats and no RBI for Abreu’s old team, the Chicago White Sox. Abreu is hitting .088 for Maldonado’s old team, the Astros. This could go down to the last week of the season.

If Abreu is still with the Astros at season’s end. The Astros are no longer the high exalted dominant force in the American League West. They can’t afford an .088 hitter in the lineup. They can’t play eight against nine.

It didn’t help when manager Joe Espada recently said, “I got a ton of confidence in Abreu. I'm not going to talk about strategy. José Abreu has been a really good hitter for a very long time, and I have 100 percent confidence in José that, at some point, he's going to start hitting.”

How long is at some point? Didn’t Astros fans go through this last year with manager Dusty Baker refusing to sit Maldonado despite Maldy killing rallies in a tight pennant race?

The Astros don’t have a strong support system, especially backing Abreu at first base. But there are options. Mauricio Dubon is a jack of all trades. He could play first. Despite the funny line in Moneyball, first base statistically is the easiest position to play in baseball. Backup catcher Victor Caratini can fill the gap until the Astros sign a free agent first baseman.

Or the Astros could do something that would light a fire under fans: call up rookie Joey Loperfido, who’s belted five homers and driven in 13 RBI in 10 games for the Sugar Land Space Cowboys.

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