FALCON POINTS

Texans dismal performance on offense leads to 16-10 loss to Panthers

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The Texans offense was awful on Sunday, and it led to a 16-10 loss to the Carolina Panthers. Here is how it all played out:

Offense

The positives: There were none. Well, OK, they did have a decent run game, putting up 136 yards and averaging 6.2 per carry. It was almost useless considering that Deshaun Watson played one of the worst games of his career, including a late fumble that ended all hope. The offensive line was bad, allowing six sacks. The receivers could not get open. Untimely penalties were everywhere. Simply put, this loss was on the offense.

The negatives: Trick plays can be game changers both ways. Having DeAndre Hopkins throw a pass wound up being a massive fail. Hopkins was picked, and it led to the Panthers first half touchdown. Was it a bad call? It was certainly a bad result. The Texans had some momentum going after Whitney Mercilus forced yet another fumble. On first and 10 from the 24, that might not have been the time to do it. The play was supposed to catch Carolina off guard, but it didn't. Meanwhile, the old problems of protecting Watson were back as he was sacked three times in the first half, six times in the game. Watson was off all game. He missed on two deep passes that could have been touchdowns. Since the first game against the Saints, where they scored 14 first half points (none in the first quarter), they scored six in the first half against Jacksonville, seven in the first half against LA, and 3 against the Panthers. When you prep all week, you have to think your offense will be ready to produce early. That has not been the case.

Defense

The positives: The Texans forced three Kyle Allen fumbles. The offense did not capitalize until J.J. Watt forced one that led to the Texans first touchdown.

The negatives: Christian McCaffrey is a tough matchup for anyone, and the Texans did their best to contain him. Still, he had a big day, as he has against almost everyone. The Texans always struggle covering running backs in the passing game, and McCaffrey is as good as it comes. He had 8 catches for 83 yards. They weren't perfect, but the defense played well enough to win the game, even though Watt missed a chance to get his offense the ball back late in the game when Kyle Allen ducked a sack and completed a pass that iced the game. It's not like the offense would have done anything anyway.

The bottom line

The Texans continue to play inconsistent football. When the offense is playing well, the defense struggles. When the defense plays well, the Texans offense plays poorly. It has been the exact opposite of "complimentary football."

Bill O'Brien's trick play is debatable. What isn't is he had yet another ill advised challenge in the fourth quarter on an amazing catch by McCaffrey. It was clearly a catch and challenging made little sense. Little decisions like that can lose football games.

It left the Texans no timeouts to stop the clock and the Panthers were able to run out most of the clock.

The Texans are that "almost" team; they "almost" made big plays several times on Sundays. But they came up short. The Panthers made plays to win the game - McCaffrey's juggling catch, Allen's great escape - and that was the difference.

The good news? At 2-2 they are still in the hunt in the AFC South. The bad? You just can't win football games consistently playing like this. Watson has to be much better for this team to have a chance. It was a shame to waste such a solid defensive performance, but that's what happened.

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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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