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:


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.


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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The Astros spare no expense with their broadcast team. Composite image by Brandon Strange.

The Astros leave today for Minnesota to start their first road trip of the 2023 season. The entire Astros broadcast crew, television and radio, will be aboard the plane, as they will for every Astros away series this season.

That’s not how it is for every team. The Angels recently announced that their radio team won’t be traveling with the club. The same for the Blue Jays. The Angels’ excuse: they’ll be saving $185,000 by not sending its radio team on road trips.

It should be noted that the Angels pay Anthony Rendon $35 million per year on a seven-year contract. The last two injury-plagued seasons, Rendon has batted .229 and .240. He is hitting .000 so far this season and he’s currently suspended for a physical confrontation with a fan.

But the Angels are saving the cost of Breakfast Baconators for its announcers.

Caught up with Astros TV play-by-play announcer Todd Kalas and asked, is it really important for announcers to travel with the team and call the games live in ballparks? It’s not like Kalas and the Astros crew haven’t called games from a TV studio. They did it for three spring training games this year, and the entire 2020 and 2021 Covid seasons.

SportsMap: Does it make a difference for fans at home whether you’re at the ballpark during road trips or announcing the games off a TV screen back in Houston:

Todd Kalas: It’s imperative to be on the road with the team for a number of reasons. The first and most important is, when you’re watching a game live and calling it, you can see the whole field. You see everything you want to see when you want to see it. You’re not relying on camera coverages. The second part is, you get a chance to be with the team when you travel to road games. You’re all pulling from the same rope, and you’re really one as an organization. We didn’t travel during the pandemic years. We were relying on Zoom calls for interviews with the players. We were finding out the same information as everybody else on the Zoom calls. We weren’t able to get insider information because we weren’t with the team. When you travel with the team you develop relationships with the players, coaches and the manager. They know that we’re all part of the same organization and they trust us.

SportsMap: What can you see live that you can’t see on a TV monitor?

TK: You see where the fielders are positioned and other nuances that aren’t picked up by cameras. You see the game, you feel the game, you experience the game. It’s so much different than when we were calling it from a studio. During the spring training games this year, we saw a monitor that carried the same thing you saw at home.

During the pandemic, we saw the main feed. We also saw different feeds like a wide angle of the entire field, we saw the bullpens, and other angles. The toughest challenges during the pandemic were checked swings. We didn’t know if it was strike or not because the camera didn’t always cut to the umpire fast enough. Also, we couldn’t see who was in the on deck circle, so we didn’t know if a pinch hitter was coming up. Fair and foul balls were difficult to call, too.

SportsMap: How many people are part of the Astros TV broadcast travel team?

TK: This year there are four of us, Blummer, Julia, me and a production person. The producer and director aren’t traveling with us yet, but that’s changing. The producer will start traveling with us soon and the director will join us for some trips. Our full team will be six people, three announcers and three production people.

SportsMap: What exactly are your travel nuts and bolts when the Astros hit the road?

TK: We get a per diem for expenses and we stay in the same hotel as the team. How we get to the stadium is up to us. There are three busses every game that leave the hotel for the stadium. One goes super early, another goes four or five hours before the game, and the other one goes about three hours before the game. We can go on any of those busses, or we can take an Uber or public transportation. I’ll never get tired of traveling at the major league level. We go on charters, the same plane as the players, so we’re not going through airports or TSA. We leave our luggage at the hotel and it shows up at our next hotel. It’s very easy travel. There are some challenges like when we do a west coast game and we get home at 4 a.m. and we have to broadcast a game later that day. But for the most part, the travel is very accommodating for the players and announcers so we can be at our best.

SportsMap: When the schedule comes out, do you circle certain favorite dates and cities?

TK: We do. I enjoy going back to Philly (where he spent most of his childhood) and I lived in Tampa for more than 20 years. But mostly we look for off days in cities that have good golf. When the schedule allows us, we try our best to tee it up.

Editor's note: Catch Todd Kalas talking Astros every week on ESPN Houston 97.5's The Wheelhouse!

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