Texans 23, Bucs 20

Despite sloppy performance, Texans escape Tampa with win, AFC South title

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The Texans and Buccaneers played one of the most bizarre games of the season. The first half was a turnover filled mess. The second half was a more grind it out, conservative type of football. In the end, Jameis Winston's four interceptions gifted the Texans a 23-20 win over the Bucs and an AFC South title. The Texans were badly outplayed, but escaped with a victory. Here is how it all played out:


Positives: There weren't any.

Negatives: The Texans offense was simply ineffective for much of the game. They could not run the ball, and Deshaun Watson played another sub par game. Those are starting to mount late in the season; he has not played a good game since the New England win. He was 19 of 32 for 184 yards, no touchdowns and an interception. He was also sacked five times, most on him. He missed several open receivers throughout the game. Not really a negative, but it was expected: Will Fuller once again left the game with an injury, this time with a groin. Fuller just can't stay on the field. The first offensive possession yielded only a field goal despite great starting position due to an interception. In 15 games, the Texans have managed six points on their opening offensive drives. Duke Johnson had a bad fumble early in the second quarter. The Texans struggled against the Bucs defense and did not take advantage of all the early turnovers. They averaged just 2.6 yards per rush.


Positives: The game could not have started any better for the Texans, as on the second snap Bradley Roby picked off Winston and took it to the house for a 7-0 lead. Winston has now thrown picks on four of his last five opening drives. His second pick went to Justin Reid, who also ran it all the way back, but a penalty wiped the touchdown off the board. The Texans would settle for a field goal and a 10-0 lead with still more than 11 minutes left in the first. They followed up the two picks with a blocked field goal, their second in two weeks. They forced five turnovers in the game, including a clinching pick. In the first half alone, they picked off Winston three times, forced a fumble and blocked a field goal, and yet they were tied at 17-17. That is in part because of the poor offense, but also...

Negatives: Some of the same old ugly issues came up. They gave up huge plays on third down throughout the game, including on several third and longs. Tampa was 9 of 17 on third down for the game. They got almost no pressure on Winston until late in the game. They missed tackles throughout as well. They were lucky that many times Winston was inaccurate on some passes where he had wide open receivers. They failed to cover tight ends and backs out of the backfield, problems they have had all year. The reality is when the Bucs did not score, they stopped themselves with the turnovers or missed open receivers, or in some cases dropped passes.

Some extra thoughts

A positive: Bill O'Brien won his first challenge of the season! It overturned a big pass play near the end of the first half.

A negative: Rich Eisen, who was doing play by play, constantly kept mixing up names and really did as poor a job as any professional broadcaster on an NFL game this season. The entire crew was bad, but Eisen's inability to get basic names and facts straight was an outright embarrassment. Eisen in general is really good, but on Saturday he was pathetic.

The bottom line

Despite the offensive struggles, despite being badly outplayed, the Texans win the AFC South. They were outgained 426-229, averaged just 3.6 yards per play to Tampa's 6.1, and would have had no shot if the Bucs had not kept shooting themselves in the foot.

The good news is the Texans will be able to rest some key players next week and prepare for a home playoff game in two weeks. It's hard to have a lot of confidence in this group in the postseason, but they are AFC South champs again nonetheless. After winning 11 games last year, they will be 10-6 at worst against what was a pretty good schedule. Deshaun Watson will have to play much better in the postseason, and there are some things to clean up on both sides of the ball. But they are where a lot of teams would like to be - in the playoffs with a home game.

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Houston looked much more like themselves

Astros return to form in win over Angels at home

Cristian Javier was impressive Thursday night. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Hoping to avoid spiraling further out of control, the Astros turned the page from their disappointing road trip and the recent stretch of games. They hoped to start this new homestand on a good note, welcoming in the Angels for four games of this eight-game stint at Minute Maid Park.

Houston would get the much-needed win, with their offense coming alive early in the game to put up big innings, which they rode to the victory thanks in part to a great start by Cristian Javier.

Final Score: Astros 8, Angels 2

Astros' Record: 8-10, fifth in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Cristian Javier (2-0)

Losing Pitcher: Alex Cobb (1-1)

Astros' offense starts clicking early

Houston would grab the early momentum, despite leaving the bases loaded in the first inning. They would get a leadoff double by Aledmys Diaz in the bottom of the second, followed by an RBI triple by Myles Straw to jump in front 1-0. They made it a three-run inning, with an RBI by Carlos Correa then a bases-loaded RBI-walk by Yuli Gurriel, though for consecutive innings would leave three runners stranded on base.

Correa drove in another in the bottom of the next inning, getting an RBI single to push the lead to four runs, then would come in on a two-run single by Alex Bregman, who made it 6-0. That set things up nicely for Cristian Javier, who was on the mound trying to take advantage of the opportunity for another start.

Javier has an electric start

Javier was electric over the first three innings, including getting eight of the first nine outs by strikeout while allowing only a walk and double during that span. He would have longer innings in the next two, but in both cases would keep the Angels off the board, finishing in line for the win. His final line: 5.0 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 9 K, 98 P.

Houston gets the much-needed win

Meanwhile, Houston's offense kept scoring. They pushed the lead two runs further over the fourth and fifth, getting a run in each with another RBI each for Straw and Bregman. With Javier's night done, Bryan Abreu was first out of the Astros bullpen, and despite allowing a controversial two-run home run to Albert Pujols, of all people, that looked to be a foul ball, got through the inning.

Abreu remained in the game in the top of the seventh but would get just one out while hitting a batter and allowing a single before Dusty Baker brought in Brooks Raley to face the heavy left-handed part of the Angels lineup. Raley would get through it, sending things to the seventh-inning stretch with the six-run lead intact.

Raley would get another out before Joe Smith would finish that inning in the top of the eighth. Ryan Pressly, who has been starved for work lately with no save opportunities, would close things out in the ninth as Houston would start this series off with a win.

Up Next: Game two of this four-game set will be another 7:10 PM start on Friday night. Andrew Heaney (1-1, 5.65 ERA) will be on the mound for the Angels, while Zack Greinke (2-1, 2.81 ERA) will look to repeat the success of his last start; an eight-inning shutout performance for the Astros.

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