Making an impact

Texans finally find a quarterback — and a play caller — in 57-14 rout of Titans

Deshaun Watson celebrates a big day against the Tennessee Titans with teammates Bruce Ellington (12) and Lamar Miller (26). Bob Levey/Getty Images

The Texans won a big game on Sunday, and in the process found a quarterback.

And a play caller.

For the second week in a row, the Texans were explosive and creative on offense in a 57-14 rout of the Tennessee Titans. The win helped them improve to 2-2 and set them up for a big showdown with Kansas City next week.

The Titans also fell to 2-2, and star quarterback Marcus Mariota was injured and missed the second half.

The defense forced five turnovers, but the other side of the ball was the story. How good was the offense? The Texans did not punt until late in the third quarter. They scored on six of their first seven possessions. They outgained Tennessee 446-192. They dominated time of possession, 39:41to 20:19.

And they scored the most points in a game in the history of the franchise.

Deshaun Watson continues to improve week to week. And he continues to impress. He was almost perfect in this one. Watson was 25 of 34 for 283 yards and four touchdowns before turning it over to Tom Savage late. Watson also rushed for 24 yards and a touchdown. The five TDs tied an NFL rookie record for a quarterback, and he was the first to throw for four and rush for one since Fran Tarkenton in 1961.

Watson’s only hiccup was a bad interception near the end of the half that cost them points. But he did what good players do — bounced back by leading a 14-play, 75-yard drive that ended with a TD pass to Will Fuller, who caught his second TD of the game in his season debut. Watson was sacked just once.

Watson is not just emerging as a solid starting quarterback in the NFL and the future of the franchise, but as a star right now. He is smart. Accurate. Creative. Elusive. He is everything you could want in a quarterback.

He should only get better. As he does, it will only help DeAndre Hopkins, who had a big day himself with 10 catches for 102 yards and a touchdown. He consistently got open, and Watson found him.

But the person who might be benefitting the most from Watson’s emergence is Bill O’Brien.

O’Brien’s offense has been stagnant for his three-plus years here. His play-calling was predictable and boring. It worked to an extent — in that it got them to the playoffs two years in a row. But it was not enough when they got to the postseason. He fired offensive coordinator George Godsey last season, and took over play calling himself. The first two weeks, nothing looked any different than the Godsey era.

But the past two weeks, the offense has been fantastic. O’Brien has made the right play call more often than not. He has taken advantage of Watson’s mobility and creativity.

And the whole group looks different. The Texans had not scored 30 points in a game since the last game of 2015. They have topped that number twice in two weeks. They also went over 400 yards of offense for the second time in two weeks. After years of trotting out Hoyers, Fitzpatricks, Keenums, Savages and Ostrichs, the Texans have a real, bonafide answer at quarterback. They finally got it right at the position.

And O’Brien has not held him back. He has opened up the offense, using misdirection, option plays, bootlegs, throwing on the run, called quarterback draws…and it has worked.

There will be bad games ahead. Setbacks. But there will also be a lot more excitement and improvement. Suddenly, things look so much brighter in Houston.

Yes, the Texans have a real quarterback. And a play-caller who knows how to use him.

Finally.

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Houston dropped two of three

Astros drop series finale to Oakland, A's win series

Jose Urquidy couldn't hold Oakland back on Saturday. Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

With Oakland finally ending their drought against the Astros on Friday night to split the first two games of the series, and with the Angels staying in step with them as both teams started the day 6-2, the Astros needed a win to keep momentum in their favor on Saturday.

Instead, Oakland would outslug Houston once again to take the series finale and take the series win. The loss moves Houston to 6-3 and down to second place, at least for now, until the 6-2 Angels complete their game on Saturday evening.

Final Score: A's 7, Astros 3

Astros' Record: 6-3, second in AL West

Winning Pitcher: Frankie Montas (1-1)

Losing Pitcher: Jose Urquidy (0-1)

Urquidy gives up four over six

Much like the night before, Oakland was able to bring in runs against Houston's starter, this time Jose Urquidy, Saturday afternoon in their second time through the order. Their first time through, Urquidy was cruising, allowing just one baserunner in the first three innings on a single in the top of the third.

Things shifted in the top of the fourth, with the A's getting back-to-back singles to set the stage for a two-run frame with dual RBI-singles to take a 2-0 lead. Oakland doubled that in the fifth, getting a two-out single to set up a two-run homer by Ramon Laureano to make it 4-0. Urquidy would go on to finish six innings, but with no run support to that point, would leave in line for the loss. His final line: 6.0 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 0 BB, 7 K, 93 P.

A's pad their lead before Houston gets on the board

Meanwhile, although getting five hits, the Astros could not get anything on the board against Frankie Montas through six innings. Brandon Bielak took over out of the bullpen for Urquidy in the top of the seventh, but after loading the bases, he would allow a dagger two-RBI single to make it a 6-0 deficit for Houston.

With Montas starting the seventh looking to face a batter or two before Oakland moved to their bullpen, Kyle Tucker would finally get Houston on the board with a leadoff solo home run, cutting the lead to 6-1 and ending Montas' day. Houston would get a two-out rally going, with an RBI-double by Jose Altuve followed by an RBI-triple by Michael Brantley to make it a three-run game at 6-3.

Oakland takes the series win

Ryne Stanek tried to keep it a three-run game and give the Astros a chance to stay in it in the top of the eighth but instead would give up a two-out solo home run to push Oakland's lead back to four. That 7-3 score would go final as Houston would go scoreless in the eighth and ninth.

Up Next: Houston will have a day off on Sunday before continuing this homestand Monday night by welcoming in Detroit and former manager A.J. Hinch for three games. In the series opener, the Tigers will send young star Casey Mize (0-0, 2.25 ERA) to the mound, while the Astros will get another start by Zack Greinke (1-0, 1.38 ERA).

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