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's winning streak is up to nine

Astros secure series over Orioles as winning streak continues

Zack Greinke provided another long outing for his team on Tuesday. Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images.

After continuing their recent dominance with a lopsided win over this Orioles team on Monday in the rain-plagued opener, the Astros eyed number nine in a row if they could do it again on Tuesday. Though not as one-sided, the Astros would get the victory to secure the series win.

Final Score: Astros 3, Orioles 1

Astros' Record: 45-28, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Zack Greinke (8-2)

Losing Pitcher: Jorge Lopez (2-9)

A tame start for Houston's offense

After a scoreless first inning on both sides, Myles Straw started the scoring with two outs in the top of the second, sneaking a ball off and over the left-field wall just out of the grasp of Austin Hays for a solo homer to put Houston ahead 1-0. After Baltimore tied the game in the third, the game remained gridlocked 1-1 until the top of the seventh, when Chase McCormick would reach on a one-out infield single then raced around to score on a Myles Straw RBI single, putting Houston back in front 2-1.

Greinke pitches into the eighth

Over that span, Zack Greinke was getting efficient innings against Baltimore's lineup. He allowed that trying run in the third, which came after a one-out walk moved to third on a single, then scored on a sac fly. That was one of his few moments with runners in scoring position, as he erased a single in the first, a single in the fourth, and a double in the seventh to maintain the new 2-1 lead.

The Astros loaded the bases with no outs in the top of the eighth but came away with only one run of insurance on a McCormick sac fly, making it 3-1 as Greinke returned to the mound to continue working. He allowed a leadoff single then retired the next batter before Dusty Baker would come out to get him as the left-handed portion of the lineup was due up and a better match for Brooks Raley, who had been warming. Greinke's final line: 7.1 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 4 K, 91 P.

Astros make it nine in a row

Raley completed the eighth for Greinke with two strikeouts to strand the inherited runner. With it still a two-run game in the bottom of the ninth, Ryan Pressly entered for the save. He erased a two-out single to finish things off, giving Houston their ninth win in a row and securing the series with a chance at the sweep in the finale.

Up Next: The finale of this three-game set will be another 6:05 PM Central start time on Wednesday. Thomas Eshelman (0-0, 1.93 ERA) will be on the mound for Baltimore to face the Astros, while Jose Urquidy (5-3, 3.65 ERA) will start for Houston.

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