DROWNING IN A SEA OF NEGATIVITY, THERE WERE SOME POSITIVES FOR TEXANS FANS AS WELL IN GAME 1

Texans: It wasn't a win, but at least it was fun to watch

I'm going to try something different with this column and focus on the positives I took away from Game 1 of the Texans season Monday night in New Orleans. I know everyone wants to focus on "Usual Suspects" for all the hate and negativity when talking Texans, mainly Bill O' Brien, the offensive line and the defensive secondary. Don't get it twisted, those were all areas that warranted criticism in the past and deserved plenty of blame again Monday, but I want to talk about a few bright spots to build on as the team goes forward, including turning a few perceived negatives into positives that could pay off in a big way in the final 15 games.

Lamar Miller Andy Lyons/Getty Images

The first bright spot for the Texans was the ability to run the ball effectively against one of the better defensive lines in the NFL. When the Texans lost Lamar Miller to a season-ending knee injury in the preseason there was little hope that the team could replace him and his steady output at the tailback position.

With no one on the roster capable of carrying the load, Bill O' Brien and his staff went outside the organization and pulled off two trades that created the duo that was able to account for 140 of the 180 rushing yards Houston finished the game with. Deshaun Watson scrambled his way for 40 yards while keeping plays alive, but the rest of the runs were compliments of two guys that weren't on the roster midway through training camp.

Duke Johnson joined the squad in a trade with the Browns early in the preseason. Initially, he was looked at as a third down back with more ability in the passing game than running the ball and the hope was that he would compliment Miller while lightening his workload by occasionally picking up some carries.

That all changed when Miller went down and suddenly he was the only experienced RB on the roster that O'Brien could trust. The versatile back rushed for 57 yards on 9 carries and added 33 receiving yards out of the backfield as a safety valve for quarterback Deshaun Watson. He averaged a little over 6 yards per rush and 8 yards per reception and will only get better as he gets more familiar with the offense and playbook.

The other move that was made to add depth to the ground game was a late move to acquire Carlos Hyde from the Chiefs. Hyde had some good seasons early in his career but had struggled of late making brief stops with several teams. The Texans took a flyer on him and he paid off in a big way, rushing for 83 yards on 10 carries as he showed speed, quickness and the ability to make people miss. He too will only improve as he gets more comfortable with his new team and system and the hope is the duo will be able to put up numbers similar to what Miller gave them over the past few seasons.

Another reason for optimism if you're a Texans fan has to be what you saw from two of the other newcomers that came to Houston before the start of the regular season, wide receiver Kenny Stills and left tackle Laremy Tunsil. The two main pieces of the Dolphins trade showed that the sky is the limit for them and their new squad as both made steady, solid contributions to their new team as they helped keep them in the game and gave fans hope for the future. Stills had the big 37-yard touchdown reception with under a minute to play that looked like it was going to be the game-winner as his time on the field was limited as he learns a new offense. He will be a welcomed addition to the receiving core as he showed he is still a deep threat and steady target for Watson to utilize, as well as an insurance policy for the often injured Will Fuller and KeKe Coutee. Tunsil had less than a week to get some chemistry with his new teammates while learning the blocking schemes and playbook and while he wasn't perfect, he showed that he is the future at left tackle and the perfect protector of Watson's blindside.

Deshaun Watson Deshaun Watson had an up and down day. Tim Warner/Getty Images

The biggest takeaway for me when watching the game in New Orleans was how exciting and productive the offense was when they had the ball, regardless of the sacks and QB pressures. O' Brien and his new offensive coordinator Tim Kelly called a pretty good game as they weren't hyper-conservative and predictable, didn't run it into the center of the line on every third and long situation and let their stars shine.

Watson and DeAndre Hopkins were clicking all night long as they constantly put pressure on the Saints secondary. Fuller looked great coming off his serious knee injury as he showed his speed was still there and his hands were better than expected. Johnson and Hyde provided offensive balance while showing the ability to make defenders miss and getting productive yards after contact. Johnson also contributed in the passing game and he will only get better as he gets more familiar with the offense and playbook.

The biggest positive of all was the play of Watson who just gets better and better with each passing game. He continues to prove that no stage is too big and no lights are too bright for the emerging superstar as he led his team all night long, including on the biggest drive of the night when they got the touchdown they needed in the final two minutes of the game. If the line can find a way to prevent him from getting sacked 6 times a game as he was in New Orleans and Watson can stay healthy, this team is going to put up a lot of points while being extremely fun to watch.

Most Popular

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome

Listen Live

Houston's magic number stays at 2

Astros drop series finale to Mariners after rough start by Greinke

Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

With their magic number at 2 to secure their spot in the 2020 MLB postseason, the Astros returned to T-Mobile Park in Seattle for this three-game series' finale and rubber game. Here are the highlights from the game:

Final Score: Mariners 3, Astros 2.

Record: 28-28, second in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Nick Margevicius (2-3, 4.57 ERA)

Losing pitcher: Zack Greinke (3-3, 4.03 ERA).

Greinke unable to complete five innings

While the Astros were being held scoreless, the Mariners were putting up runs on Zack Greinke. They took an early 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first with back-to-back singles followed by an RBI-double with one out. Greinke would stop the damage there, then looked to settle in over the next few frames.

He allowed just one baserunner in the second through fourth innings, a one-out single in the bottom of the fourth. Then, in the fifth, the Mariners would knock him out of the game by getting a one-out single that would come around to score on a two-out RBI-double, followed by an RBI-single to extend the lead to 3-0. Greinke faced one more batter, allowing a single before Dusty Baker would take the ball and move to the bullpen. His final line: 4.2 IP, 8 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 5 K, 0 HR, 92 P.

Astros try a late rally, come up short

On the other end, the Astros were unable to break through against Nick Margevicius, getting just one hit and two walks through the first four innings. They had a chance to get on the board in the top of the fifth, starting the inning with back-to-back singles before a walk loaded the bases with one out to turn the lineup over. They'd come up empty, though, with George Springer striking out before a long flyball to center by Jose Altuve to end the inning.

After finishing the fifth for Greinke, Andre Scrubb returned for a scoreless sixth, working around a one-out walk. Still 3-0, Blake Taylor took over on the mound in the bottom of the seventh, erasing a leadoff single and two-out walk to keep Seattle from extending their lead. Houston had another chance to score in the top of the eighth, getting two runners in scoring position, but again would strand them.

Cy Sneed was the next reliever out for the Astros, working around a two-out walk to send the game on to the ninth. The Astros would avoid the shutout, getting a two-RBI single by pinch-hitting Josh Reddick in the top of the ninth to make it a one-run game at 3-2. That's as close as they'd come, though, as the Mariners would eventually get the final out to take the series and keep the Astros' magic number stagnant at 2.


Up Next: There is one series left in the regular season for Houston, and it awaits them in Arlington with a four-game series against the Rangers, who are well eliminated from playoff contention. The first of the four games will start at 7:05 PM Central on Thursday with a pitching matchup of Lance Lynn (6-2, 2.53 ERA) for Texas and Cristian Javier (4-2, 3.33 ERA) for the Astros.

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome