PANTHERS DEFEAT TEXANS

11 critical observations from the Texans' 24-9 loss to the Panthers

Davis Mills made his first NFL start on Thursday. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images.

The Houston Texans couldn't get anything consistent on offense as they drop their second game to the Panthers 24-9. Here are 11 Observations from the loss.

1. Davis Mills is very much a rookie and very limited. Mills still struggles to be in a rhythm and makes numerous rookie mistakes. There are flashes of solid play, but he can't put it together very often. Mills was a project and is still a project.

2. Davis Mills has trouble figuring out pressure. The identification of pressure is something a lot of young quarterbacks struggle with, and with reps, he should be better. The problem is he will play some ferocious defenses in the next few weeks. Mills will have to learn on the fly.

3. With less than two minutes in the first half, expectations were low for the Texans on offense. Davis Mills was perfect, sans a spike to stop the clock, in leading a drive for a touchdown. The big play was a pass to Brandin Cooks and it finished with a touchdown pass to Anthony Miller. This was the best drive of his short NFL season. What worked here needs to be replicated into non-hurry situations.

4. Brandin Cooks is getting the bulk of the receptions and targets in this offense, and he is still successful. Cooks getting open non-stop despite being the sole dangerous receiver on this team will not stop being impressive anytime soon.

5. Joey Slye missed an extra point and it led to David Culley making another punt decision that drew criticism yet again. The Texans ended up punting despite being just four yards away from a first down. Slye was not comfortable with that range according to Culley, and so the team took a delay of game and punted. Culley didn't throw his kicker under the bus and that's an admirable move by him.

6. Ross Blacklock and Jonathan Greenard each recorded a sack. The young defensive linemen have to be building blocks for this team going forward.

7. The defensive line matched their combined numbers from the first two games in tackles for a loss and sacks. Despite the successful box score night, the pass rush is still so inconsistent it puts the defense in terrible positions trying to cover pass catchers.

8. Vernon Hargreaves was picked on by the Panthers. He had a very rough night for this defense against a talented receiving group. Stefon Diggs is next up for him.

9. There are good signs on this defense, but Lovie Smith has to get players healthy and find the perfect mix to maximize his talent each week.

10. Andre Roberts again looked lost on special teams despite being a specialist for this team. The team should look long and hard about replacing Roberts. The toughest part is Alex Erickson, who was in camp for the Texans, was the solid punt returner and slot receiver for the Panthers Thursday night.

11. Injuries and the short week with a rookie quarterback doomed the Texans. This is also a team that could look on the bright side and convince themselves they would be 2-1 or maybe 3-0 with Tyrod Taylor at quarterback. He isn't the quarterback though; it is Davis Mills. And it will be for the future. So the team should strap in for their bumpy ride.

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Houston goes up 1-0 in the series

Altuve, Correa help lift Astros to ALCS Game 1 win over Red Sox

Carlos Correa's go-ahead homer in the seventh inning of ALCS Game 1 helped lift the Astros to a 1-0 series lead. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Despite one rough loss to the White Sox in the ALDS, the Astros looked like the dominant team they are capable of being, taking that series 3-1 to advance and taking ownership of home-field advantage in the ALCS against the Red Sox, who upset the Rays. In Game 1, despite trailing for the middle portions of the game, Houston would get more highlight moments from the faces of the franchise to start the series with a win.

Final Score: Astros 5, Red Sox 4

ALCS Series (Best of Seven): Houston leads 1-0

Winning Pitcher: Ryne Stanek

Losing Pitcher: Hansel Robles

Houston strikes first, but Boston sends Valdez to an early exit

Both starting pitchers worked in and out of trouble in the early goings of ALCS Game 1, starting with Framber Valdez in the top of the first. After erasing a leadoff single by inducing a double play, he went on to load the bases on a single and two walks but would strand all three runners to keep Boston off the board. The Astros jumped in front in the bottom half, with Jose Altuve working a leadoff walk, moving to second on a one-out single by Alex Bregman, advancing to third on a wild pitch, then ultimately scoring on a sac fly by Yordan Alvarez to put Houston ahead 1-0 after one frame.

They had a chance to extend their lead in the bottom of the second, taking advantage of a shaky inning by Chris Sale, who loaded the bases with one out as Houston would get two singles and a hit-by-pitch. That flipped the order over to the top, but a great diving catch by former Astro Kiké Hernández would end the inning. Hernández led off the top of the third against Valdez, and he would tie things up with a solo homer.

Things went downhill from there for Valdez and the Astros, as a one-out walk followed by a single gave the Red Sox the go-ahead run in scoring position. On a groundball that likely should have been a double play to end the inning, it would get through Altuve's legs, scoring a run and keeping the inning alive for Boston. They took advantage, getting an RBI double to extend their new lead to 3-1. Valdez would get one more out before Dusty Baker would give him the early hook, bringing in Yimi Garcia, who finished the frame.

A battle of the bullpens, Altuve ties it up

Like Valdez, Sale would also not make it through three innings, getting two outs while putting two on base before Boston would start their bullpen's night as well. Both sets of relievers settled the game down, with the Red Sox stranding two of Houston's runners in the third as well as the fifth, maintaining their two-run lead. After Garcia finished the third, Cristian Javier entered to eat up a couple of innings, and he would do just that by getting through two frames with just one hit, four strikeouts, and no runs.

Next, Phil Maton took over in the top of the sixth and erased a leadoff walk to keep things in striking distance for the home team. In the bottom of the sixth, Houston put another runner on base, getting a one-out single by Chas McCormick. Two batters later, with two outs, Jose Altuve provided yet another career postseason highlight, tying the game 3-3 with a two-run home to re-energize the Minute Maid Park crowd.

Astros take ALCS Game 1

Now a brand new ballgame in the top of the seventh, Brooks Raley came in to face three batters, getting two strikeouts while allowing a single before Dusty Baker would move on to Ryne Stanek, who would get the third out. With two outs in the bottom of the seventh, Carlos Correa continued his march to a monster off-season contract, putting Houston back on top with a solo homer, making it 4-3.

Houston kept the script after Stanek with the new lead in hand, going to Kendall Graveman as the setup man in the top of the eighth. Despite a two-out single, he would get out of the inning with the lead intact, putting Houston three outs away from the victory. After a walk, single, and hit by pitch to start the bottom of the eighth with the bases loaded, Altuve would drive in his third run of the game, getting a sac fly to extend the lead to two runs at 5-3.

That insurance run proved pivotal, as closer Ryan Pressly was met with a leadoff solo home run by Hernandez, his second of the night for Boston, to make it 5-4. Pressly refocused and was able to get the next three batters in order, though, wrapping up the win to start Houston off with a 1-0 series lead and putting them three wins away from advancing to the World Series.

Up Next: The two teams will have a moderately quick turnaround, with ALCS Game 2 scheduled to start at 3:20 PM Central on Saturday ahead of NLCS Game 1 between the Dodgers and Braves getting the night slot. The pitching matchup is expected to be Nathan Eovaldi for Boston, who is 1-0 with a 2.61 ERA in his two starts this postseason, going opposite Luis Garcia, who had a rough outing in the ALDS for Houston, giving up five runs without completing three innings in Chicago.

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