Ravens 41, Texans 7

Texans offer no challenge to Ravens in ugly 41-7 loss

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The Texans had a chance to make a big statement on Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens. They did indeed make a big one; they are not ready to compete at the highest level. The Ravens might be the best team in football right now, and they looked like it. The Texans looked like an also-ran, losing 41-7. There is no shame in losing to the Ravens, but completely failing to show up and channeling your inner Miami Dolphin was an embarrassment. This was by far their worst performance of the season and maybe the worst of the Bill O'Brien era. It was reminiscent of the 30-0 playoff loss to the Chiefs. Here is how it all played out:

Offense

The positives: You're kidding, right? The only touchdown came in garbage time.

The negatives: We can stop with the Deshaun Watson MVP talk. He was badly outplayed by Lamar Jackson, who continues to stake his claim. Watson followed up an amazing performance in London with one of the worst efforts of his career.

They got off to another slow start, with a bad Watson fumble where he once again tried to do way too much. Fortunately it did not hurt them, as the Ravens missed a rare field goal. The next possession they went for it on fourth and three, threw a deep ball to Hopkins, who was interfered with in the end zone but there was no call. The Texans rightly challenged, but the NFL continued its trend of refusing to overturn interference calls. That was one of the only real shots to score a touchdown as it turned out, and they game quickly got away from them after that. Ka'imi Fairbairn missed yet another field goal in the first half. They allowed five first-half sacks (seven overall), although many of those were Watson's fault. They looked disjointed on offense, as they did in the first game against Jacksonville and in the loss to Carolina. They had just 102 yards in the first half, worst of the Watson era. There is no other way to say it; they were just bad.

Defense

The positives: Special teams made a nice stop on a fake field goal in the first quarter, reading it perfectly and stopping it on fourth down. Also, it was scoreless after one quarter. So there's that. Otherwise...

The negatives: After a solid beginning, holding Lamar Jackson to a 1-of-6 passing start, they had little answer for what has been the best offense in football, allowing the Ravens to score on six consecutive actual possessions (they did have a one-play knee down at the half). They got little pressure on Jackson, dropping multiple players into coverage, but Jackson was able to beat that. The third touchdown they allowed was vintage Texans defense; they failed to cover a running back out of the backfield on a wheel route. Injuries continued to plague the secondary, as both Lonnie Johnson and Justin Reid left the game. They were overmatched on this side of the ball, too.

The bottom line

This was an all-around awful performance, the worst of the Watson era. He completed 18-of-29 passes for 169 yards, zero TDs and a terrible interception and even worse fumble. He rushed for just 12, and was sacked six times. All the progress the Texans seemed to have made over the past month disappeared in one ugly afternoon. Lamar Jackson showed why he and Russell Wilson are the MVP leaders, hitting 17 of 24 passes for 222 yards, four TDs and no interceptions. He also added 86 yards rushing on just nine carries. In the battle of young star quarterbacks, Jackson dominated in what was no contest. The team stats were ugly as well. Baltimore had 25 first downs to 16, 492 yards to 232 (much of it garbage time yards) and led in time of possession 35:46 to 23:41. The Texans were just 2 of 10 on third downs and 1 of 4 on fourth down.

Bill O'Brien has done a good job in recent weeks, but they had no answers on either side of the ball. He also unnecessarily risked Watson by leaving him in the game down 34-0 in the fourth quarter. Why? To pad his crappy stats? He finally put in A.J. McCarron with 3:55 left down 41-7. He should have folded sooner and prepared for Thursday night's game against the Colts. He was lucky Watson was not hurt.

The Texans came out of the bye week looking like they had spent the entire time on the beach. The bad news is they face a quick turnaround and a must-win against the Colts and are now just 6-4 on the season, tied with Indy. At least they didn't expend much energy in this one. They have to regroup quickly or the season could spiral out of control in a hurry with the Colts and then Patriots on deck. This three-game stretch was going to be their big test. On the first section of it, they failed miserably.

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Altuve's homer starting the scoring for Houston on Friday night. Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
After a solid showing to take the three of the four-game series in Arlington against the Rangers to start the week, the Astros returned home for three against the Diamondbacks in a weekend series. They would have a slow start to the opener but would ultimately come away victorious.

Final Score (10 innings): Astros 4, Diamondbacks 3

Astros' Record: 87-60, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Ryne Stanek (3-4)

Losing Pitcher: Tyler Clippard (1-1)

Bielak makes the impromptu start

With Luis Garcia having to move his start ahead by a day on Thursday instead of Friday with Framber Valdez's finger cut, Brandon Bielak made a start for Houston in the opener against Arizona. He didn't go as deep as he probably would have wanted and certainly ventured out of his comfort zone with traffic on the bases.

He loaded the bases in the top of the first, allowing a single and two walks, but was able to strand all three to keep it a scoreless game. He rebounded with a 1-2-3 second, but he dealt with a threat again in the third as back-to-back singles pressured him to start the inning. He would get back-to-back strikeouts, but that's as far as he would go as Houston moved on to Blake Taylor. Taylor got the final out of the third on one pitch, then erased a two-out double in the top of the fourth.

Altuve breaks up the no-no with a go-ahead homer

Brooks Raley took over in the top of the fifth, but in his three batters, he faced allowed a single while getting two outs before Cristian Javier took over to end the frame. Javier allowed the first run of the game in the top of the sixth, a leadoff solo homer to Kole Calhoun to put the Diamondbacks in front 1-0 before he finished the inning.

Madison Bumgarner didn't allow a single hit to the Astros through the first five and two-thirds innings. He allowed a one-out walk in the bottom of the sixth, which proved costly as Jose Altuve would get the first knock of the game for Houston, a two-run go-ahead homer. Phil Maton was the next reliever for the Astros in the top of the seventh, maintaining the new one-run lead by erasing a leadoff single.

Astros get the win in extras

The Diamondbacks tied it up in the top of the eighth against Kendall Graveman, getting a leadoff single followed by a walk, then later an RBI single to knot things up 2-2. Houston stranded a runner in the bottom of the eighth, then brought in Ryan Pressly, who tossed a 1-2-3 top of the ninth to keep the game tied.

Despite getting the winning run in scoring position with a leadoff ground-rule double by Jason Castro to start the bottom of the ninth, they would strand it as the game went to extras. Arizona scored their free runner in the top of the tenth, getting a sac fly to move it to third then going in front on an RBI single.

The Astros matched that and more in the bottom of the inning, moving their runner to third on a lineout to start the frame, followed by an intentional walk to Yordan Alvarez. Jake Meyers tied the game with an RBI single, then after another walk to load the bases, Chas McCormick was hit by a pitch to bring in the winning run, moving the Astros closer to clinching their playoff berth.

Up Next: The middle game of this three-game set will have a start time of 6:10 PM Central on Saturday. Tyler Gilbert (2-2, 3.15 ERA) is expected to make a start for Arizona, while Lance McCullers Jr. (12-4, 3.12 ERA) will be on the mound for Houston.

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