Deshaun Watson had a big game running the ball, as did the Texans. Bob Levey/Getty Images
The Houston Texans took another big step in the road to the AFC South title, knocking off Tennessee 34-17 on Monday Night Football. They simply just keep getting it done during an eight-game winning streak that has erased a brutal 0-3 start.
They got it done despite falling in a 10-0 hole early after giving up a 61-yard touchdown pass on a blown coverage.
They got it done primarily because they ran the ball 34 times for 281 yards, including 162 by Lamar Miller, who had a 97-yard burst in the first half.
They got it done because Deshaun Watson was very good both throwing and running the ball. He threw for 210 yards and two touchdowns to Demaryius Thomas on 19 of 24 passing and rushed for another 70 yards and a score. He did not turn the ball over, although he was ruled down by contact on a play that could easily have been a fumble.
They got it done despite a nice game by Marcus Mariota, who completed his first 19 passes and played really well. The Titans were slowed by offensive penalties and six sacks by the Texans, but Mariota was terrific and Tennessee would not have been in the game at all without him. He would finish 21 of 22 for 292 yards and two TDs.
They got it done thanks to Christian Covington (2.5 sacks), J.J. Watt (1.5 sacks), Whitney Mercilus (1.5 sacks) and Jadeveon Clowney (a half sack).
And the Texans got it done because there were two key plays early that went the Texans’ way. Down 10-0, Houston fumbled on a kickoff return, and a Titans player briefly jumped on the ball, but the Texans recovered. They marched down the field and cut the lead to 10-7.
In the second quarter, with the Texans up 14-10, the Titans went for a fourth and one at the Texans’ 3. The defense stuffed the play, and on the first snap after that, Miller broke off his 97-yard touchdown run.
The Texans ran the ball effectively the entire first half, putting up 200 yards, 148 from Miller. Those two plays were the difference in a half the Texans led 24-10. They were able to do just enough in the second half to close the game.
Now the Texans sit at 8-3, with the eight consecutive wins. They lead the AFC South by two games over Indianapolis, which has won five in a row and are 6-5. The Titans fell to 5-6.
It was not perfect. The Texans gave up some big plays in the passing game, and the offense struggled on third down. But it was a solid performance against a team that was desperate.
And the Texans got it done.
As the Astros prepare to play their first game of spring training against the Nationals this Saturday, we're starting to see reports about how the players approached the offseason, and what tweaks they made to improve in the 2024 season.
Cristian Javier is a player Astros fans are hoping bounces back this year, as his ERA jumped from 2.54 in 2022 to 4.56 in 2023. Workload was thought to be one of the main factors causing his regression, he dealt with a dead arm last season and threw more innings than ever before (162).
Another explanation could be the pitch clock. This was another new element all pitchers had to deal with last year, and that also likely played a role in his struggles.
But according to The Athletic's Chandler Rome, Javier believes he was carrying some extra weight last season. Add that to some mechanical issues he was experiencing, and his struggles in 2023 make a lot more sense. And to be fair, he wouldn't be the first person to get a little fat and happy after winning a World Series.
Cristian Javier said he lost around 15 pounds this offseason. He acknowledged that some of his struggles last year could be attributed to some extra weight he was carrying around in addition to the already-documented mechanical flaws he had.
— Chandler Rome (@Chandler_Rome) February 22, 2024
In an effort to get back on track in 2024, Javier said he lost around 15 pounds this offseason. With the pitch clock not going anywhere, pitchers need to be in better cardiac shape than ever before.
Hopefully this modification helps Javier return to form and put up jaw-dropping numbers like he did in 2022. This rotation needs Javier to be the dominate pitcher we all know he's capable of being. With Justin Verlander behind schedule and Framber Valdez trying to bounce back from his own down year, Houston will depend on Javier like never before.
The Astros are certainly counting on it after giving him a 5-year, $64 million contract last season. Javier will definitely be a player to watch this spring.