Texans 22, Bills 19

Texans pull off late rally against Bills, escape with rare playoff win in OT

Texans pull off late rally against Bills, escape with rare playoff win in OT
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The Texans needed a little bit of magic on Saturday. In overtime, Deshaun Watson gave them just that.

Watson made one of his magical escapes from a sack, hit Taiwan Jones for a 37-yard play to set up the game-winning field goal in a dramatic 22-19 win over the Buffalo Bills.

The win featured a little bit of everything. A typical Texans playoff first half where they went down 13-0 when they were badly outplayed and outcoached.

But then they rallied from down 16-0 - something they had never done under Bill O'Brien - took a 19-16 lead, blew it on defense, went to overtime where they managed to get a game winning field goal on their second possession thanks to Watson.

They won it in spite of a standard playoff performance early. They found themselves in a 16-0 hole late in the third quarter and looking at yet another first round embarrassment.

Turning the tide

But then J.J. Watt came up with a sack, and held the Bills to a field goal attempt that made the 16-0 margin. After that, the offense finally figured they could run the ball up the gut, and they needed to get Deshaun Watson moving on designed running plays. They marched down and made it 16-8 with a two-point conversion. They forced a fumble that led to a field goal. Then they forced the Bills into their first three and out of the game, and the stage was set with just over nine minutes left in the fourth quarter.

Watson at his best

Watson led them on a scoring drive that resulted in a touchdown and two point conversion and a 19-16 lead with just under five minutes left. They made clutch play after clutch play to take the lead.

But then the defense, bad late in games all season, let the Bills march right down the field and have a chance to tie the game. However, Whitney Mercilus forced an intentional grounding penalty and a fourth and 27. the Jacob Martin followed it up with a sack. Still, the Texans could not run out the clock, and the Bills had one last chance with 1:16 left and no timeouts. The Bills once again got into field goal range, and this time they tied it and send the game to overtime.

Doesn't mask the problems

The victory should not excuse some of the coaching errors. Bill O'Brien wasted a challenge on a PI call that was never being overturned. His play calling was conservative and predictable for the better part of three quarters. He handcuffed Watson early with poor play calling.

But the Texans overcame that. As bad as the play calling was early, it was excellent in the fourth quarter. It put the game in Watson's hands, and the stars came to play. Watson and DeAndre Hopkins led the offense. Watt led the defense. Players made plays. Watson. Hopkins. Mercilus. Watt. There is a saying in the hockey playoffs; your best players have to be your best players. When it counted, the Texans best players were the best players.

What's next? 

The Texans will face Kansas City next week, based on the Titans beating the Patriots. The Texans will have to play significantly better - and coach better - to be competitive. They won in KC earlier this year, but Pat Mahomes was hobbled and the defense has improved, so they will be significant underdogs. But they did something few expected them to do - come back from a massive deficit and advance to the next round. They were 0-22 in the Bill O'Brien era down 16 points or more. Now they are 1-22 and O'Brien has his second playoff win in five tries.

Getting more will be difficult, but they showed some heart and grit, and in the end, they escaped with a win.

And Watson made it happen.

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We're all thinking the same thing about Jose Abreu. Will someone speak up? Composite Getty Image.

Coming off another disappointing series loss on Monday, in which Jose Abreu once again went hitless, something occurred to me while watching the disappointed faces in the dugout.

What will it take for the Astros to call the Abreu experiment a failure, and move on? It doesn't seem like the manager or GM are making the call on this.

This decision will have to come from Jim Crane, and in part, Jeff Bagwell. But what if one of the veteran players spoke privately with Crane and/or Bagwell about what the plan is with Abreu.

Clearly, players typically stay out of these decisions for many reasons. You don't want to have the reputation of messing with other guy's money. We here that all the time in sports.

But as a thought exercise, how would Jim Crane respond if Jose Altuve or Justin Verlander just wanted some clarity on where this is headed and showed some concern for time running out on the season. It seems to me their words would hold more weight than a first time manager and general manager.

And it wouldn't be the first time a player allegedly went to Crane directly. We've all heard the reports about Carlos Correa asking Crane to change his mind about Verlander throwing out the first pitch a couple of years ago. If a Hall of Fame level player privately voiced concern to Crane, would he take it more seriously?

Let's be honest with ourselves, the guys in the clubhouse probably wouldn't broach this topic with Crane. But don't you think they're thinking it, and talking about it privately among each other?

Manager Joe Espada told the Astros flagship on Thursday that there is a timetable for Abreu, but the team is not going to share that with the public.

Which is fair, but one has to wonder how long they're willing to wait. Is it the All-Star break, the end of the season, the end of June. Who knows? Martin Maldonado kept his job all last season, with a legit better option already on the roster.

This all speaks to a bigger problem, it doesn't seem like the manager or the GM will make the call on Abreu. And they're the ones taking the most heat for his poor performance. Especially Espada.

And with so many fans calling for Espada to be fired, we legitimately wonder if a new manager would handle things differently and have more control over the roster and who plays.

Be sure to watch the video above as we examine the Abreu issue, and how much blame Joe Espada deserves for the Astros disappointing season.

Catch our weekly Stone Cold ‘Stros podcast. Brandon Strange, Josh Jordan, Charlie Pallilo discuss varied Astros topics. The first post for the week generally goes up Monday afternoon (second part released Tuesday) via The SportsMap HOU YouTube channel or listen to episodes in their entirety at Apple, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

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