Texans 22, Bills 19

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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The media has mixed feelings about the James Harden trade. Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

James Harden was 100-percent exactly right earlier this week when he said the Houston Rockets were "just not good enough."

How could they be? Not when their moody superstar scorer, who makes about half a million dollars per game, shows up chubby, looking like a kielbasa about to explode in the microwave. Hey, some people eat when they're unhappy, it's a defense mechanism. In Harden's case, the only defense he's exhibited this season. At least he had a good excuse for missing pre-season training camp and alienating his teammates - he was busy partying with Cinnamon and Cherish in Atlanta and Vegas without a mask. Worst of all, he went into the tank his last four games in a Rockets uniform, standing around, arms folded, scoring fewer than 20 points each time, all Rockets losses. Fans in the front row were asking him to move, he was blocking their view of players who cared about winning. James Harden sabotaged his own team, a team that offered him $50 million a year to stay. Something that crazy could only happen in professional sports these days.

There's a saying that drives the American labor movement: "a fair day's wage for a fair day's work." It's the motto of the American Federation of Labor. The National Basketball Players Association is not a member. Harden's sulking on the court, cheating the Rockets and their fans, was unforgivable.

Harden, sitting out games while somehow being on the court, forced the Rockets to trade him - and quick - to Brooklyn. The trade, when you ignore the fine print and unindicted co-conspirators Cleveland and Indiana, sent Harden to Brooklyn in exchange for Caris LeVert (immediately flipped for Victor Oladipo), Jarrett Allen, three first-round draft picks and four swapped first-rounders. It's true, when you trade a superstar, you never get back equal value. The other team wins.

If it makes Rockets fans feel any better, the media in New York already has problems with their new problem child. I should say newest problem child. Kyrie Irving plays for the Nets.

"They (the Nets) gave up everybody! There's nothing left now. I just want to cry, It's awful," weeped WFAN Radio talk host Evan Roberts. For those who don't subscribe to weekly Arbitron ratings reports, WFAN is the most powerful, top-rated sports talk station in the Apple.

"You're leading down the road of doom. Harden and Durant could be gone in a year and a half. I'm not convinced this gives them a better chance to win a title. I'm living a nightmare again. They better freaking win."

Circle March 3 on your Rockets schedule. That's when the Brooklyn Nets, with their Big 3 of Kevin Durant, James Harden and possibly Kyrie Irving visit Toyota Center. I hear talk radio salivating over the record jeers that will cascade over Harden's name, although I'm not buying it. Fans don't think like the media does. I'm thinking that Rockets fans will welcome Harden back - one night only - with cheers.

Toyota Center public address announcer Matt Thomas: "Usually when former Rockets come to town for the first time since leaving, I give them a positive introduction. It's up to the fans how to react."

James Harden spent eight seasons with the Rockets. He is a spectacular player who watched other NBA players engineer trades so they could compete for a title. Harden didn't think the Rockets were good enough, and he's right. So he wanted out. We've all been there, a job we didn't like for a company we didn't like, for a boss we didn't respect. Harden wanting to be traded is understandable. How he went about it was deplorable. He hurt his co-workers.

Houston will make Harden pay for his disrespectful departure. He has an upscale restaurant set to open here. The name of the steakhouse will be "13." Harden's business partners may want to change that number ... before the restaurant's telephone number is disconnected. There are plenty of other restaurants in Houston. Rich people who can afford steakhouse prices hold grudges.

Rockets fans searching for a silver lining say, "We got two decent players and a whole bunch of precious first-round picks" for a malcontent who would rather be anywhere (except maybe Sacramento) than Houston." Yes, a bunch of first-round picks does bode well for the future. Anywhere, except maybe Houston.

Houston's draft war room isn't the most successful operation in the NBA. Over the past decade prior to 2000, under the direction of general manager Daryl Morey, the Rockets made 16 draft picks. Not one of them is still in a Rockets uniform, many of them have sought employment outside of America, some outside of basketball. Among their first-round whiffs: Nikola Mirotic, Terrence Jones, Sam Dekker - all out of the league. Best of all, Royce White, who played three whole games in his NBA career and finished with a scoring average of 0.00 points per game.

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