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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Houston loses first game to Oakland

A's end losing streak against Astros with late homers

Lance McCullers Jr. went five innings of one-run ball Friday night. Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

After maintaining their stronghold against the A's in Thursday's home opener, the Astros had the chance to lock up the three-game series victory against Oakland with a win on Friday night. On the mound, Lance McCullers Jr. hoped to improve upon his first start against this same team, a five-inning one-run outing.

Instead, he would have the same outcome, once again lasting five innings while allowing one run, before a big tie-breaking home run late in the game would push Oakland out of their losing skid against the Astros.

Final Score: A's 6, Astros 2

Astros' Record: 6-2, tied for first in AL West

Winning Pitcher: Yusmeiro Petit (2-0)

Losing Pitcher: Bryan Abreu (1-1)

McCullers Jr. makes it through five

McCullers Jr. looked sharp through the first three innings, allowing just two baserunners, one on a second-inning single, then a walk in the third. Oakland did better against him the second time through their order in the fourth, with Jed Lowrie leading the inning off with a solo home run to put Oakland in front 1-0.

They went on to load the bases with one out on an error and two walks, but McCullers would strand them all. He returned for the fifth, a much cleaner inning where a caught stealing by Martin Maldonado would help him face just three batters. His final line: 5.0 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 6 K, 88 P.

Oakland gets homer-happy to even the series

McCullers Jr. would leave the game without being eligible for the winning or losing decision, as an RBI-groundout by Kyle Tucker in the fourth would have it tied 1-1. Bryan Abreu was the first out of Houston's bullpen, and he would attempt to eat up multiple innings. He had perfect innings in the sixth and seventh, retiring six A's in order to maintain the stalemate.

Abreu remained in the game in the top of the eighth, allowing a single before getting a strikeout, ending his run as Dusty Baker would bring in left-handed Blake Taylor. Taylor would give up a single against his first batter, then a loud go-ahead three-run home run to Matt Olson to push the A's back in front 4-1. They'd add two more insurance runs off of Joe Smith in the top of the ninth, getting a two-run home run by Mark Canha to extend the lead to 6-1.

Oakland's bullpen would hold on to the newly created lead, allowing just one run on a sac fly by Jose Altuve in the bottom of the ninth, finally ending their losing streak against Houston and setting up the rubber game on Saturday to be for the series victory.

Up Next: This series's finale will be a Saturday afternoon start, with first pitch scheduled for 3:05 PM. For the Astros, Jose Urquidy (0-0, 4.15 ERA) will look to get a win on the board, while Oakland will hand the ball to Frankie Montas (0-1, 23.63 ERA).

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