Texans rally comes up short in 20-14 loss to Colts

Tom Savage managed to generate just seven points of offense against the Colts on Sunday. Tim Warren/Getty Images

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At the end of an up and down sports week in Houston I think we all knew the Texans offense would struggle without Deshaun Watson. The No. 1 scoring offense going into week 9 was held in check for most of the game by the No. 32 scoring defense. Tom Savage just does not look like an NFL quarterback. The opposite of Watson, he was uninspiring to the players around him. The Texans were bailed out by their defense but the little mistakes they made allowed the Colts to put up more points that they should have and at the end of the day walk out with a 20-14 win over the Texans.

I think the wind was taken out of the room when Watson was lost for the season and there was little expectation for Savage, who started the game proving everyone right. The Texans' first three drives went for a total of 27 yards, all ending in punts. The eye test was easy; the Texans were not running the ball well, and doing so in predictable fashion. Tom Savage was making wild passes that couldn't be caught. It just looked awful.

On the other side, the defense started off on the wrong foot, allowing the Colts first drive to end with a 45-yard touchdown pass from Jacoby Brissett to T.Y. Hilton. The defense was playing soft on that drive and the success of some underneath passes set up the big play deep. Fortunately that wasn't a precursor to their effort the rest of the afternoon. But with a struggling offense, 7-0 after one drive looked like it could be the final score.

It wasn't all bad for the Texans offense in the first half. They did have one long drive into the red zone at the end of the first quarter and into the second. A 19-yard catch and run and a pass interference penalty by the Colts put the Texans at the Indianapolis 16-yard line. Sadly, a penalty and poor play forced the Texans to attempt a 39-yard field goal that was the first miss by Ka'imi Fairbairn on the season and the score still 7-0.

The Colts got another good drive during the second quarter, getting the ball down to the 4-yard line in seven plays. Most of their 51 yards were gained with one pass from Brissett to Hilton for 30 yards. The defense held their ground near the goal line and Adam Vinatieri kicked a field goal to out the Colts ahead 10-0.

After that it was back and forth with punts until just under two minutes remained before halftime. Texans Defensive Coordinator Mike Vrabel had been keeping his team in the game with aggressive play calling and a defense holding the Colts in check. It was that aggression that finally put points on the board for Houston. It happened on a 3rd and 5 with 0:56 left on the clock. Safety Eddie Pleasant got to Brissett for a sack and forced a fumble that was taken by Lamarr Houston 34 yards for the score. Now it was 10-7 and not an insurmountable lead.

Each team traded punts twice after the half and neither team held any promise for adding points. But one big play involving a mental lapse changed that. The Colts had the ball at the their own 20-yard line and faced a 3rd down and 9. T.Y. Hilton caught the ball on a crossing route and finished in the end zone after two players failed to put a hand on him while he went to the ground. The play was upheld on review and the Colts had regained their 10-point lead in the third quarter.

The Texans would get 30 yards on eight plays but no points and out came the defense again, trying to limit any further damage. It didn't work out that way. The next Colts drive finished with a field goal after eating up 60 yards in seven plays. Now the lead was 13 points and for all intents and purposes, the game might have been over.

But wait! The Texans' offense finally did something. After starting the next drive the same way they had the others, Savage was able to get consecutive short passes for 12 and 15 yards before a third pass went for a 34-yard touchdown to DeAndre Hopkins to put the Texans right back in the game, 20-14. That pass was Savage's first career touchdown pass and it cut it to a one-score game.

The defense held again and suddenly momentum was with the home team. Savage in the fourth quarter looked legit, at one point completing six consecutive passes. With under two minutes left in the game  Savage used his arm to drive the ball to the seven yard line but it was there he turned right back into what he is, not a legitimate starting quarterback. After three consecutive incompletions, a fourth down game on the line play ended with the Colts stripping him of the ball and recovering to seal their victory.

It can't be underestimated how import the defensive effort was to the Texans in this game. They finished the game with three sacks for negative 29 yards and a fumble returned for a touchdown while being on the field for over half the game, and more than 60 plays. Eddie Pleasant had two of those sacks and became the first defensive back with multiple sacks in a game since 2004. They gave up a lot of yards and held their own but it was almost too much too overcome.

The Colts were a very beatable team and the Texans just made too many mistakes. The long plays on defense were the big difference in the score. It could have been a lot closer. There's no help coming and it will be up to the coaching staff to get this offense back to a decent level, they will have one week to do it before they head to Los Angeles to play Jared Goff and a dynamic Rams offense. 

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McCullers Jr. out-pitched friend and former teammate Dallas Keuchel on Father's Day. Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

With three impressive wins to start this series against the once AL-leading Chicago White Sox, Houston tried to extend their winning streak to seven games and finish a four-game sweep on Father's Day. Thanks to a big inning against former-Astro Dallas Keuchel, they would win to keep their hot streak going.

Final Score: Astros 8, White Sox 2

Astros' Record: 43-28, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Lance McCullers Jr. (4-1)

Losing Pitcher: Dallas Keuchel (6-2)

Rough return to Houston for Keuchel

In his first game against his old squad, Dallas Keuchel would not have a memorable start on the mound for Chicago. Houston made him labor in the first inning, loading the bases though they only came away with one run on an RBI single by Abraham Toro, grabbing the early 1-0 lead. After going down 1-2-3 in the second, they got after Keuchel again in the third.

They ended up batting around against him that inning, including a two-RBI single by Yordan Alvarez, RBI double by Taylor Jones, and bases-loaded RBI-walk by Jose Altuve, which would end Keuchel's day very early and leave the bases juiced. Chicago's bullpen would walk another batter to give Keuchel another earned run, making it a 6-2 game, with all six going against the former Houston ace. Carlos Correa extended the lead to five runs in the next inning, hitting a leadoff solo home run to make it 7-2.

McCullers Jr. gives up two over six

That gave Lance McCullers Jr. a nice lead to work with, and he managed it well. He had one big mistake in the early goings of the game, giving up a one-out single in the second to set up a two-run home run, which at the time put Chicago in front 2-1 before Houston's offense came alive. He followed that up with four scoreless innings, erasing a walk in each with some tremendous defense behind him—his final line: 6.0 IP, 2 H, 2 ER, 4 BB, 4 K, 1 HR, 94 P.

Astros complete the sweep to jump on top of the standings

Still a six-run game in the top of the seventh, Blake Taylor entered as the first reliever out of Houston's bullpen, tossing a 1-2-3 frame. He continued in the top of the eighth, getting two strikeouts in another scoreless inning. The 8-2 score would go final as Ralph Garza Jr. would enter as the third pitcher of the day to wrap things up with a scoreless top of the ninth to finish the four-game sweep. The win, their seventh straight, paired with an Oakland loss earlier in the afternoon, moves Houston into the top spot in the AL West based on winning percentage.

Up Next: This long stretch of consecutive games continues on Monday in Baltimore, as the Astros pick up a seven-game road trip starting with a three-game set against Baltimore getting underway at 6:05 PM Central. Jake Odorizzi (1-3, 5.68 ERA) will get the start for Houston, going opposite of Keegan Akin (0-2, 5.76 ERA) for the Orioles.

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