CODY STOOTS

Texans take a bus trip to first place in the AFC South; can the ride continue?

Texans take a bus trip to first place in the AFC South; can the ride continue?
Jadeveon Clowney's motor has not stopped of late. Scott Halleran/Getty Images

The Texans are in first place in the AFC South and the 4-3 Dolphins are in town in just a few days for Thursday Night Football. We take a look at the Texans with three headlines, two questions, and one bet. 

Watson's New Wheels

Deshaun Watson traveled to the game against the Jaguars via bus. He did this because the training and medical staff were concerned about how flying would affect his injury. O'Brien made it clear they asked Watson about his preference and he wanted to play and so the team implemented the bus as a mode of travel. O'Brien joked they considered various options including Amtrack and buggy drawn by a horse. He said he didn't expect this to be a week to week endeavor for the team. 

The offensive line did their best job of the year protecting Watson allowing just one sack and five quarterback hits. 

"Oh no doubt," said right tackle Kendall Lamm when he was asked if the success rushing the ball slowed down the opposing pass rush. "When you can establish the run, especially in this league, when it's not the easiest thing to run on some of these defenses, it makes the edge rushers, especially from my standpoint, if I'm in a two-point stance he has to think am I going to come out and get him or am I going to pass that back. So, establishing the run is a major thing."

If the rushing attack can take some pressure off the passing game and the offensive line begins to solidify there are the makings of a very impressive offense. 

Clowney's Coming, and He Ain't Stopping

After a slow start to the season, Jadeveon Clowney has been on fire the past four games. Look below to see his damage. 

4.5 Sacks

3 Tackles for Loss (That weren't sacks)

10 Quarterback Hits

2 Fumble Recoveries (One for a touchdown)

That's a nasty little run! Clowney has also turned into Romeo Crennel's multi-use toy. You can see him lining up as an end, edge rusher standing up, and rushing from the inside of the defense as he uses his anticipation to wreak havoc on opposing offensive lines. He is a force and opens things up for so many other defenders with his play even when he doesn't record a box score stat.

Brock is Back!

The Texans will face their former quarterback Brock Osweiler on Sunday barring Ryan Tannehill getting miraculously healthy before Thursday. He hasn't played poorly but there isn't anything spectacular about his two starts for Miami either. The Bears looked horrible against Osweiler allowing him almost 400 yards and three touchdowns but they did pick him off twice. Yesterday against the Lions he was serviceable. The offense looked vanilla and they took few chances. 

Bill O'Brien was polite when asked about his former signal caller. He touted Osweiler's success with the Dolphins saying he is "playing really well now" but said he doesn't get a ton of advantages from having coached Osweiler. O'Brien stressed it is a different system with different players around him.

Osweiler was the team's starter for the majority of 2016 after a hefty offseason investment in him as a free agent. He led the team to an 8-6 regular season record throwing 15 touchdowns against 16 interceptions. He also played quarterback for the team in their two playoff games throwing for 365 yards and two touchdowns with three interceptions in his two games. In the offseason, he was traded to Cleveland with a second round pick. 

Is the rushing attack here to stay?

Lamar Miller had his first rushing game of 100 yards or more in 22 games. Alfred Blue punctuated his opportunities. The offensive line controlled the line of scrimmage against a talented Jaguars defense. The Miller rushing touchdown was the best play of the season for the right side of the offensive line as Nick Martin, Greg Mancz, and Kendall Lamm fired off the ball pushing back Jaguars defenders and clearing an easy path to a score for their running back. The hope is, it is here to stay. 

O'Brien was pleased with his rushing attack and stressed they have a focus each week of doing what they believe will work with their players against their opponent. The balance is also a hallmark of a successful O'Brien offensive attack. He and his offense operate best it seems with balance. It should continue against Miami. With Watson still dealing with his chest injuries, the rushing attack will be key in keeping him clean. Miami is one of the worst teams in the league at stopping the rush. The Lions just amassed 248 yards on the ground. Miami has lost three of their last four and they are giving up an average of 172.5 yards on the ground their last four games. 

Whitney Mercilus is back, right?

With a hamstring injury robbing him of training camp it was expected Whitney Mercilus would be slow to the pass rush party with this team. The first four games were less than stellar and had Mercilus doing some of the dirty work for this team like occupying blockers and setting the edge. Sunday, he got going like he used to again. His sack forced a fumble that was recovered by the Jaguars but his first forced fumble came as he cleaned up Blake Bortles on a rush and Clowney came up with the ball. 

He was coming off back-to-back double-digit sack years before last season's season-ending injury. If he is rounding into form adding him to Jadeveon Clowney and J.J. Watt, who already are scary as a duo, will make for one of the fearsome rushes in the league. We might finally be getting to a point where we will see the pass-rushing trio many dreamed of seeing before last season started. 

I bet the Dolphins are the first team to get blown out by the Texans. Everything is setting up terrible for the Dolphins. They're on the road on a short week against one of the hottest teams in the NFL who just found their rushing attack. Oh, and the quarterback doesn't have to take a bus to the game to play in this one. Miami started fast but they're 1-3 in their past four and frankly should've lost the Bears game. Brock Osweiler has never handled pressure well and Thursday against his former team will be no different. It's his first, and likely only, shot at the Texans. The Texans defense knows what makes him tick. This should be a field day for them. 

 

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Astros defeat the Orioles, 14-11. Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images.

Jake Meyers hit a three-run homer, Jose Altuve and rookie Joey Loperfido added three hits each and the Houston Astros used a nine-run sixth inning to pull away for a 14-11 win over the Baltimore Orioles on Friday night.

Houston set a season-high in runs, a day after the Orioles had their highest-scoring game of the year in a 17-5 win over the Yankees.

The Astros trailed by 1 and had two on with two outs in the fifth inning when Meyers sent a pitch from Grayson Rodriguez (8-3) into the seats in left field to make it 5-3.

Houston sent 13 batters to the plate as they tacked on nine runs in the sixth to extend the lead to 14-3. The nine runs are the most by the Astros in an inning this season. They hit five doubles in the frame, including two from Loperfido.

Baltimore’s Gunnar Henderson homered twice to give him 24 this season, which ranks second in the majors behind Aaron Judge’s 27. The Orioles, who lead the majors with 123 home runs, have homered in 20 consecutive games, which is tied for the longest streak in franchise history.

Henderson’s first home run was a solo shot in the seventh. Henderson, Jorge Mateo and Anthony Santander each hit two-run homers in Baltimore’s seven-run eighth that cut the lead to 14-11.

Adley Rutschman had a career-high five hits as Baltimore lost for just the second time in six games.

Houston starter Jake Bloss allowed six hits and two runs with two strikeouts in his major league debut before leaving with right shoulder discomfort with two outs in the fourth inning.

Bloss joined the major league team despite never pitching in Triple-A with Houston’s rotation decimated by injuries. The 22-year-old Bloss, who was drafted in the third round last year, was 4-2 with a 1.74 ERA in 12 minor league starts between High-A and Double-A this season.

Shawn Dubin (1-1) permitted three hits and a run in 2 1/3 innings. Bryan Abreu pitched a scoreless ninth for his first save.

Rodriguez allowed nine hits and seven runs in 5-plus innings.

There was a delay in the middle of the fourth inning when home plate umpire Scott Barry left the game after being hit in the mask with a foul tip. Second base umpire Tom Hanahan took over behind the plate.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Astros: C Victor Caratini was placed on the 10-day injured list with a strained left hip flexor. … Loperfido was recalled from Triple-A Sugar Land to take his spot on the roster.

UP NEXT

Houston RHP Ronel Blanco (7-2, 2.43) opposes RHP Corbin Burnes (8-2, 2.14) when the series continues Saturday.

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