CODY STOOTS

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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Houston loses to end the road trip

Dodgers get best of Odorizzi to split series with Astros

Jake Odorizzi allowed four home runs over three innings against the Dodgers on Wednesday. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images.

After spoiling the night of many Dodgers fans in the opener of this two-game series in Los Angeles the night prior, the Astros returned to the stadium to a fresh set of hostile fans, looking to get the mini-sweep. This one went much more in favor of the home team, though, as the Dodgers would ride three big innings to start the game to the win for the series split.

Final Score: Dodgers 7, Astros 5

Astros' Record: 65-43, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Max Scherzer (9-4)

Losing Pitcher: Jake Odorizzi (4-6)

Odorizzi gets shelled

After a Michael Brantley solo home in the top of the first run against Max Scherzer, making his Dodger debut, it looked like the Astros may continue their momentum from the night before to grab hold of this game as well. However, that all changed in the bottom of the inning, as the Dodgers would tee off against Jake Odorizzi.

In that inning, he allowed four runs, a leadoff solo shot by Mookie Betts, then later a three-run blast by Will Smith. Betts made it 2-for-2 with solo homers in the bottom of the second, extending the lead to 5-1. Things went from bad to worse in the third, with Los Angeles getting their fourth home run, this one for two runs to make it a 7-1 game. Odorizzi would finish the third but go no further.

Scherzer K's 10 over seven innings in his Dodger debut

Houston tried to start clawing back into it in the top of the fourth, getting a second run against Scherzer with a two-out RBI-single by Kyle Tucker, trimming the lead to five runs at 5-2. First out of Houston's bullpen was Yimi Garcia in the bottom of the fourth, and he tossed the first 1-2-3 inning for Houston. Rafael Montero was next in the bottom of the fifth, working around a leadoff double followed by a walk for a scoreless inning.

Montero remained in the game in the bottom of the sixth, still 7-2, and would get another scoreless inning, this time sitting down the Dodgers in order. Scherzer finished his quality debut for his new team in the top of the seventh, erasing a leadoff walk to complete seven innings while allowing two runs.

Astros lose to split the series with Dodgers

Brooks Raley was Houston's next reliever, and he, too, would get through a scoreless inning by erasing a two-out single. In the game-within-the-game, the Dodgers brought in Joe Kelly for the top of the eighth, who notched two strikeouts to bring none other than Carlos Correa to the plate, setting up a rematch of the well-known incident that led to the "pouty face" clip from 2020. Carlos Correa won this round, launching a 405-foot homer off of Kelly to make it a four-run game at 7-3.

Phil Maton kept the score there, stranding two runners in the bottom of the eighth to send the 7-3 game to the top of the ninth, where the Dodgers would bring in Kenley Jansen. After a leadoff single, Kyle Tucker would get the Astros within two runs on a two-run homer, making it 7-5. That's as close as they would get, as Jansen would regroup to get the next three batters out to wrap up the loss for Houston.

Up Next: With this road trip completed, the Astros will have a quick turnaround as they catch a late flight back to Houston then turn around with a game Thursday at 7:10 PM Central to open a four-game series with the Twins. Framber Valdez (7-2, 3.01 ERA) will take the mound for Houston in the opener, while Minnesota will counter with Griffin Jax (1-1, 6.41 ERA).

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