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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Springer had two homers Sunday

Springer helps lift Astros to series win over D-backs

Photo by Bob Levey / Getty Images

With a win on Saturday to tie the series 1-1, the Astros took the field at Minute Maid Park for the last time of 2020 on Sunday. A victory would give them the series against Arizona and move them one step closer to securing one of the two playoff spots for the AL West's highest-record finishing duo. Here are the quick highlights from Sunday's rubber game:

Final Score: Astros 3, Diamondbacks 2.

Record: 27-26, second in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Blake Taylor (2-1, 2.41 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Junior Guerra (1-2, 3.04 ERA).

Urquidy goes six while allowing two runs

After three scoreless innings on both sides, Arizona would start the scoring in the top of the fourth. They would load the bases with no outs against Jose Urquidy, getting back-to-back singles to start the frame before Urquidy issued a walk. He would get out of the jam with just one run allowed, though, thanks to a timely double play and a flyout to end the inning.

The D-backs ambushed Urquidy in the top of the fifth, getting a leadoff solo homer to double their lead to 2-0. Urquidy would go on to finish six innings while allowing just the two runs. His final line: 6.0 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 2 K, 1 HR, 90 P.

Springer takes it into his own hands

After tagging him with eight runs on August 4th in Arizona, the Astros were unable to figure out Madison Bumgarner on Sunday, going scoreless over his five innings on the mound. They went to work against Arizona's bullpen in the bottom of the sixth, starting with a near-conventional homerun turned inside-the-park homer for George Springer to start the inning, cutting the lead in half 2-1.

They went on to load the bases with two outs but would strand all three runners to keep it a one-run game heading to the seventh. Andre Scrubb was first out of Houston's bullpen and had a 1-2-3 inning with two strikeouts. In the bottom of the seventh, Springer tied the game with his second homer in as many innings, this time over the right-field fence, making it 2-2.

Astros grab the late lead, take the series

Scrubb would retire one more batter, getting a groundout to start the top of the eighth before Houston moved on to Blake Taylor to face the top of Arizona's order. He would keep it a tie game, working around a two-out infield single to end the inning.

Houston would get the go-ahead run in scoring position in the bottom of the eighth, with Alex Bregman getting hit by a pitch then moving to second on a walk to Michael Brantley. They'd go on to load the bases with another walk and one out, setting up a go-ahead sac fly by Carlos Correa to take a 3-2 lead.

That presented another chance for a save for Ryan Pressly, which he would notch as the Astros would take the final two games of the three-game set to win the series. The win moved them up to 27-26 on the year, keeping them a leg up on the Mariners for second place in the AL West.

Up Next: Seven games remain in Houston's regular season, all on the road, with a three-game series in Seattle against the Mariners and then a four-game set in Arlington against the Rangers. The opener in Seattle will get underway at 8:10 PM Central on Monday and features the pitching matchup of Marco Gonzalez (6-2, 3.49 ERA) for the Mariners and Lance McCullers Jr. (3-2, 4.87 ERA) for the Astros.

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