Texans 24, Titans 21

Texans take control of AFC South with grind-it-out win over the Titans

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The Texans took control of the AFC South again with a big win in Tennessee. It wasn't pretty, but they made enough big plays on both sides of the ball to escape with a victory. Here is how it all played out:

Offense

Positives: The Texans took advantage of a huge Tennessee turnover for their first score. Deshaun Watson threw a perfect pass to Kenny Stills for the TD. Stills has been a really solid addition and added another touchdown later in the second quarter for a 14-0 lead. After blowing a 14-0 lead, they responded with a seven play, 75-yard drive to retake the lead and then get a key field goal. Carlos Hyde had a nice game running the football, with 104 yards on 26 carries and a touchdown. DeAndre Hopkins, held quiet most of the game, came alive in the fourth quarter with 98 yards and finished the game with six catches for 119.

Negatives: Watson's inability to protect the football at times almost cost them the game. And once again, they failed to score on their opening drive. It looked promising, but Watson was fooled by the defense and threw a pick in the end zone. They now have a total of 3 points on 14 opening drives this season. Watson threw another pick in the end zone in the third quarter on a terrible play call by Bill O'Brien and an even worse decision by Watson. It cost them at least three points. Fortunately it did not matter but that was potentially 14 points off the board. The first pick was a great play by the safety, who tricked Watson. The second was just a dumb play.

Defense

Positives: Justin Reid and Whitney Mercilus combined on a massive play to not only keep Tennessee out of the end zone, but set up the Texans first score. Reid knocked a pass loose at the Texans 2 yard line, it bounced into Mercilus' hands and he returned it 88 yards all the way to the Tennessee 12 (see photo above). It was a major play considering the Titans were moving the ball well on the drive and wound up being a 14-point swing. The defense was a different animal in the first half than what they were against Denver, as they held the Titans scoreless. They got a little lucky with a blocked field goal and the deflected interception, but they also sniffed out a fake punt on fourth down to kill another drive.

Negatives: As good as they looked in the first half, they got pushed around in the second as the Titans cut the lead to 14-7 on the opening drive then followed it up with another touchdown drive to tie the score. Throughout the game, the Texans got little pressure on Ryan Tannehill, a problem that has reared its head almost every week since J.J. Watt's injury. They did get a key sack with just over nine minutes in the fourth with a 21-14 lead that caused the Titans to have to punt and also picked one up on the last play of the game. Once again, their prevent defense was awful in the last three minutes, allowing the Titans to march down the field in just over a minute to cut the lead to 24-21. The Texans were able to recover the onside kick and run off most of the game clock, but the Texans have to do a better job in those situations. Fortunately it did not matter.

The bottom line

This was an important win for the Texans, and they got just enough plays on on both sides of the ball to escape with the victory. The Titans were playing very well coming in, so this is a good victory. Watson was solid at times, but also had the two bad turnovers. He was fortunate they did not cost them the game.

Tennessee outplayed the Texans for much of the game, outgaining Houston by almost 60 yards. But the Mercilus play wound up being the difference. That and Watson bouncing back with the huge scoring drive after throwing his second pick and seeing the Titans tie the score.

As they have done in the past, the Texans bounced back from the abysmal Denver loss to get a key victory. They now sit at 9-5, and need to win only one of their two remaining games (at Tampa next week or Tennessee at home in week 17) to clinch the AFC South.

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Houston gets another victory in Anaheim

Astros overpower Angels again as magic number dwindles

Kyle Tucker had 3 of Houston's RBI on Tuesday night, including a two-run homer. Photo by John McCoy/Getty Images

After a beatdown of the Angels on Monday in the opener, the Astros entered Tuesday's game looking to replicate that success. Though Los Angeles would put up more of a fight, Houston still used their potent offense to keep the game out of reach.

Final Score: Astros 10, Angels 5

Astros' Record: 90-61, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Jose Urquidy (8-3)

Losing Pitcher: Packy Naughton (0-3)

Houston's bats keep connecting to back up Urquidy

The Astros picked up on Tuesday's game where they left off on Monday, launching homers to take and extend a lead. A leadoff walk by Carlos Correa in the top of the second set up Kyle Tucker, who drove a two-run shot. Aledmys Diaz was next, making it back-to-back jacks to push the new lead to 3-0.

That gave Jose Urquidy a lead to work with, which came in handy as former Astro Jack Mayfield cut the lead to two runs with a leadoff solo homer in the bottom of the second. Other than that, Urquidy did well through five innings, allowing just two other hits over that span. LA got to him in the sixth, getting two singles to set up a three-run homer to end his night. His final line: 5.1 IP, 6 H, 4 ER, 0 BB, 3 K, 2 HR, 79 P.

The runs keep coming

He would still leave in line for the win, though, as before that bottom of the sixth, the Astros had put up seven more runs across the fifth and sixth. A leadoff walk in the top of the fifth was followed by a two-run homer by Jose Altuve, then later in the frame, an RBI single by Aledmys Diaz made it 7-1. They pushed that to double digits in the sixth, with a leadoff solo shot by Martin Maldonado, a sac fly by Carlos Correa, and an RBI groundout by Kyle Tucker, putting them up 10-1 before the homer allowed by Urquidy cut that to 10-4.

Astros win to reduce magic number again

In the sixth, Cristian Javier took over for Urquidy, finished that inning, and returned for a scoreless seventh. He ran into Shohei Ohtani to lead off the bottom of the eighth and left a fastball in the zone, which Ohtani turned around 445 feet to make it a five-run game. Javier still got through the inning, leaving just the ninth for Houston's second reliever of the night, Josh James. James would get through a scoreless inning, erasing a leadoff walk as the lopsided win paired with an A's loss reduces Houston's magic number to 4.

Up Next: The third of this four-game series will be another 8:38 PM Central start on Wednesday. Janson Junk (0-1, 2.25 ERA) will make his third career start for the Angels, while Luis Garcia (11-7, 3.37 ERA) will have the ball for the Astros.

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