Texans 22, Bills 19

Texans vs Bills Wildcard Playoff: Good, bad & ugly

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Another home playoff game in the Bill O'Brien era, another heartache. At least this time it ended in a victory. Here are my observations of the Texans' overtime win:

The Good

-J.J. Watt came up with a sack that helped force a field goal after the Texans turned the ball over in their own territory. On the 3rd&8 play, he beat the Bills' rookie right tackle with one move and Josh Allen had nowhere to go. Good to see him back less than three months away from tearing his pectoral muscle. This sack was a clear turning point in the game, and it was made that much sweeter when...

-...the effort of Deshaun Watson, DeAndre Hopkins, Duke Johnson, and Carlos Hyde to take the offense down and score. Watson put the team on his back with a touchdown run and two-point conversion to make it 16-8. From that point forward, Watson put the team on his back, literally and figuratively. His wizardry to evade defenders often gets him in trouble, or it sets up a game-winning field goal in overtime.

-Gareon Conley made two touchdown-saving plays in the 1st half. One was an athletic breakup, the other was a heads up arm grab to ensure Duke Williams dropped the ball. Both were on key 3rd downs and both resulted in the Bills settling for field goals. The halftime score could've been 21-0 instead of 13-0 if it weren't for Conley.

*Honorable Mention goes to Whitney Mercilus. He's been M.I.A. for a large stretch of the season. When he recently signed an extension, it was deemed laughable. However, he earned a good portion of that money today with his performance, especially in the clutch.

The Bad

-The Texans won the coin toss and deferred to the 2nd half. The defense couldn't hold the Bills juggernaut offense on the opening possession of the game and allowed them to go 75 yards in six plays for a touchdown. The chunk play on the drive: a Josh Allen 42-yard run that flipped field position. The scoring play: a Josh Allen touchdown catch. Not the way you want to start a game. But hey, at least the opening kickoff wasn't returned for a touchdown. Progress?

-At one point early in the 2nd half, Josh Allen had three times as many total yards as Deshaun Watson. To make matters worse, Watson was also sacked seven times, a few of which were his fault. Through the first 38-plus minutes of play, Watson was being outplayed by Allen and it showed on the scoreboard.

-Explosive plays are considered anything over 20 yards. The Texans were considered the more explosive offense, while the Bills were thought to be a more plodding offensive unit. That was debunked when I looked up and saw the Bills outdid the Texans in explosive plays five to three.

The Ugly

-Whether you want to blame the league and the refs for the sham of pass interference reviews, or Bill O'Brien for challenging it, the Texans' first drive came to a halt at the Bills' 37 yard line on 3rd&8 when Watson had Hopkins but the pass fell incomplete after some contact. It wasn't very clear, so O'Brien shouldn't have challenged it. It also shows that the refs aren't going to overturn very many of these calls. Waste of a challenge.

-Down 13-0 early in the 2nd half, the defense finally came up with a stop to force a punt. Hopkins caught his first pass of the game after the Texans came up with a huge stop, but fumbled trying to get an extra yard or two. Hopkins routinely carries the ball with one hand, but this time it cost him and his team.

-This was one of the worst tackling performances I've seen in the playoffs. While there weren't any "Beast-quake" plays made because of it, there were far too many extra yards and first downs had simply because the defense failed tackle soundly. Vernon Hargreaves' miss on Dawson Knox

The Texans managed to pull off an improbable win at home. Improbable because they put themselves behind early by not executing and committing awful mistakes. Good thing Allen was the Texans' co-MVP in this game by committing inexcusable errors. They were saved by HUGE plays from the defense and the offense finally stepping up. While they almost gave it away at the end by missing on 4th&1, they managed to hang on and get the win. They even allowed the Bills back in it with a field goal to send it to overtime. Remember when Dabo Swinney called Watson the "Michael Jordan" of football? This game made that proclamation appear like a prophecy. Let's see how they look next week after this thriller. Coming from 16 down in this fashion to win makes this team believe they can beat anyone.

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The media has mixed feelings about the James Harden trade. Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

James Harden was 100-percent exactly right earlier this week when he said the Houston Rockets were "just not good enough."

How could they be? Not when their moody superstar scorer, who makes about half a million dollars per game, shows up chubby, looking like a kielbasa about to explode in the microwave. Hey, some people eat when they're unhappy, it's a defense mechanism. In Harden's case, the only defense he's exhibited this season. At least he had a good excuse for missing pre-season training camp and alienating his teammates - he was busy partying with Cinnamon and Cherish in Atlanta and Vegas without a mask. Worst of all, he went into the tank his last four games in a Rockets uniform, standing around, arms folded, scoring fewer than 20 points each time, all Rockets losses. Fans in the front row were asking him to move, he was blocking their view of players who cared about winning. James Harden sabotaged his own team, a team that offered him $50 million a year to stay. Something that crazy could only happen in professional sports these days.

There's a saying that drives the American labor movement: "a fair day's wage for a fair day's work." It's the motto of the American Federation of Labor. The National Basketball Players Association is not a member. Harden's sulking on the court, cheating the Rockets and their fans, was unforgivable.

Harden, sitting out games while somehow being on the court, forced the Rockets to trade him - and quick - to Brooklyn. The trade, when you ignore the fine print and unindicted co-conspirators Cleveland and Indiana, sent Harden to Brooklyn in exchange for Caris LeVert (immediately flipped for Victor Oladipo), Jarrett Allen, three first-round draft picks and four swapped first-rounders. It's true, when you trade a superstar, you never get back equal value. The other team wins.

If it makes Rockets fans feel any better, the media in New York already has problems with their new problem child. I should say newest problem child. Kyrie Irving plays for the Nets.

"They (the Nets) gave up everybody! There's nothing left now. I just want to cry, It's awful," weeped WFAN Radio talk host Evan Roberts. For those who don't subscribe to weekly Arbitron ratings reports, WFAN is the most powerful, top-rated sports talk station in the Apple.

"You're leading down the road of doom. Harden and Durant could be gone in a year and a half. I'm not convinced this gives them a better chance to win a title. I'm living a nightmare again. They better freaking win."

Circle March 3 on your Rockets schedule. That's when the Brooklyn Nets, with their Big 3 of Kevin Durant, James Harden and possibly Kyrie Irving visit Toyota Center. I hear talk radio salivating over the record jeers that will cascade over Harden's name, although I'm not buying it. Fans don't think like the media does. I'm thinking that Rockets fans will welcome Harden back - one night only - with cheers.

Toyota Center public address announcer Matt Thomas: "Usually when former Rockets come to town for the first time since leaving, I give them a positive introduction. It's up to the fans how to react."

James Harden spent eight seasons with the Rockets. He is a spectacular player who watched other NBA players engineer trades so they could compete for a title. Harden didn't think the Rockets were good enough, and he's right. So he wanted out. We've all been there, a job we didn't like for a company we didn't like, for a boss we didn't respect. Harden wanting to be traded is understandable. How he went about it was deplorable. He hurt his co-workers.

Houston will make Harden pay for his disrespectful departure. He has an upscale restaurant set to open here. The name of the steakhouse will be "13." Harden's business partners may want to change that number ... before the restaurant's telephone number is disconnected. There are plenty of other restaurants in Houston. Rich people who can afford steakhouse prices hold grudges.

Rockets fans searching for a silver lining say, "We got two decent players and a whole bunch of precious first-round picks" for a malcontent who would rather be anywhere (except maybe Sacramento) than Houston." Yes, a bunch of first-round picks does bode well for the future. Anywhere, except maybe Houston.

Houston's draft war room isn't the most successful operation in the NBA. Over the past decade prior to 2000, under the direction of general manager Daryl Morey, the Rockets made 16 draft picks. Not one of them is still in a Rockets uniform, many of them have sought employment outside of America, some outside of basketball. Among their first-round whiffs: Nikola Mirotic, Terrence Jones, Sam Dekker - all out of the league. Best of all, Royce White, who played three whole games in his NBA career and finished with a scoring average of 0.00 points per game.

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