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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Houston loses first game to Oakland

A's end losing streak against Astros with late homers

Lance McCullers Jr. went five innings of one-run ball Friday night. Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

After maintaining their stronghold against the A's in Thursday's home opener, the Astros had the chance to lock up the three-game series victory against Oakland with a win on Friday night. On the mound, Lance McCullers Jr. hoped to improve upon his first start against this same team, a five-inning one-run outing.

Instead, he would have the same outcome, once again lasting five innings while allowing one run, before a big tie-breaking home run late in the game would push Oakland out of their losing skid against the Astros.

Final Score: A's 6, Astros 2

Astros' Record: 6-2, tied for first in AL West

Winning Pitcher: Yusmeiro Petit (2-0)

Losing Pitcher: Bryan Abreu (1-1)

McCullers Jr. makes it through five

McCullers Jr. looked sharp through the first three innings, allowing just two baserunners, one on a second-inning single, then a walk in the third. Oakland did better against him the second time through their order in the fourth, with Jed Lowrie leading the inning off with a solo home run to put Oakland in front 1-0.

They went on to load the bases with one out on an error and two walks, but McCullers would strand them all. He returned for the fifth, a much cleaner inning where a caught stealing by Martin Maldonado would help him face just three batters. His final line: 5.0 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 6 K, 88 P.

Oakland gets homer-happy to even the series

McCullers Jr. would leave the game without being eligible for the winning or losing decision, as an RBI-groundout by Kyle Tucker in the fourth would have it tied 1-1. Bryan Abreu was the first out of Houston's bullpen, and he would attempt to eat up multiple innings. He had perfect innings in the sixth and seventh, retiring six A's in order to maintain the stalemate.

Abreu remained in the game in the top of the eighth, allowing a single before getting a strikeout, ending his run as Dusty Baker would bring in left-handed Blake Taylor. Taylor would give up a single against his first batter, then a loud go-ahead three-run home run to Matt Olson to push the A's back in front 4-1. They'd add two more insurance runs off of Joe Smith in the top of the ninth, getting a two-run home run by Mark Canha to extend the lead to 6-1.

Oakland's bullpen would hold on to the newly created lead, allowing just one run on a sac fly by Jose Altuve in the bottom of the ninth, finally ending their losing streak against Houston and setting up the rubber game on Saturday to be for the series victory.

Up Next: This series's finale will be a Saturday afternoon start, with first pitch scheduled for 3:05 PM. For the Astros, Jose Urquidy (0-0, 4.15 ERA) will look to get a win on the board, while Oakland will hand the ball to Frankie Montas (0-1, 23.63 ERA).

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