Texans 23, Bucs 20

Texans vs Bucs: Good, bad and ugly

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In a must-win to lock up the AFC South, the Texans took care of business in Tampa against the Bucs with a 23-20 win. It got ugly early and almost got away from them when the Bucs mounted a comeback. Here are my observations:

The Good

-The defense opened the game with back to back picks on Tampa's first two possessions. Bradley Roby broke on an out route and returned it for a touchdown. Then Justin Reid read Jameis Winston's eyes as he was roaming as the single high safety and picked him off again. That was the extent of the defenses contributions, except...

-...Angelo Blackson has been balling lately! He shed several blocks to help stuff the run game and blocked a kick. He blocked a kick last week as well. Blackson has been championed since his arrival by Jayson Braddock. He was the first guy I remember saying look out for Blackson. I've kept my eye on him and he's been the best interior defensive lineman on the Texans' roster not named D.J. Reader.

-Just when I was done with the defense, Jaleel Addae made a game-saving interception as the Bucs were driving and down by three. Addae is a Tampa native who last played in Raymond James Stadium as a nine-year old kid. For him to seal the game and send his team to the playoffs after the rough year he's had and the terrible game they played today was awesome to see.

The Bad

-Ronald Jones took a run 49 yards to flip field position on their third possession. Blackson made a great play to shed a block and get down the line, but couldn't make the stop in the gap. His teammates in the defensive backfield made poor attempts at tackling giving him a much bigger gain. The run defense and tackling has to be on point if the coverage and pass rush are sketchy. Benardrick McKinney was missed today on that play.

-The coverage was dumpster juice against the Bucs. They were playing with guys making their first career starts, first career game, and guys who have less than 50-100 career receptions. Still, they were routinely beat on every route in the route tree. Had it not been for Winston's fractured thumb on his throwing hand, he would've completed several more passes and this game would've looked more like the Broncos score instead of the way it did.

-While Deshaun Watson held onto the ball and tried to make things happen, his offensive line let him down a few times. One play in particular that pissed me off was in the third quarter when Jason Pierre-Paul sacked Watson because his Pro Bowl left tackle Laremy Tunsil appeared to quit on the play! Had Tunsil simply kept moving his feet and stayed with Pierre-Paul, Watson could've made something happen! And to think, this guy will want to get paid a contract that'll set a new standard for left tackles.

The Ugly

-Getting the ball on Tampa's 24 yard line and settling for a field goal is awful. This offense has to get more consistent at moving the ball. It's not like they were asked to drive the length of the field on their opening possession to score. The slow starts, particularly opening possessions, is a red flag heading into the playoffs where points will come at a premium.

-The first half featured a combined 34 points aided by six turnovers and a blocked field goal. There were so many mistakes, bad throws, missed tackles, among other errors. Most striking of all these was the fact that the Texans' defense was let down by the offense and vice versa. The defense couldn't stop the Bucs and the offense couldn't move the ball.

-Will Fuller got hurt again. What a shocker right? This guy's soft tissues must be made of silly string or something. This time, it was a groin injury that prevented him from returning to the game. I imagine he'll be out next week and questionable for the Wildcard game in the playoffs. It's time to move on from this guy

Well that didn't turn out the way it looked like it would now did it? When a team starts a game with a pick six on the second play from scrimmage, followed by another on the next possession, one would assume the team doing the picking off would win going away right? But when that team is the Texans, things are anything but normal/safe/assured. They remind me of that one friend who insists on doing things their way despite being given advice on a better way to do them. Deshaun Watson made some more poor choices and throws (that interception made me cringe). Bill O'Brien made more strange play calls and choices (not challenging or going for it on 4th down with under three minutes left in the game up 23-20 and passing instead of running to open that drive). Too many question marks going into this game and none were answered. They left with more questions and are two weeks away from the playoffs. But AFC South champs four of six years under O'Brien (insert your own shrug emoji here).

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Houston is back in the win column

McCullers Jr. spins a gem as Astros get a much-needed win over Giants

Photo by Tim Bradbury/Getty Images

After getting swept by the A's in Oakland to end a road trip with a five-game losing streak, the Astros returned to Houston to try and get back on track. To do so, they'd need a win against the Giants on Monday night. Here is a quick recap of the series opener:

Final Score: Astros 6, Giants 4.

Record: 7-9, second in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Lance McCullers Jr. (2-1, 6.10 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Logan Webb (1-1, 2.81 ERA).

Houston builds up an early lead

The early goings of Monday's game went very similar to the last time Lance McCullers Jr. took the mound. He would have a terrific first three innings while his offense gave him an early lead. The first run came in the bottom of the second, with Yuli Gurriel reaching base on a one-out double, moving to third on a wild pitch, then scoring on an RBI-single by Carlos Correa.

Correa would take part in a four-run inning in the third, as Houston would score two on a two-RBI ground-rule double by Michael Brantley, another on an error, then Correa's second RBI of the night, a groundout to bring in a run and make it 5-0. Unlike the last start in Arizona, where the roof opened and McCullers Jr. fell apart in the fourth, he was able to make quick work of his opponent for a 1-2-3 frame. As he kept recording scoreless innings, Martin Maldonado added another run to the lead with a one-out solo home run in the bottom of the sixth, making it 6-0.

McCullers Jr. takes a no-hitter into the seventh

While the Astros were building their lead, McCullers Jr. was spinning a gem on the mound. He allowed just one baserunner through the first six innings, which came on a hit-by-pitch. He entered the seventh with a no-hitter in progress, but the Giants would get their first hit of the night to end the no-hit bid.

Regardless, the start was precisely what McCullers Jr. needed to restore his confidence after the disastrous inning he had in his last appearance. He would go on to complete the seventh inning before Houston would go to the bullpen with the large lead in the eighth. His final line: 7.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 5 K 0 HR, 1 HPB.

Houston gets back in the win column despite more struggles by Josh James

Josh James entered out of the bullpen for the top of the eighth but allowed the first run of the night for San Francisco via a solo home run with one out to make it 6-1. He would complete the inning and then return for the top of the ninth. He would have another rocky inning, issuing a leadoff walk before a single and double would make it a four-run game at 6-2, still with no outs in the inning and runners on second and third, prompting another call to the bullpen.

Dusty Baker would bring in his current closer, Ryan Pressly, to try and finish the game, now in a save situation. Pressly would retire the first two batters he faced before allowing a two-RBI single to make it 6-4, but would eventually get the final out to get Houston the much-needed win. With the victory, the Astros moved back into second place in the AL West standings.

Up Next: The middle game of this three-game set will start Tuesday at 8:10 PM Central. The Giants, working with a fluid rotation, have not yet fully decided on their starter, while the Astros will get another start from Brandon Bielak (2-0, 0.87 ERA) who will look to repeat the success of his five-inning, no-run start in Arizona last week.

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