Texans 53, Falcons 32

Texans vs Falcons: Good, bad & ugly

Texans vs Falcons: Good, bad & ugly
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The Texans served a 50-burger to the Falcons as they improved to 3-2 in a 53-32 romp. They took care of business against a team they should have. Here are my observations:

The Good

-Deshaun Watson and Will Fuller both had career games. Watson threw for 426 yards (career high), five touchdowns (tied career high) while completing 84.8% of his passes(career High). Fuller pulled in 14 of his 17 targets (career high when targeted over 10 times) for 217 yards and three touchdowns (both are career highs).

-Keeping with the offensive explosion theme, they scored on eight of their 10 possessions. Make it nine of 11 if you include the pick six. That kind of output is beyond impressive. It's a conversion of playing a bad team, and...

-...Bill O'Brien calling a great game. He finally put together a gameplan inwhich he took full advantage of the team they were up against while playing into the stregnths of his own team. I know I've crushed him in the past, but I also give credit when it's due. These are the kinds of games I wish O'Brien could have more of.

The Bad

-Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan completed 69% of his passes. Against better teams, this would've been a sure sign of a loss. 60% is a low end benchmark. Anything above that is considered pretty good. When you approach 70%, it's rare air. A quarterback in that range usually wins. This can't keep happening if they expect to build upon this win.

-Giving up 9/16 3rd down conversions is pretty damn bad. 56.3% is enough to by far lead the league in this category. A team with around 50% could lead the league, anything above that...well, you got the drift from the previous entry.

-Carlos Hyde averaged only 2.9 yards per carry. The team ran for 166 yards on 34 carries. Take out Hyde's 21 carries, and they ran for 106 yards on 13 carries for a 8.2 yards per carry average. Not saying they would've kept up that production, but Hyde gas to get it into gear if he expects to take advantage of playing time and touches.

The Ugly

-The Texans committed nine penalties accepted for 89 yards. Penalties are one of the poor themes this team has had going all year so far. If they don't find a cure for this ailment, it'll take them apart eventually.

-DeAndre Carter muffed a punt on the first play of the fouth quarter when the Texans were up 33-17. It led to a Falcons touchdown and two-point conversion that drew them within one score, 33-25. This could've been much worse had the offensive explosion not continued into the 4th quarter.

-Speaking of fumbles, the Texans coughed it up a total of five times, but managed to recover four of them. Had they not recovered four of the five fumbles, this score could've easily been reversed. Better teams tend to convert turnovers into points and don't pass on an opportunity to get them.

The Texans have the sniffles early on this season. As in what can best be described as the early signs of a full-blown cold, they have issues, but not bad enough to call it the flu. This was a chicken noodle soup game for them. The Falcons came into this game with a wealth of talent, and an underwhelming 1-3 record. While chicken noodle soup soothes the throat and can also warm you up, it only masks the symptoms. If the symptoms worsen or progress, they'll need some over the counter or prescription meds depending on the severity. So far, so good. They've been able to stave off the hard core cough, congestion, and stuffy breathing. They showed they can put up video game numbers if given the chance. Next week, they're rewarded with the Chiefs in Kansas City. That will be the thermometer game to see if the fever has broken, or if it has gotten worse.

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It's not time to panic, yet. Composite Getty Image.

This is not a column for fanboys or sugarcoating. To this point in the season the Astros stink like rotten eggs. They stink like Angel Hernandez’s umpiring. They stink like Bill O'Brien's general manager skills. The Astros are a bad team right now. That’s notably different from being a bad team. Their 4-10 record is well-earned and it is definitely possible that the Astros’ run of high quality and annual playoff appearances crashes and burns this season. But it’s laughable to declare so after just 14 games of the 162 scheduled have been played.

Last June the Astros had a lousy window in which they went 3-10. In August they had a 4-8 funk. In September it was a 3-9 stretch of collapse. The 2022 World Series Champions had a 3-8 hiccup in April, and a 2-6 blotch overlapping July and August that included getting swept in a three-game series by the then and now awful Oakland A’s.

Now the Astros are back home (Oh No!) for six games, three vs. the Rangers then three with the Braves. The Rangers lead the American League West but are just 7-6, so despite their cellar-dwelling status, the Astros are just three and a half games out of first. A winning homestand is obviously the goal. No, really. 3-3 would be ok, even though that would just about clinch a losing record heading into May.

Mandatory aside: spectacular weather is the Friday night forecast. Stop being stubborn and lame, Astros. Open the roof! I don’t mean just for the postgame fireworks.

On the mend?

The Astros’ track record of downplaying pitching injuries that turned out to be major certainly causes angst as we await Framber Valdez’s return from a sore elbow. If Valdez ultimately winds up out for months, the Astros’ starting rotation is in deep trouble. Even more so if upon the approaching delayed start to his season, 41-year-old Justin Verlander pitches to his age in terms of results and/or durability. However, if Valdez is ok within a month and JV is solid, those two, and Cristian Javier can stabilize the rotation quite nicely.

The Astros started three guys in the last four games who belong in the minor leagues. It was a sad sign of the times that the Astros were reduced to calling up Blair Henley to make the start Monday in Arlington. Except for Rangers fans and Astros haters, it grew uncomfortable watching Henley give up four hits, walk three, record just one out, and wind up charged with seven earned runs. But it’s not Henley’s fault that he was thrust into a role for which he was utterly unqualified.

Last season at Double-A Corpus Christi, Henley’s earned run average was 5.06. Because of the crummy state of the Astros’ farm system, Henley failed up to Triple-A Sugar Land to start this season. After one not good start for the Space Cowboys, “Hey, go get out big leaguers Blair!” Henley turns 27 next month, he is not a prospect of any note. If he never again pitches in the majors Henley forever carries a 135.00 ERA.

But you know what? It was still a great day for the guy. Even if undeserved, Henley made “The Show.” For one day on the Astros’ 26-man roster, Henley made over four thousand dollars. To make him eligible for call up, the Astros first had to put Henley on their 40-man roster and sign him to a split contract. That means that until/unless the Astros release him, Henley’s AAA salary jumps from approximately $36,000 for the season to over 60K.

Lastly, while Henley’s ERA could remain 135.00 in perpetuity, at least he’s no Fred Bruckbauer. In 1961 Bruckbauer made his big league debut and bade his big league farewell in the same game. He faced four batters, giving up three earned runs on three hits and one walk. Career ERA: Infinity! Bruckbauer is the most recent of the more than a dozen pitchers to retire with the infinity ERA.

Spencer Arrighetti’s debut start went much better. For two innings, before it unraveled in a seven run Royals third. Arrighetti has good stuff, but not great stuff. Control has been an issue for him in the minor leagues. Without better command Arrighetti cannot be a plus starter in the majors.

Then there’s Hunter Brown. We could go decades without seeing another pitcher give up nine runs and 11 hits in two-thirds of an inning as Brown did Thursday. It had never happened in MLB history! To this point, Brown is an overhyped hope. ERA last July: 5.92, August: 6.23, September 1 on: 8.74. Three starts into 2024: 16.43.

Jose Abreu watch

It's still early enough in the season that even just a couple of big games can markedly improve a stat line but Jose Abreu continues to look washed up at the plate. Three hits in 37 at bats (.081 batting average), with the most recent hit a questionable official scoring decision. Manager Joe Espada has already dropped Abreu from fifth in the lineup to sixth, then seventh, then eighth. Two more slots down to go, Joe! Continuing to act like Jon Singleton could be a competent bat in the lineup is just silly though.

Catch the weekly Stone Cold ‘Stros podcast. Brandon Strange, Josh Jordan, and I discuss varied Astros topics. The first post for the week now generally goes up after Sunday’s game (second part released Tuesday, sometimes a third part Wednesday) via YouTube: stone cold stros - YouTubewith the complete audio available via Apple Podcast, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts.

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