Texans vs. Patriots observations

Tyrann Matthieu was a bright spot. Zach Tarrant, Houston Texans team Web site

The Texans opened the season with a dud of a loss to the Patriots. Losing 27-20 in the season opener on the road to the team that was the Super Bowl runner up is nothing but a moral victory. Last time I checked, those don’t factor into the playoff run. Let’s take a look at some general pbservations:

The Good

-The running game looked solid. 154 yards on 33 carries for 4.7 yards per carry average as a team. Lamar Miller really stood out with his performance. He totaled 98 yards on 20 carries. If they can keep this up all year, it’ll help them to a winning record.

-Tyrann Mathieu, aka Honey Badger, paid immediate dividends. He picked off Tom Brady and recovered a Rob Gronkowski fumble. He’s had a reputation for being a playmaker since his days at LSU, which continued in the NFL. He’s the early leader in the clubhouse for biggest free agency steal this past offseason.

- JJ Watt showed flashes of being his old self. First half, he looked slow, as if he was still adjusting to game speed. Second half, he made a play to chase down a Patriots ball carrier for a short gain. Again he showed flashes when he beat the right tackle and pressured Tom Brady into an incompletion while nearly getting a sack. He finally got a sack with just over six minutes left in the game.

The Bad

-The trend of not converting third downs in close games continued today. 2 for 11 isn’t exactly a winning formula. They also traded two early Patriots touchdowns with field goals of their own. These two key components have spelled doom for teams with losing ways since the beginning of time and the Texans are the epitome of this formula.

-Deshaun Watson was off all game. He was 17 of 34 for 176 yards, one interception, one touchdown, three sacks, and a 62.9 passer rating is a recipe for disaster. The most bothersome part of his performance was his inaccuracy. He missed badly on some passes that should have been completions.

-DeAndre Hopkins ended the game with eight catches for 78 yards on 11 targets. However, the Texans didn’t get him going until late in the second quarter. A couple times he was hung out to dry by Watson’s throws. You have to get your go-to guy going early in the game, not after you’re down by two scores.

The Ugly

-Fumbling on the very first play of the game was not how Watson envisioned getting the season started. That play led to an easy Patriots score. You don’t beat Brady by giving him extra bullets. To make things worse, the Patriots scored a touchdown on the ensuing drive to go up 7-0 and never looked back.

-Kevin Johnson is bad at football. Honey Badger is good at football. So when Honey Badger appeared to communicate something to Johnson and he didn’t adjust, he went full Honey Badger on him on the bench by yelling at him and making demonstrative hand gestures as if he was exasperated. Not only that, but Johnson did what he does best: got called for dumb penalties, missed easy tackles going for kill shots, and got another concussion.

-The Texans had no answer for Gronk. He routinely beat any linebacker he was matched up against, as well as the double coverage said linebackers got from the secondary. The worst of it was his touchdown catch over Kareem Jackson as he tried to double him over the top while Zach Cunningham played man coverage underneath. Cunningham was drafted because he could cover. He hasn’t shown that as of yet.

There are plenty of things to look at with hope moving forward. However, there are more causes for concern. This team has high ceiling, low floor potential for this season. I could see anywhere from an 11-5 playoff run, to a disappointing 6-10 missing the playoffs and wondering why Bill O’Brien got an extension offseason.


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Houston goes up 1-0 in the series

Altuve, Correa help lift Astros to ALCS Game 1 win over Red Sox

Carlos Correa's go-ahead homer in the seventh inning of ALCS Game 1 helped lift the Astros to a 1-0 series lead. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Despite one rough loss to the White Sox in the ALDS, the Astros looked like the dominant team they are capable of being, taking that series 3-1 to advance and taking ownership of home-field advantage in the ALCS against the Red Sox, who upset the Rays. In Game 1, despite trailing for the middle portions of the game, Houston would get more highlight moments from the faces of the franchise to start the series with a win.

Final Score: Astros 5, Red Sox 4

ALCS Series (Best of Seven): Houston leads 1-0

Winning Pitcher: Ryne Stanek

Losing Pitcher: Hansel Robles

Houston strikes first, but Boston sends Valdez to an early exit

Both starting pitchers worked in and out of trouble in the early goings of ALCS Game 1, starting with Framber Valdez in the top of the first. After erasing a leadoff single by inducing a double play, he went on to load the bases on a single and two walks but would strand all three runners to keep Boston off the board. The Astros jumped in front in the bottom half, with Jose Altuve working a leadoff walk, moving to second on a one-out single by Alex Bregman, advancing to third on a wild pitch, then ultimately scoring on a sac fly by Yordan Alvarez to put Houston ahead 1-0 after one frame.

They had a chance to extend their lead in the bottom of the second, taking advantage of a shaky inning by Chris Sale, who loaded the bases with one out as Houston would get two singles and a hit-by-pitch. That flipped the order over to the top, but a great diving catch by former Astro Kiké Hernández would end the inning. Hernández led off the top of the third against Valdez, and he would tie things up with a solo homer.

Things went downhill from there for Valdez and the Astros, as a one-out walk followed by a single gave the Red Sox the go-ahead run in scoring position. On a groundball that likely should have been a double play to end the inning, it would get through Altuve's legs, scoring a run and keeping the inning alive for Boston. They took advantage, getting an RBI double to extend their new lead to 3-1. Valdez would get one more out before Dusty Baker would give him the early hook, bringing in Yimi Garcia, who finished the frame.

A battle of the bullpens, Altuve ties it up

Like Valdez, Sale would also not make it through three innings, getting two outs while putting two on base before Boston would start their bullpen's night as well. Both sets of relievers settled the game down, with the Red Sox stranding two of Houston's runners in the third as well as the fifth, maintaining their two-run lead. After Garcia finished the third, Cristian Javier entered to eat up a couple of innings, and he would do just that by getting through two frames with just one hit, four strikeouts, and no runs.

Next, Phil Maton took over in the top of the sixth and erased a leadoff walk to keep things in striking distance for the home team. In the bottom of the sixth, Houston put another runner on base, getting a one-out single by Chas McCormick. Two batters later, with two outs, Jose Altuve provided yet another career postseason highlight, tying the game 3-3 with a two-run home to re-energize the Minute Maid Park crowd.

Astros take ALCS Game 1

Now a brand new ballgame in the top of the seventh, Brooks Raley came in to face three batters, getting two strikeouts while allowing a single before Dusty Baker would move on to Ryne Stanek, who would get the third out. With two outs in the bottom of the seventh, Carlos Correa continued his march to a monster off-season contract, putting Houston back on top with a solo homer, making it 4-3.

Houston kept the script after Stanek with the new lead in hand, going to Kendall Graveman as the setup man in the top of the eighth. Despite a two-out single, he would get out of the inning with the lead intact, putting Houston three outs away from the victory. After a walk, single, and hit by pitch to start the bottom of the eighth with the bases loaded, Altuve would drive in his third run of the game, getting a sac fly to extend the lead to two runs at 5-3.

That insurance run proved pivotal, as closer Ryan Pressly was met with a leadoff solo home run by Hernandez, his second of the night for Boston, to make it 5-4. Pressly refocused and was able to get the next three batters in order, though, wrapping up the win to start Houston off with a 1-0 series lead and putting them three wins away from advancing to the World Series.

Up Next: The two teams will have a moderately quick turnaround, with ALCS Game 2 scheduled to start at 3:20 PM Central on Saturday ahead of NLCS Game 1 between the Dodgers and Braves getting the night slot. The pitching matchup is expected to be Nathan Eovaldi for Boston, who is 1-0 with a 2.61 ERA in his two starts this postseason, going opposite Luis Garcia, who had a rough outing in the ALDS for Houston, giving up five runs without completing three innings in Chicago.

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