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Texans vs Seahawks: Observations

Texans vs Seahawks: Observations
Deshaun Watson kept the Texans in the game. Getty Images

Texans vs Seahawks: Observations

This was a great game to watch. Most eyes were on the game due to Bob McNair’s comments and subsequent fallout. The majority of the team chose to kneel and lock arms. Given the climate around the team, most thought this was going to be a lamb led to slaughter. However, the lamb brought some weapons, just not enough in coming up short 41-38.

The Good

-Deshaun Watson is the first player in NFL history with 400 plus yards passing, 4 plus touchdowns, and 50 plus yards rushing in a single game. This guy is special.

-DeAndre Hopkins had 8 catches for 224 yards and a touchdown. He repeatedly made contested catches against Richard Sherman who’s considered one of the best corners in the league. His 72 yard touchdown catch came on a screen pass to put them ahead 38-34.

-The team had 142 yards rushing, while giving up a measly 33 to Seattle. Watson led the team with 67 yards rushing. He showed he knows when to fight for yards (directing Alfred Blue to block as he picked up a key first down on 3rd & 14) and when to baseball slide.

-Will Fuller V is proving to be the vertical threat he was drafted to be. He has 13 catches, with 7 of them going for touchdowns this season since returning from injury.

The Bad

-Watson threw 3 interceptions. The first two were rookie mistakes he appeared to be baited into by Seattle’s talented secondary (Earl Thomas reading him wanting to go to Hopkins on a 3rd down play; Sherman stepping in front of a crossing route leaving his zone responsibility).

-The offensive line gave up 5 sacks this game. With a mobile quarterback, you’d think that wouldn’t happen. Some of those are Watson’s fault, the majority aren’t. This line will need to be addressed this offseason.

-Chris Thompson made two special teams errors by running out of the end zone, and not getting to the 25 yard line. On one of those plays, he fumbled, but recovered it. Special teams cannot continue to plague this team, especially when the defense is playing like a PAC12 defense.

The Ugly

-The team gave up 446 yards passing to a Seattle team the averages 243.8 passing yards a game with just as bad of an offensive line, and a fairly average receiving core. Four different pass plays went over 45 yards. This secondary is atrocious! Numerous blown coverages led to several key plays, including Zach Cunningham and Benardrick McKinney losing Jimmy Graham up the middle for the game winning score. They had an assist from safety Marcus Gilchrist who had deep middle coverage, but chose to float over the side to far left of his vantage point.

-This team cannot win shoot outs. The defense isn’t what it was last year, and the special teams (specifically the kick return game) are actually worse. Watson is proving himself to be everything he was advertised to be pre-draft. But this team will only go as far as the defense and kick return game will take them.

Bonus Coverage: Given team owner Bob McNair’s divisive comments, the team played well. Rookie quarterbacks were 2-10 in previous 12 games at Seattle. Watson gave them a chance to win the game, and the defense let it get away. I hope they don’t turn Watson into Dan Marino, or post-Super Bowl Drew Brees. They were/are all-time great quarterbacks who’s defenses resemble weekend warriors and career/s were/are being wasted because the organization didn’t put the right pieces around them while they were/are at their best.

 

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Astros on the hunt. Composite Getty Image.

With the Astros' surge from 10 games out of first place to within two games of Seattle, catching and going past the Mariners has naturally become the top objective. It's no given to happen but it's right there. In the final series ahead of the All-Star break, while the Mariners are in the midst of four games with the lowly Angels, the last two World Series champions renew (un)pleasantries at Minute Maid Park.

The Astros enter the weekend five games ahead of the Rangers. They lead the season series with the reigning champs four wins to three. While the Astros can't quite finish off the Arlingtonians by sweeping them in this three game set, shoving them eight games back (even further back of Seattle and the current Wild Card teams) and clinching the tiebreaker would seem close to a death blow. Taking two out of three would be fine for the Astros. If the Rangers win the series, they are clearly still in the American League West and Wild Card races coming out of the All-Star break.

Last year the Rangers had the best offense in the AL. So far in 2024 they rank a mediocre eighth in runs per game. Nathaniel Lowe is the lone Ranger (get it?!?) regular playing as well as he did last season. Corey Seager has been fine but not at the MVP runner-up level of last year. Marcus Semien is notably down, as is 2023 ALCS Astros-obliterater Adolis Garcia. Stud 2023 rookie Josh Jung has been out with a broken wrist since ex-Astro Phil Maton hit him with a pitch in the fourth game of this season, though fill-in third baseman Josh Smith has been the Rangers' best player. 21-year-old late season phenom Evan Carter largely stunk the first two months this season and has been out since late May with a back injury. Repeating is hard, never harder than it is now. Hence no Major League Baseball has done it since the Yankees won three straight World Series 1998-2000.

Chasing down the Division at a crazy clip

From the abyss of their 7-19 start, the Astros sweep over the Marlins clinched a winning record at the break with them at 49-44. Heading into the Texas matchup the Astros have won at a .627 clip since they were 7-19. A full season of .627 ball wins 101 games. If the Astros win at a .627 rate the rest of the way they'll finish with 92 wins, almost certainly enough to secure a postseason slot and likely enough to win the West. Expecting .627 the rest of the way is ambitious.

With it fairly clear that Lance McCullers is highly unlikely to contribute anything after his latest recovery setback, and Luis Garcia a major question mark, what Justin Verlander has left in 2024 grows more important. With the way the Astros often dissemble or poorly forecast when discussing injuries, for all we know Verlander could be cooked. Inside three weeks to the trade deadline, General Manager Dana Brown can't be thinking a back end of the rotation comprised of Spencer Arrighetti and Jake Bloss should be good enough. The Astros have 66 games to play after the All-Star break, including separate stretches with games on 18 and 16 consecutive days.

All-Star MIAs

Viewership for Tuesday's All-Star game at Globe Life Field in Arlington will be pretty, pretty, pretty low in Houston. One, All-Star Game ratings are pitiful every year compared to where they used to be. Two, the Astros could be down to zero representatives at Tuesday's showcase. Kyle Tucker was rightfully named a reserve but had no shot at playing as he continues the loooong recovery from a bone bruise (or worse) suffered June 3. Being named an All-Star for a ninth time was enough for Jose Altuve. He opts out of spending unnecessary time in Texas Rangers territory citing a sore wrist. This despite Altuve playing four games in a row since sitting out the day after he was plunked and highly likely to play in all three games versus the Rangers this weekend. Yordan Alvarez exiting Wednesday's rout of the Marlins with hip discomfort and then missing Thursday's game seem clear reasons for him to skip, though he has indicated thus far he intends to take part. Yordan is the most essential lineup component to the Astros' hopes of making an eighth straight playoff appearance.

Ronel Blanco should have made the American League squad on performance, but pretty obviously his 10 game illegal substance use suspension was held against him. As it works out, Blanco will pitch Sunday in the last game before the break which would render him unavailable for the All-Star Game anyway. Blanco is eligible to pitch, but given the career high-shattering innings workload Blanco is headed for, no way the Astros want him on the mound Tuesday. Just last year the Astros kept Framber Valdez from pitching in the game.

While waiting, and waiting, and waiting on Tucker's return, the Astros have also been waiting on Chas McCormick to get back to something even faintly resembling the hitter he was last year. McCormick routinely looks lost at the plate. He has four hits (all singles) in his last 32 at bats with his season OPS pitiful at .572. During the break the Astros should seriously weigh sending McCormick to AAA Sugar Land and giving Pedro Leon a try in a job share with Joey Loperfido.

*Catch our weekly Stone Cold ‘Stros podcast. Brandon Strange, Josh Jordan, and I discuss varied Astros topics. The first post for the week generally goes up Monday afternoon (second part released Tuesday) via The SportsMap HOU YouTube channel or listen to episodes in their entirety at Apple, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

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