The good, bad and ugly

Texans vs Titans Game 2: Observations on Sunday's 24-13 loss

Texans vs Titans Game 2: Observations on Sunday's 24-13 loss
DeAndre Hopkins played well again. Houstontexans.com

The Houston Texans played a good enough game to win, but unfortunately came up short 24-13 to the Tennessee Titans. The game was much closer than the final score indicated. A play or two here and there, and this could have easily have been their fifth win of the season.

The Good

- Deandre Hopkins is making his case for the top wide receiver in football. A stat line of 8 catches on 13 targets for 80 yards and no touchdowns doesn’t say much to most, but he was doubled the entire game when everyone knew the ball was coming his way.

-Tom Savage played a good game, relative to what we are used to seeing from him. He completed 31 of 49 pass attempts for 365 yards with one touchdown and one interception. While under constant pressure, he still managed to have the best game of his career. He made several throws that impressed me, but nothing impressed more than his heightened pocket presence as he didn’t revert to “Strip Sack Savage” as a friend has called him.

-Stephen Anderson stepped up big time. The undrafted second year player had 5 catches for 79 yards and a touchdown. His biggest play of the game came on a 22 yard catch to convert a 4th and 19 that kept the team’s hopes alive down by a touchdown. With the tight end position being decimated by injury, it’s good to see someone stepping up to grab the brass ring.

The Bad

-Texans still have an issue covering tight ends. Delanie Walker had 5 catches for 63 yards and a touchdown. The Texans have had this problem since Vernon Davis ate them alive back in week seven of the 2009 with the San Francisco 49ers (7 catches for 93 yards and 3 touchdowns).

-The run game continues to disappoint. 22 rushes for 53 yards gave them a whopping 2.4 yards per carry average. The longest carry was by Lamar Miller on a 12 yard run off left tackle. For an offense that wishes to rely on the run, this can’t continue. This is their second game in a row averaging less than 3 yards per carry.

-Jeff Allen had three consecutive false start penalties on 4th & 4 that ended up in a 4th & 19. Normally playing right guard, Allen was at left tackle on those plays. He’s been an incredibly bad offensive lineman no matter where he has played.

The Ugly

- Injuries are to the Texans, as prostitutes are to Bissonnet. In this game alone, Jonathon Joseph, C.J. Fiedorowicz, and Bruce Ellington all left the game with various injuries today. Fiedorowicz, who suffered another concussion, is perhaps the most troubling. He has now had two this year and I believe it was the fourth of his career. After signing an extension this offseason and finally showing some of his potential, I would really hate to see his career derailed by concussions.

- Ka’imi Fairbairn missed 2 field goals today. The 48 yard miss hit the left upright and the 28 yard miss was shanked left. Fairbairn started the year 11/11, and is 6/10 since. He has a case of the yips that started with his first miss against the Indianapolis Colts on Nov. 5.

-The Texans had 11 penalties for 85 yards. When you’re already handicapped by injuries (pun intended), the worst thing you can do is throw flaming hot grits on an existing third degree burn by beating yourself. Playing disciplined football could’ve also helped avoid losing this game, backups and inexperienced players playing major roles be damned.

This was Savage’s best performance. Too bad it took him four years and eight career starts to put in a decent performance. This is something he and Bill O’Brien can hopefully build upon for the remaining four games of the season. This team at least looked like it fought back today versus a team that appears headed for a playoff berth. Having a chance to win games in a season considered lost is what people, especially fans, ultimately wants.

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More changes are coming in MLB. Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images.

Ronald Acuña Jr. and Corbin Carroll just got a little more dangerous. Same for Bobby Witt Jr., Elly De La Cruz and the rest of baseball's fastest players.

Major League Baseball wants umpires to crack down on obstruction, and the commissioner's office outlined plans during a call with managers this week. MLB staff also will meet managers in person during spring training to go over enforcement.

The increased emphasis is only on the bases and not at home plate. The focus is on infielders who drop a knee or leg down in front of a bag while receiving a throw, acting as a deterrence for aggressive baserunning and creating an increased risk of injuries.

“I think with everything, they’re trying to make the game a little safer to avoid some unnecessary injuries," Phillies shortstop Trea Turner said Friday at the team's facility in Florida. “The intentions are always good. It comes down to how it affects the players and the games. I’m sure there will be plays where one team doesn’t like it or one team does.”

With more position players arriving at spring training every day, the topic likely will come up more and more as teams ramp up for the season.

“We'll touch on that. We'll show them some video of what’s good and what’s not,” Texas Rangers manager Bruce Bochy said. “You know, it’s going to be a little adjustment.”

Making obstruction a point of emphasis fits in with an ongoing effort by MLB to create more action. Obstruction calls are not reviewable, which could lead to some disgruntled players and managers as enforcement is stepped up, but it also means it won't create long replay deliberations.

A package of rule changes last season — including pitch clocks, bigger bases and limits on defensive shifts and pickoff attempts — had a dramatic effect. There were 3,503 stolen bases in the regular season, up from 2,486 in 2022 and the most since 1987.

MLB changed a different baserunning rule this offseason, widening the runner’s lane approaching first base to include a portion of fair territory. MLB also shortened the pitch clock with runners on base by two seconds to 18 and further reducing mound visits in an effort to speed games.

“Last year, you know, a lot of our preparation was around like, especially just the unknown of the clock and making sure like we’re really buttoned up on that," New York Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. "These guys are so used to it in so many ways that sometimes I even forget.”

Increased enforcement could lead to more action on the basepaths. But a significant element of MLB's motivation is injury prevention.

Top players have hurt hands or wrists on headfirst slides into bases blocked by a fielder. White Sox slugger Luis Robert Jr. sprained his left wrist when he slid into Jonathan Schoop's lower left leg on a steal attempt during an August 2022 game against Detroit.

“It’s been happening for a while. It’s been getting out of control," Boston Red Sox manager Alex Cora said. “I know some of the players complained about it the last two years.”

While acknowledging his reputation as a significant offender, Phillies second baseman Bryson Stott didn't sound too worried about his play.

“We like to fight for outs at second base,” he said. "It’s never on purpose, blocking the base. For me, or someone covering second to the shortstop side, it’s a natural move for your knee to go down to reach the ball. It’s never intentional. I guess we’ll figure out how to maneuver around that.”

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