COLTS 24, TEXANS 21

The streak ends as the Texans fall  24-21 to the Colts

Andrew Luck led the Colts to a win. Tim Warner/Getty Images

Houston's winning streak ended at home against the Indianapolis Colts as they fell 24-21. It was an up and down game where Deshaun Watson struggled against the blitz and the running game couldn't find its footing. Andrew Luck and T.Y. Hilton did what they always seem to do against Houston and the defense was not able to get key plays that had seen them win the last nine.

The Texans offense seemed lost in the first half, amassing only 114 total yards. Meanwhile the Colts got hot in their last three drives of the half to take a 17-7 lead at the break. Houston's lone score of the half came in the first quarter when they put together a 10-play, 82-yard drive that ended with Alfred Blue's second rushing touchdown of the season.

The Texans defense looked strong early in the game, holding the Colts to four consecutive three-and-out drives followed by an interception on the fourth possession. They couldn't hold it together as Andrew Luck and the Colt's offense found a weakness in the middle of the field and exploited it for three touchdowns and a field goal on their next four possessions. Luck finished the day 27 of 41 for 399 yards with two touchdowns and the one interception.

Both defenses bottled up the running game. At one point in the third quarter, each team's quarterback was its leading rusher. The Texans defense held the Colts to just 50 yards on the ground and gave up just one 4-yard touchdown run. Houston didn't fare much better, although there were times Lamar Miller looked like he was going to break out. His numbers for the day look awful though. He had so many negative rushes early on that he finished with only 33 yards on 14 carries for a 2.4-yard average.

Down 17-7 at half time, it was all about a strong start in the third quarter for Houston. They got the ball to start and marched down the field methodically for a 16-play, 75-yard touchdown drive to get back within 3, 17-14. It took a gutsy call on fourth down from the six-inch line that punched the ball in. Bill O'Brien dialed up a direct snap to Lamar Miller who dove under the offensive line for the score. It was short lived as the Colts went down the field in eight plays the very next drive to go back up by 10.

Houston's defense tightened up and kept the Colts from adding any more while the Texans offense was stifled. Deshaun Watson struggled to get rid of the ball, especially in the face of the blitz. Indianapolis got to him five times for minus 41 yards and forced him to average only seven yards per pass. He ended the game 27 of 38 for 267 yards and a touchdown. He was the team's leading rusher with five carries for 35 yards.

The defensive front is still impressive. J.J. Watt notched his 12th sack of the season and Christian Covington increased his total to 3.5. They stopped a lot of short plays and were able to disrupt Andrew Luck's throws multiple times. The secondary was able to get some solid pass break-ups but struggled to cover the middle of the field and the tight end. T.Y. Hilton torched them for nine catches and 199 yards. Tight end Eric Ebron had another big day for Indianapolis hauling in four passes for 65-yards and his 12th touchdown of the season.

The day wasn't without drama. With 4:30 left in the game, Houston got the ball down 24-14 and put together a 70-yard drive capped off by a seven-yard touchdown catch by DeAndre Hopkins who had been held in check for most of the game. He caught only four passes for 36-yards and the touchdown. They were now back within three points and just over two minutes left to play. Needing a stop, Andrew Luck would draw Jadeveon Clowney offsides on the other side of the two-minute warning to run out the clock and end any hope of a Houston comeback.

This was a win Houston desperately needed, as Miami was able to knock of New England. A win would have given them a chance to finish the season ahead of the Patriots in line for a playoff bye. They will have to try again next Saturday against the New York Jets.

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Here's what the data tells us about Bregman. Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

Alex Bregman had a rough season in 2020 by his standards. He slashed .242/.350/.451 in 42 regular season games. His regular season included a trip to the 10-day IL for a hamstring strain he suffered in mid-August. His surface-level struggles continued in the postseason, where he slashed .220/.316/.300 in 13 games. However, that postseason sample size does include a tough luck game against the Tampa Bay Rays where he went 0-for-5 with five hard hit balls.

All-in-all, 2020 felt like a lost season for Bregman. He never really got going. He got off to a slow start, but he's always been a slow starter. Once he started to pick it up, he strained his hamstring, and he played poorly after returning from the hamstring strain. Then, he started to turn his batted ball quality around in the playoffs, but he hit into a lot of tough luck outs.

Hard Hit % - 33.6%

Barrel % - 3.9%

K% - 14.4%

BB% - 13.3%

Chase % - 18.1%

Bregman comes from the Michael Brantley school of hitters. He has elite plate discipline and elite bat-to-ball skills. This makes Bregman a fairly consistent hitter. That may sound odd considering his 2020 "struggles" but even an extended period of poor performance for him resulted in a .801 OPS and a 122 wRC+. If his valleys are still 22% better than the league average hitter, then that's a pretty reliable producer.

There aren't any alarming trends in Bregman's statistics. Yes, his K% was slightly up, his BB% is slightly down, but it isn't a massive difference in either category. His Chase % was up, but again, 18.1% is elite discipline. The biggest drop was in his Hard Hit%, where he fell from 38% to 33.6%. Even so, his average exit velocity only dropped .4 MPH, so there's not really a catastrophic trend here.

His .254 BABIP (Batting Average on Balls In Play) was low, but he's never put up really high BABIP numbers. In fact, his BABIP has gotten worse every year of his career, from .317 to .311 to .289 to .281 to .254. While his BABIP will likely spike back up next year, it isn't enough to be the difference between the 2019 and 2020 versions of himself. His xBA and xSLG weren't out of whack either. His .256 xBA isn't much better than his .240 AVG, and his .400 xSLG is actually worse than his .451 SLG.

Bregman is as forthcoming with his hitting mechanics, approach, and mental cues as any big leaguer out there. Here is what he had to say about his swing this year. This was a Zoom press conference with the media following the Astros game on September 25th against the Rangers.

Bregman says he wants to hit balls in the air to the pull side and on a line to the opposite field, but in reality, he was hitting flares to the opposite field and hitting them on the ground to the pull side.

The data mostly backs up that claim. In 2019, on balls hit to the pull side, Bregman had an average exit velocity of 90.7 MPH at an average launch angle of 16°, a 40% Hard Hit %, and a 16% HR%. Since Bregman has elite bat-to-ball skills, most of those metrics didn't change. In 2020, his average exit velocity was 90.6, essentially the same as 2019. His Hard Hit % was 42%, a touch better than in 2019. However, his average launch angle dipped from 16° to 11°, which contributed to his HR% dropping all the way to 9%. Bregman hit 47% of his pull side swings on the ground. In 2019, that number was 40%. He absolutely had less production to the pull side in 2020.

The data gets a little hazier going the opposite way when comparing 2019 to 2020, as Bregman actually performed slightly better to the opposite field in 2020 than 2019, but he also only had 20 batted balls to the opposite field all season. Considering the small sample size, it isn't worth diving too deep into the data.

He's right that most of the balls he hit that way were flares. He had an average exit velocity of 83.4 MPH with an average launch angle of 32°, but that's about the same as what he did in 2019. A lot of the statistical drop off comes from balls that were backspun rockets to the pull side in 2019 becoming top spinners or roll overs in 2020.

Bregman also performed horribly against breaking balls in 2020. He batted .150 with a .250 SLG against them in 2020. He had an 84 MPH Average Exit Velocity against them and whiffed 26.5% of the time against them.

It was a far cry from 2019, when he hit .265 with a .588 SLG, 87 MPH average exit velo, and whiffed 18% of the time.

Those numbers lend credence to his statement on his mechanics. It's tough for a hitter to have adjustability against breaking balls if he's blowing out his front side and pulling off of the baseball.

Bregman will spend the offseason working on these mechanical fixes and getting back to the hitter he used to be. If he's consistently hitting the ball in the air to the pull side next year, and he's performing better against breaking balls, then he should be right back in the mix for AL MVP.

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