FRED FAOUR

This is the Texans offense fans had been waiting all season to see

Deshaun Watson had a monster game. Andy Lyons/Getty Images

This is what Texans fans had been waiting all season for. An exciting, aggressive offense that could go up and down the field with anyone. An offense good enough to overcome a struggling defense. An offense with motion, bootlegs and misdirection, much like the team we saw during Deshaun Watson's six starts last season.

An offense that had been MIA all year.

With their backs to the wall Sunday in Indianapolis and an 0-4 start looming, they came up with their best effort of the season and stole a 37-34 win over Indianapolis in overtime.

Watson was terrific with 375 yards passing, two touchdowns and one interception. He also rushed for 41 yards and another touchdown.

They also got just enough from a once again shaky defense. 

Jadeveon Clowney, doing his best Sue Storm impression the first three games, showed up with a fumble recovery for a touchdown and a pair of sacks, one late in the game that helped lead to the game-winning field goal.

For once, a questionable coaching decision by the opponent helped the Texans. With the score tied 31-31 with 27 seonds left in OT, Colts coach Frank Reich chose to go for it on fourth and four on his own 43. After an incomplete pass, the Texans hit DeAndre Hopkins for a big gain, then Ka'imi Fairbairn nailed the game-winning field goal.

(For the record, I don't know that it was that bad of a call. The Texans had not stopped the Colts since the third quarter, and Reich's only chance to win was to convert. But if you fail, you likely lose, and the Colts did. He gambled and it did not pay off). 

There were a lot of positives besides Watson. Keke Coutee made his NFL debut and had 11 catches for 109 yards. Hopkins had 10 for 169 and a touchdown in addition to the play that set up the win.

While they blew a 28-10 second half lead, they made enough plays when it counted, and benefitted from Reich's failed decision.

The Texans won despite a defense that was once again brutal. As has been the case all season, penalties were killers (Clowney alone had three offsides). The team overall was penalized 10 times for 54 yards, often in key situations. The defense was unable to cover T.Y. Hilton, who torched them for 4 catches and 115 yards despite twice leaving the field with injuries. They weren't great at getting off the field on third down (The Colts converted a ridiculous 10 of 17). They blew assignments (no one covered Eric Ebron on the Colts' third touchdown, and before he got hurt, Hilton was wide open all over the place). On the last two drives in regulation, they let the Colts walk down the field and score despite three holding penalties on the first drive and no Hilton. The Colts were perfect in the red zone. Andrew Luck threw for 464 yards despite missing Hilton for much of the game. The defense went a third straight game without getting an interception. It is hard to win a football game like that.

And yet they did. 

They did because they made a few plays on defense, and that was one of the key differences that gave them a chance. They forced two turnovers (well, one wasn't really "forced;" the Colts muffed a snap in the end zone that was recovered by Clowney for the first touchdown). They got pressure at times, with four sacks, two by Clowney and two by J.J. Watt. Clowney also blew up the running game in the backfield several times. But with the game on the line for the third straight week, the stars were invisible on defense until Clowney picked up his second sack on the second drive of overtime, which helped lead to the win.

Offensively, they once again had issues protecting Watson, who was sacked seven times. But they overcame that, in part because of Watson's mobility.

And Watson did enough to win the game, especially with his fouth-quarter drive where they went 54 yards in 10 plays and kicked a field goal to go up 31-23. However, the defense allowed the tying touchdown and two-point conversion, sending it to overtime. Watson led the Texans to a tying field goal in OT, then hit the big pass to set up the game winner.

In a way, the win was frustrating. Where has this offense been all season? This play calling? The plays that gave the Texans a shot? At 1-3, it might be too late, but at least Watson and the offense was back for one game.

The win ended a nine-game losing streak and was just the Texans second victory in 14 games. It was only their third in Indianapolis in franchise history. There was no doubt it was a must-win.

And win they did. 

 

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Houston needs a win to advance

ALWC Game 2 Preview: Astros vs. Twins

Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

It took all nine innings, but the Astros rallied late and took Game 1 by a score of 4-1 and are in the driver's seat in this best-of-three series. They'll return to Target Field, home of the Twins, on Wednesday afternoon to try and get the win and advance to the ALDS. Here's what you need to know about Game 2:

Game Facts

When: Wednesday, 12:08 PM Central

Where: Target Field - Minneapolis, Minnesota

TV: ESPN 2

Streaming: ESPN App

Pitching Matchup: Jose Urquidy+ vs. José Berríos.

Series: HOU leads 1-0.

Series Schedule

Date & Time (Central) Location Pitching Matchup
Game 1 Astros 4, Twins 1 Target Field, Minneapolis Greinke vs. Maeda
Game 2 Wed 9/30, 12:08 PM Target Field, Minneapolis Urquidy+ vs. Berríos
Game 3* Thu 10/1, 12:08 PM Target Field, Minneapolis McCullers Jr.+ vs. Pineda+

* If necessary.
+ Projected starters.

Game Storylines

Houston's offense has to get going earlier

The Twins' error in the ninth inning in Game 1 was a gift for the Astros that they were able to take advantage of and score the winning runs. It's unlikely to be handed another chance like that in the postseason, so in Game 2, it's paramount that Houston creates their own opportunities at the plate.

The good news is, every batter in the lineup was able to reach base in the first game, either by hit or walk. However, they would go 2-for-9 with runners in scoring position while leaving nine on base during the game. Because they can't expect to have two pitchers to combine for a one-run game on Wednesday, they will have to carry over the momentum from the end of Game 1 into Game 2 to build a lead their bullpen can carry.

Trust your arms to navigate through

Whether it's Jose Urquidy, who is the likely candidate, or anyone else who ends up starting Wednesday's game, the Astros have to be prepared to have a longer stretch of innings filled by their bullpen. Despite his struggles to end the regular season, Greinke did well only to allow one run to the Twins over his four innings in Game 1.

You should expect a similar outcome in Game 2, where hopefully your starter can hold the Twins at bay for as long as they can before needing to make the change to relievers. It will be interesting to see how Dusty Baker plays that situation, mostly dependent on the score at the time, as he could have someone like Cristian Javier come in for multiple innings. The only thing the Astros shouldn't do is fire too many of their bullets and put their chances in a potential Game 3 at risk.

Be sure to check SportsMap after the final out for an in-depth recap of the game, and follow me on Twitter for updates and reactions throughout each playoff game: @ChrisCampise

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