The top 5 moments in Houston sports for 2017

Alex Bregman's Game 5 hit will be remembered for a long time. Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Ranking the top sports moments of 2017 in Houston was shockingly difficult. In many lists every hit from Game 5 of the Astros World Series run could be a top moment, but I had to branch out. So here we go.

5. Hosting Super Bowl

Only fifteen cities have ever hosted a Super Bowl, making it one of the more exclusive lists out there. Houston has hosted three times but not since 2004. Since then, the downtown scene has been completely revitalized, the METRO rail has gone from one lonely North-South route to three routes out of downtown. The festivities downtown and the around the city presented Houston area families with plenty of exciting things to do and famous people to see. But this isn’t No. 5 on the list simply for all of the changes made around the city. The game itself will be remembered as one of the best Super Bowl endings ever. The Patriots, down 28-3 late in the third quarter, scored 19 unanswered fourth quarter points to win the game 34-28. The debate rages on – was this the greatest comeback of all time, or the biggest meltdown of all time?

4. Drafting Deshaun Watson

Ever since Warren Moon, the football team in Houston has had at best competent quarterback play and at worst play so physically vile that it causes women to run from the stadium clutching their pearls and children to scream for their mothers. The best quarterback the Texans have ever had was Matt Schaub, the man who set and still retains the record for consecutive games throwing at least one pick six. The NFL is a quarterback’s league, and as is far too evident when watching the boys on Kirby toil away in mediocrity, they’ve never had one. Cut to draft night. The Texans orchestrated a trade with the Browns to secure Deshaun Watson with the 12th pick. Now, it’s hard to say just how good that trade will be for the team because Watson was injured after playing in only six and half games. In the six games he started, Watson threw for 19 touchdowns and almost 1,700 yards with only eight interceptions.

3. Chris Paul Trade

When Chris Paul was traded to the Rockets back in June for players including Sam Dekker and Patrick Beverley, there were skeptics. Beverley was a fan favorite. Could Paul and Harden effectively share the ball enough to create meaningful offense? Twenty-six games into the season, the Rockets are 22-4, winning 11 straight since Paul returned from injury. They are scoring 114 points per game and have made 416 three pointers. Whether they have what it takes to make to the Finals for the first time since 1995 only time will tell, but if they continue to play at this high level, I don’t see why they can’t compete with the Warriors and Spurs.

2. Justin Verlander Trade

As the trade deadline loomed in August, the Astros had a team capable of making a long run in the playoffs. What they didn’t have was enough solid starting pitching to win the pennant or the World Series. Initially the team traded away some farm players for Francisco Liriano and fans and players were understandably frustrated with the lack of trade activity with a team that was so close. Dallas Keuchel was vocal in wanting the team to beef up starting pitching and he made his voice heard in the locker room and with the media. The Astros were able to trade for Verlander at the 11th hour. He was undefeated at Minute Maid and lost just one playoff game – Game 6 against the Dodgers in LA. He pitched a complete game in Game 2, which was a huge part of the Astros win.

1. Alex Bregman’s walk off single in World Series game 5

Alex Bregman’s walk off single in Game 5 wasn’t just the greatest Houston sports moment of 2017, it is the greatest of all time in Houston. If Bregman doesn’t walk off in Game 5, the Astros don’t win the World Series. Had they lost that game, they would have gone down 3-2 heading back to Los Angeles. Winning that game gave them the confidence they needed to go into LA and win in seven. Over 40,000 fans packed into Minute Maid and sustained a remarkable level of cheering through 10 innings of baseball. The game went on for five hours and 17 minutes with 22 home runs.  There was high drama – four ties and five lead changes, undeniable comedy – a fan ripped Yasiel Puig’s home run ball out of his sister in law’s hands and threw it onto the field while her flabbergasted husband attempted to reason with his brother, and a redemption story for George Springer after mis-judging an outfield hit that allowed a run to score and then hitting a home run in the next inning to tie things up. By the time Bregman singled in the winning run by Derek Fisher, everyone in Houston’s nerves were completely shot.

Honorable Mentions:

  • The 27th out of World Series game seven marked the first time the Houston Astros had ever won a world series, ending the second longest drought in baseball history, and the first time a Houston team had won a major championship since the Rockets in 1995. Even though this game didn’t take place in Houston, there were thousands of people watching the game at Minute Maid Park. Videos from inside the ball park are moving as people scream, cry, and throw beer and food in pure joy. People took to the streets to honk their horns, shout with ecstasy in the streets and blast Houston rap anthems from their stereos.

  • The World Series parade had almost one million attendees and had to be extended by five blocks right before it kicked off because the original route was so packed. Schools were closed, and people took off work and travelled into the city for the festivities. Streets downtown that had once been flooded with water, were now flooded with fans holding signs and cheering. The parade also had the best show of teamwork since the actual game when a group of fans helped a woman retrieve her dropped hat by throwing it up eight stories of a parking garage.

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Now my job: Texans feast on Lions

Photo by Getty Images.

Thanksgiving is full of tradition. There's the typical family gathering, large meal, and of course, football. Sometimes, new traditions are added and old ones are retired. I think the Texans did both in their impressive 41-25 win over the Lions in Detroit. Old traditions were carried on (Lions losing on Thanksgiving), some were put to rest (Texans not being able to get turnovers), and new ones were started (multiple passing touchdowns by Deshaun Watson in six straight games).

The fact that this defense got three turnovers in the game was unbelievable! They got all three in the first quarter within the span of eight plays. JJ Watt's pick-six was insane. He went for a batted ball, ended up catching it, and ran it in. They forced Jonathan Williams to fumble on the Lions' very next play from scrimmage and recovered it. On the Lions' next possession, the Texans recovered yet another fumble after the challenge was reversed. Great call by the coaching staff to challenge and win. The defense looked good. Tyrell Adams stood out because he was in on those two fumbles, made 17 total tackles with 14 of them being solo tackles. They also brought pressure that seemed to make Matthew Stafford very inaccurate and resulted in four sacks. I give defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver credit for knowing he needs to blitz to get pressure, but the run defense has to improve.

The offense kept the tempo up in this game as well. The spread and hurry-up were used to keep the Lions already staggered defense off balance. Knowing the Lions were without a couple defensive backs, I thought it would be the perfect marriage of their defense and the Texans' offense. A buddy asked before the game about the line (Texans -3.5) and the over/under (52.5). I told him bet the Texans and the over because neither team can play defense and both have good quarterbacks. Offensive coordinator Tim Kelly put together another good game plan and Watson executed it flawlessly. One route combo I saw later on in the game I particularly enjoyed. Two receivers were tight to the left side. Cooks ran a hook/curl and settled in the middle of the zone while Fuller ran a vertical route. Duke Johnson ran a swing route to that same side. It left Cooks wide open as the attention went to Johnson in the flat, Fuller deep, and the action to the other play side. Route combos are important because it gives the quarterback different reads as he goes through his progressions and lets him pick apart the defense based on what he sees. Combine that with Watson's play and the way Kelly has changed his play calling now that he's liberated from he who shall not be named, we're seeing a beautiful thing.

As good as things were, there's still room for improvement. The defense gives up way too many easy yards, both run and pass. They can't get pressure bringing only four and will often give up big plays if the blitz is picked up. Plus the run defense is still an issue as evidenced by the Lions' first possession of the second half. The Lions ran the ball 10 plays straight for a total of 58 yards on that drive. Utterly ridiculous! Watson was good (17/25 318 yards and four touchdowns), but he missed two more touchdowns with passes slightly off, and continues to hold onto the ball too long at times. The difference between these two issues I've presented here is the fact that Watson has so played well, his "issues" are minor and very correctable, while the defense is terrible and there's no easy fix in sight. But let Romeo Crennel and Anthony Weaver tell it, they're getting the most out of these guys and they're playing disciplined.

The thought that this team may actually creep into the playoff picture may take shape better after next week if they can beat the Colts. I doubt it, but it is getting interesting. Let's see what else happens around them because they need help getting there.

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