FOURTH-DOWN GAMBLE PAYS OFF IN 31-24 WIN

Watson, gutsy Texans get big win over Mahomes, Chiefs in Kansas City

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The first Deshaun Watson-Patrick Mahomes battle went to Watson and the Texans in an impressive 31-24 victory. Let's take a look at how it played out.

OFFENSE 

Positives: Carlos Hyde came to play. He pounded the Chiefs - who have been bad against the run all year - for 116 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries. As a team they rushed for 194 and averaged 5.0 per carry. Deshaun Watson was not as brilliant as last week, but he had a solid day, other than the two interceptions (see below). He did a lot of damage with his legs, rushing for 44 yards and two touchdowns, and he was not sacked for the second week in a row, a credit to the improving offensive line. He completed 30 of 42 for 280 yards, a touchdown and the two picks (one worked as a punt). When the Texans got the ball back with five minutes left and a seven-point lead, they chewed up clock, running it down to the two-minute warning. They went for it on fourth down, Watson hit DeAndre Hopkins for a first down and the game was over. A ballsy call by Bill O'Brien that paid off, and the Texans ran out the clock.

Negatives: After a career day last week, Will Fuller reverted to the inconsistent player he has been most of his career. He had three drops, two of which could have gone for touchdowns. Fuller can get open, but drops have been a problem throughout his career. Right tackle Titus Howard, who was really improving week to week, suffered what appeared to be a serious leg injury. The line was finally playing well, so this is a big blow. Watson threw the two interceptions, including a bad one in the end zone trying to force the ball to Hopkins. The play before, Hopkins dropped a probable touchdown. Hopkins has not been great this season and that was a bad sequence. Still, Watson can't make that throw. You have to come away with points in that situation. Both guys did make up for it on the fourth down play late in the game. Finally, kicker Ka'imi Fairbairn is a mess. He missed yet another extra point and a field goal. O'Brien chose not to bring him in for a clinching field goal late.

DEFENSE

Positives: They got a rare pick of Patrick Mahomes in the first half, costing the Chiefs points. They also came up with a huge strip sack right before the half, leading to a touchdown. They gave up just seven points in the second half against one of the best offenses in the league. They came up with a huge three and out with just over five minutes left in the fourth quarter, giving the ball back to the offense with a seven-point lead. They held Mahomes to his lowest yardage total of the season (273),.

Negatives: Mahomes and the Chiefs are going to get their points. They punched the Texans in the face right off the bat with big plays and 17 first-half points. The Texans again had too many penalties, mistakes you usually can't make against the Chiefs, but they bounced back strong after the rough start. Bradley Roby was playing well before limping off the field, a serious blow to a struggling secondary. But overall they played well enough to win against a terrific offense.

THE BOTTOM LINE

This was a huge win for the Texans, considering they rarely beat good teams on the road. This is their second such win of the season, and after the Colts beat KC last week, the Texans needed to hold serve. They did in a big way. The coaching staff made great adjustments at halftime, and they overcame some mistakes. The fourth-down call was brilliant.

The secondary was down two corners, yet managed to make enough plays to keep the Chiefs in check in the second half. There is no way around it; this is a huge win.

I have been critical of O'Brien, but he called a first-rate game, engineered a balanced offense, and made a big-time call late in the game to put it away. Too often the Texans depend on the other team messing up at the end of games. This time they grabbed it by the throat and went out and won the football game.

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All 3 major sports teams in Houston appear to be in good hands.Composite image by Jack Brame.

Houston is a strange sports town, professionally speaking. Football is the undisputed king. That's evidenced by the undying love fans show the Texans. Baseball is second, even though the Astros most recently gave the city a title and have given them a consistent winner to cheer for since 2015. Basketball is a clear third, since fans won't show up to a Rockets' playoff game until after the game has started.

At one point, all three teams were competitive and provided the city with a good deal of excitement. They also had competent general managers, though not all at once. The Texans had Rick Smith, who some say was hit or miss, but he was by far the team’s best GM in their history. The measuring stick isn’t very high, but Smith normally hit on 1st rounders. Jeff Luhnow was in charge of the turnaround for the Astros. His work environment may have been contentious according to rumors, but he brought the city a World Series and built a consistent contender. Daryl Morey may have left a hot mess, but the Rockets were always in the playoffs. He was able to keep a winning team, while reshaping the roster.

Fast-forward to today, and the city has a competent GM in every major pro sports team at the same time. James Click has kept the Astros on the winning track. While the penalties for the sign stealing scandal were hefty, he’s managed to make some shrewd moves. Signing Yordan Alvarez before he hit arbitration and free agency was huge! If he can get Kyle Tucker locked up as well, he’s definitely on the right track. Not going crazy over losing key guys and trusting his process has paid off handsomely so far.

Rafael Stone has had the best luck of all. It started very rocky for him by having to deal James Harden and Russell Westbrook at the beginning of his tenure. The return on investment was initially laughed at and thought to be pennies on the dollar.

Considering they drafted four 19-year-olds last draft (headlined by Jalen Green who looks like the real deal), taking a chance on Kevin Porter Jr, landing Jabari Smith Jr in this draft (Tari Eason not to be forgotten), and the inevitable collapse of the Nets, I think Stone has done well for himself. He may not have had the ideal background for the job (he was a lawyer by trade), he’s done well so far in trying to build this team back into a contender. If these kids develop and grow together, I think they can be what Boston and Golden State have been: a homegrown team contending year in and year out.

Nick Caserio of the Texans had perhaps the tallest mountain to climb. The quarterback position is the most important. He inherited one of the best young QBs in the league, but he also inherited his desire to leave and his alleged bizarre fetish that led to civil lawsuits. Some thought the haul he got was fair, while others thought it wasn’t enough. Did I mention his predecessor left the team in cap hell? Through it all, Caserio has managed to turn this team around and has them headed in the right direction. If Davis Mills proves to be a competent QB, that’ll be HUGE! However, the draft capital they have moving forward will help them draft or trade for their franchise QB if Mills isn’t the guy.

While the Astros are the only team currently in contention, the Rockets and Texans are looking like they may not be too far behind if things continue going their way. I’d LOVE to have a sit-down with all three and talk about philosophy and strategy! Houston sports are in good hands with these guys. Here’s to hoping they keep it going!

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