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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The Rockets may be the smartest guys in the room. Or the cheapest

The Rockets have their new head coach. Composite photo by Brandon Strange

On Wednesday afternoon, ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski broke the news that the Rockets' coaching search had come to an end finally. The front office tabbed Mavericks assistant Stephen Silas as the successor to Mike D'Antoni, beating out former Rockets head coach Jeff Van Gundy and current Rockets assistant John Lucas.

Knee jerk reaction?

I'm not mad at it. I expected Jeff Van Gundy to be the next hire, but maybe that was just nostalgia clouding my judgment. Either way, the Silas hire should be viewed optimistically. He's been highly regarded for some time around the league as an inventive mind that comes from basketball pedigree and has worked with big-name guards in prior stops around the league. If the Rockets didn't grab him, it was only a matter of time before another team gave him a shot.

Now there are two very distinct ways to look at this hire:

The first is that the Rockets, in spite of being one of the last teams to fill their coaching vacancy, are the smartest kids in the room. Every team is looking for the next version of what the Celtics found in their current head coach, Brad Stevens; a young brilliant coach that just needed a team to give him a shot. Hired at 37 from the college ranks, Stevens endured one losing season (his first) and has since guided the Celtics to six playoff appearances, to include three conference finals appearances. Not bad, considering he was up against LeBron James for most of those.

That is what it looks like the Rockets are trying to go for. Now at 47, Silas probably won't be mistaken for a wunderkind, but compared to 69-year-old D'Antoni, he might as well be announcing his hire on Tik Tok. If it works out, the Rockets will have once again been one step ahead of the league with the hiring of their innovative new coach.

The other way to look at the Silas hire is a little less rosy.

While Silas is only 47, he's also been an assistant in the league since he was 27. The positive spin on his resume is that he's worked with star players the likes of Kemba Walker, LeBron James, and Stephen Curry. The reality is that he worked with them while they were very young in their careers, and worked on teams like the Cavaliers, Bobcats/Hornets, Wizards, and Warriors (when they were bad). Until the last two seasons working with Luka Doncic on the Mavericks, there hasn't been a lot of success following Silas. That's not necessarily an indictment since he was an assistant, but it's not exactly a sparkling pedigree.

So while this could be a brilliant hire, at the moment, it has all of the markings of the cheaper hire. As I've mentioned before, Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta has been quite vocal about the financial impact that COVID-19 has had on his portfolio. Clips and quotes moaning and groaning about losing money are not typically precursors to an owner gearing up to make a big financial investment in the front office of a sports team that he can't sell tickets for anyone to come see. If in fact, money factored in more than fit, it would make sense that the Rockets would forego a coach like Van Gundy, whose previous head coaching experience would automatically command a higher starting price. We'll, of course, have to wait and see what the actual contract figures are once released.

It could be one. It could be the other. It could be both. Hopefully it translates into wins either way.

One thing that's for certain though is that Silas needs to take some pointers from Russell Westbrook and James Harden before he steps out courtside in any more of those TJ Maxx suits, circa 2000. Big boy job means big boy suits.

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