Another big day

Without its stars, the Texans defense dominates Cleveland 33-17

Jonathan Joseph had two interceptions to helo the Texans beat Cleveland. Bob Levey/Getty Images

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The Texans caught a break this week after losing J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus for the season in week 5, hosting the winless Browns at home. The expectations were that the offense would be the difference in the game while the defense adjusted to the big losses in their front seven. Little did anyone know, the defense wouldn't skip a beat and perform better than expected in the 33-17 win. It is the Browns, so there is no way to know what will happen going forward; but getting this week and the bye week to game plan for how the defense will be used is key to figuring out what the Texans will look like going forward. 

Early on the offense appeared to be continually growing under the play calling of Bill O'Brien and the performance of Deshaun Watson. From the start there was a lot more throws over the middle to tight ends and consistent running plays in short and mid range down and distance. It may have been an early attempt to control the clock which has keyed a lot of their offensive success this year, but it helped keep the offense in good down and distance.

The first drive of the game looked great but stalled in Browns territory and walked off the field with a Ka'imi Fairbairn field goal. After exchanging punts the Browns were able to get something going and tied the game at 3 with a field goal of their own. That was as close as it would get. The Texans moved the ball 87 yards in five plays on their next drive for Watson's 13th touchdown pass of the season. He connected with Will Fuller for the 5th time this season. Fuller now had 5 touchdown catches in 7 total receptions. From there it was pretty much all defense.

The very next drive saw Kevin Hogan march the Browns down to the Texans 22-yard line but sail a pass over the head of Duke Johnson and into the arms of Jonathan Joseph for an 82-yard touchdown. A missed extra point left the score 16-3 but that was fixed shortly after. The next Browns drive ended in another interception, this time by Dylan Cole. A gasp went through the crowd again and Cole was injured on the return and limped off the field. It was the second injury of concern on the drive as Jadeveon Clowney had gone down earlier, and they could not afford to lose him for the season. Clowney's injury wasn't serious and he was back on the field before the end of the drive, but Cole's hamstring would keep him out for the rest of the game. 

Watson would get another touchdown on a shovel pass to Braxton Miller and go into the into the half with a 24-3 lead after tossing a successful 2-point conversion to Ryan Griffin. The first half would end with Joseph getting his second interception of the game, and the 13th in a Texans uniform giving him the franchise record, passing his teammate Kareem Jackson.

Bill O'Brien was 20-0 when leading at the half and the win today would make it 21-0. This was especially assured when the defense started the second half playing like it was ready to win the game on its own. They would force a 3-and-out on the Browns first drive and then record a safety on the next Cleveland possession. The Texans capitalized on the free kick with another Watson touchdown throw, this time to DeAndre Hopkins putting the game well out of reach, 33-3. Watson has now thrown at least three touchdowns in the last three games, making him the first rookie to do so. That is the kind of performance that can carry a team a long way.

He would make one mistake though, on a second and 5 play from the Houston 32 yard line he threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown by Jason McCourty, making the score 33-10. Hogan would get a garbage time touchdown to Seth DeValve cutting the final score down to 33-17 but that would be it. The Texans would walk away with an easy home win and a break to prepare for a tough road game in Seattle. 

At the end of the day it was the kind of all-around game that you expect from an above average team against a franchise in line for another first overall pick. The Texans' offense would finish the day with 217 yards through the air and three touchdowns and an additional 123 on the ground. The Texans had nearly equal time of possession despite getting defensive scores and great field position.  Their record sits at 3-3 with games against Seattle and Indianapolis coming up after the break. If they can keep up this level of play they will find themselves in a good position going into the latter half of the regular season.

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ROCKETS BEAT THUNDER

Rockets blast Thunder in home opener, 124-91

Rockets take care of business in home opener. Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images.

The Houston Rockets had an impressive outing versus the Oklahoma City Thunder after an embarrassing loss against the Minnesota Timberwolves Wednesday night. They took care of business at home on Friday night, which was a surprising blowout. The Rockets didn't have to worry about Karl-Anthony Towns screaming at Alperen Sengun or Anthony Edwards telling Coach Silas to call a timeout. Instead, they took their frustrations out on the Thunder (another younger core).

"We responded and bounced back from that game 1," Silas said. "I wouldn't say it was taking anything out. It was just learning and applying to what you learn and that's going to be us this year. Applying to what you learn and getting better and having some games like we had the other day. Veteran teams have some games when they don't play as well they want."

Christian Wood led the way, as he controlled the paint on all aspects with rebounding and putbacks. He played an incredible game after having a poor performance versus the Timberwolves. Silas showed complete trust in allowing Wood to open sets, as he walked the ball down the court several times, and in transition too. Wood became aggressive on the perimeter with open shooting and tough shots, and long strides towards the rim. He finished the night with 31 points and 13 rebounds off 66 percent shooting from the field.

The young core for the Thunder had a tough night defending Wood from every aspect. Hopefully, he keeps this play up. Silas loved the space that was created throughout the game for Wood, which included the help from Eric Gordon, as he continued to play better. Wood continues to develop underneath the Silas umbrella. He had a great feel for off-the-dribble shooting a few times. Wood becomes more dangerous when space is created on the court.

"It allows me to show what I can do. It allows the floor to be open and I can create for other guys and create for myself," Wood said.

As Gordon continues to impress, his teammate Kevin Porter Jr was amazed with his performance.

Gordon looked marvelous inside and outside of the paint, as it looked like a time ripple. The younger guards of the Thunder had a tough time staying in front of Gordon. His size and strength gave the Thunder a huge problem. Gordon is shooting the ball better too, as he is shooting the three-ball at 70 percent this season. Although it's a small sample size, Gordon is trying to overcome his shooting struggles from last year. Gordon finished with 22 points on 66 percent shooting versus the Thunder.

"EG is the biggest part of this squad," Porter said. He comes in and just scores. We need somebody off the bench to do that. He is our guy when me and J come out, it's EG time and he knows that, and comes in aggressive. So much energy on the bench, and we need that every night from him if we want a chance to win."

As I recently mentioned Porter, his facilitation did look better versus the Thunder than the Timberwolves. Porter had nine turnovers in his first game but managed to have two Friday night. He made great slip passes and found open teammates in the open corner. Porter forced a good number of passes versus the Timberwolves but looked more relaxed Friday night. The hardest position in the NBA is the point guard position, but Silas will not allow Porter to fail. Instead of nine turnovers, Porter dished out nine assists. Silas said:

"Bounce back right, going from nine turnovers to nine assists… I think he had two turnovers tonight, which is great. He is making plays for his teammates, and he was really focused."

Porter's shiftiness and creative ability allowed his teammates to get open looks near the rim. He had 18 points because of his step-back threes and first step going towards the basket. Thankfully, Porter is a great ball handler, which confuses defenders on different spots on the court. It's almost like watching a ballerina skate on ice in the Olympics. Hopefully, his confidence continues to get better throughout the year. Porter shot the three-ball at 50 percent tonight. Efficiency is key for Porter this year.

"I'm just trying to let the game slow down," Porter said. "I had a lot of turnovers last game and I just wanted to piggyback and learn from them and learn from some of my forced passes and reads. And sometimes I still force it a little bit. My guys hate that, and sometimes I'm still passive and I'm working on that. When to pass and score and bounce it out, and tonight I felt like I did a good job of that."

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