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Texans look for improvement before playoffs

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Texans look for improvement before playoffs

HOUSTON (AP) The Houston Texans clinched the AFC South with a 29-17 win over the Colts to help erase the memory of a blowout loss to New England.

Coach Gary Kubiak still sees plenty of room for improvement after Sunday's game and is challenging his team to play better with gaining home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs still within reach.

San Francisco's win over New England on Sunday night left the Texans needing just one win in their last two games to secure home-field advantage.

``It'd be huge for this team because playing at home in this league and having the benefit of your crowd and getting off on cadence and all those types of things, it's a big, big factor in success in this league,'' Kubiak said. ``We worked hard to get to the playoffs. We worked hard to win a division and now we got to continue that same effort to try to find a way to possibly be a one seed in this playoff hunt.''

One of Kubiak's biggest concerns is Houston's inability to finish drives lately. Houston was just one of five on red zone opportunities on Sunday.

The Texans scored their only offensive touchdown on their second drive, and settled for field goals the rest of the way.

``It was disappointing because we could have really put some points on the board,'' Kubiak said. ``You only get so many opportunities in this business and boy, you have to take advantage of them.''

Houston ran for 178 yards on Sunday, led be a season-high 165 yards from Arian Foster. But Foster and the Texans didn't fare very well running the ball in the red zone against the Colts.

Foster managed just 2 yards on a third-and-4 from the Indianapolis 13 to force Houston to kick a field goal on its first drive. Houston had a second-and-10 inside the Indianapolis 20 when Ben Tate lost 4 yards on a run, forcing the team to settle for another field goal two plays later.

Houston's red zone production was also hindered when Matt Schaub was sacked for a loss of 7 yards on second-and-8 in the third quarter.

There has been some criticism of why Houston didn't go to Andre Johnson more in the red zone after he scored its only offensive touchdown early in Sunday's game. Johnson leads the AFC with 1,360 yards receiving.

Kubiak said it often doesn't make sense to force it to Johnson in those situations because the defense is focused on stopping him.

``A lot of that has to do with how much attention is paid to him down there,'' Kubiak said. ``People double him, doing those types of things.''

While Kubiak's main focus is fixing Houston's flaws, he did take time Monday to discuss some areas he isn't fretting about.

He is excited about the development of some of his young players, and believes their development will help the team as it moves closer to the playoffs.

Rookie receiver DeVier Posey, who hadn't caught a pass until last week, had three receptions for 46 yards against the Colts. On defense, rookie Whitney Mercilus has helped Houston deal with numerous injuries to its linebackers. Mercilus has six sacks and has forced two fumbles despite starting just three games.

``I think what's happening right now is some of our young players on our team are giving us a chance to continue to improve,'' Kubiak said. ``We're watching some young guys really contribute to this team ... and it is very encouraging.''

Kubiak also raved about the work of defensive end J.J. Watt, who is tied with San Francisco's Aldon Smith for most sacks in the NFL with 19 1/2.

Watt led the team with 10 tackles, forced a fumble and sacked Andrew Luck three times on Sunday. He needs just three sacks to tie the NFL single-season record of 22 1/2.

``He's been exceptional,'' Kubiak said. ``The game he played yesterday, and you all know how he's played all year, was probably his best this year. Usually a lot of linemen have a specialty, defensive linemen, whether it's rushing the passer, playing the run (but) this kid does everything well.''

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Astros and Athletics clear benches, have a very non-socially distant brawl

Astros and Athletics clear benches, have a very non-socially distant brawl

Even amid the coronavirus pandemic, the normalities of a baseball season will continue on. That means players and managers getting heated, arguments with umpires and benches clearing. But because of the risk the virus poses, MLB has asked for those moments to remain socially distant.

The Houston Astros and Oakland Athletics did not follow that rule on Sunday.

After Athletics outfielder Ramon Laureano was hit by a pitch, he appeared to be exchanging words with a Houston bench coach. With no fans, the words can be heard loud and clear by everybody. That led to both benches clearing and not even six inches of separation between players. 

It's understandable for players to get angry and caught up in the moment, but this move by both teams is rather unacceptable given the current climate of the country and the sport. Though players are being tested constantly, this close contact between teams is unnecessary and only creates a larger risk for all involved.

The non-socially distant brawl comes at a bad time for baseball, as the league is dealing with numerous coronavirus-related issues. The St. Louis Cardinals have had at least 15 games postponed due to an outbreak within the organization, and that comes just after the Miami Marlins dealt with the same problem as well. Cleveland Indians pitcher Zach Plesac was reportedly sent home on Sunday after breaking protocol and going out with friends in Chicago on Saturday night.

Despite tightening up regulations for players, MLB still faces daily challenges while trying to operate a season during a global pandemic. Moments like the brawl between the Athletics and Astros don't help.

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Report: Big Ten, other Power 5 conferences leaning towards canceling 2020 season amid pandemic

Report: Big Ten, other Power 5 conferences leaning towards canceling 2020 season amid pandemic

The likelihood that college football is played this fall is looking bleaker by the day.

The commissioners of Power 5 conferences reportedly had an emergency conference call on Sunday evening to discuss the 2020 season, and the large majority of Big Ten presidents want to postpone the season due to concerns amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, according to ESPN's Adam Rittenberg.

Earlier this week, the Big Ten halted on moving forward with padded practices until more protocols are in place.

Moments later, reports surfaced that the Big Ten is leaning towards moving forward without a fall football season, and a formal decision could be made as soon as early this week, according to Sports Illustrated's Pat Forde and Ross Dellenger.

The cancelation or postponement of the 2020 college football season seems to be inevitable, multiple sources have told ESPN.

The news doesn't come as a surprise considering the current state of the pandemic in the United States. However, the Big Ten just announced a new, conference-only schedule earlier this week, so the timing is a bit odd.

The Mid-American Conference postponed football and all fall sports on Saturday. If the Big Ten becomes the first Power 5 conference to postpone football, and fall sports as a whole, it will be interesting to see how quickly (if at all) the other major conferences (SEC, ACC, Pac-12, Big 12) follow suit.

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