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Jordan Smith
October 24

BREAKING NEWS: CSN Houston lays off 75, about to lose network

CSN Houston is on the outs

By: Jordan Smith

Seventy-five of the 115 employees of Comcast SportsNet Houston were informed Tuesday their jobs will be eliminated if a bankruptcy judge approves a plan backed by the Astros and Rockets to sell the financially troubled network to DirecTV and AT&T. Employees were informed of the potential layoffs as mandated by the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, which requires companies with at least 100 workers to provide 60-day notice in advance of certain plant closings or mass layoffs.

As company officials delivered the news, one employee said a funereal atmosphere descended over the network’s studios in downtown Houston, midway between Minute Maid Park and Toyota Center. “You just watched rows and rows of people walk into a room and come out with letters telling them, ‘Hey, thanks for two years, and now you’ve got nothing,’” the employee said. “There wasn’t a lot of outward anger. It was pretty subdued.”

But after the announcements, another employee said, “Everybody was back at their desks, working on the next show.” Based on details in letters prepared for city and state officials, 40 employees were notified their jobs will be retained by the AT&T/DirecTV partnership, which will rebrand CSN Houston as Root Sports Houston under a Chapter 11 reorganization plan pending before Bankruptcy Judge Marvin Isgur.

Root Sports will include distribution on DirecTV and AT&T U-verse in addition to Comcast. The AT&T/DirecTV partnership plans to drop its contract for Dynamo games, but team officials say the network has expressed interest in a new deal for the 2015 season. Most employees who will be retained for Root Sports Houston are employed in game production. Also retained will be Rockets broadcasters Bill Worrell, Matt Bullard and Calvin Murphy; Astros field reporter Julia Morales; and sportscasters Bart Enis and Kevin Eschenfelder.

Astros announcers Bill Brown, Alan Ashby and Geoff Blum and Rockets analyst Clyde Drexler are team employees and are not affected. Among those whose contracts are not being retained by AT&T/DirecTV, according to court documents, include reporters and anchors Tiffany Blackmon, Steve Bunin, Howard Chen, Bill Doleman, Sara Eckert, Cory Hepola, Kelli Johnson, John Kelly, James Palmer, Marius Payton, Leila Rahimi and Sebastian Salazar. So now, Houston will have a new sports network come the start of the regular season for the Houston Rockets.

October 21

Texans fall to Steelers 30-23

Texans lose 3rd straight game on Monday Night
Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports

By: Jordan Smith

Well, at least the Texans started strong. After some awful offensive starts through the first six weeks of the season, the Texans actually came out firing on Monday. They scored on their first drive and went up 13 points early. Then, the wheels came off. The Steelers scored 24 unanswered points to end the first half and went on to beat the Texans 30-23 in Pittsburgh.

The Texans scored with under two minutes left in the game to cut into the Steelers’ lead. But they finished the game seven points away. They had a chance to recover and onside kick but couldn’t fall on it. They fell behind when the Steelers scored 24 points in 2:54 seconds in the second quarter to take the lead away from the Texans. After the Steelers drove down the field to kick a field goal, Danieal Manning bobbled the ensuing kickoff to pin the Texans deep. Then, Arian Foster fumbled the ball and the Steelers scored. On the next possession, Ryan Fitzpatrick threw an interception to Brett Keisel and the Steelers’ offense punched it in. They scored 21 points in just over 1:30.

The Texans started off the game with a defensive stop. After a punt, they started their first drive at their own 6-yard-line and drove 94 yards for the score. Foster was instrumental to the success of the offense in the first quarter. The Texans scored on their next two drives but settled for field goals on both and squandered the opportunity to put the Steelers in a big hole. The Texans had chances in the second half but continued to shoot themselves in the foot, first with penalties, then with a costly turnover from DeAndre Hopkins.

The turning point

After the Steelers scored their first touchdown, Danieal Manning bobbled the kickoff, which pinned the offense deep. Arian Foster then fumbled, which led to another touchdown and the Texans never regained the lead.

What it means

The Texans are below .500 for the first time this season at 3-4. They missed a big opportunity to put themselves in the mix for a wild card spot. They have lost three in a row.

Offensive hero

Despite a huge – HUGE – fumble in the second quarter, Foster was the reason the Texans were able to get out to an early lead. After a great start, the Steelers’ defense stacked the box against the Texans.

Offensive zero

Ryan Fitzpatrick threw a bad interception in the second quarter and just wasn’t very good all game.

Defensive hero

Whitney Mercilus had a good game and has played well in the last two weeks. He got some pressure and was solid against the run.

Defensive zero

Brian Cushing just hasn’t looked like himself recently. He wasn’t good on Monday.

Key stat

The Texans gave up 24 points in 2:54 seconds in the second quarter.

Did you know?

When Watt recovered a fumble in the first quarter, it was the ninth of his career. He became the Texans’ all-time leader in that stat. He was tied with DeMeco Ryans with eight.

Who's next?

The Texans are a day behind as they prepare to take on the Titans in Tennessee on Sunday. The Titans are 2-5.

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October 20

5 things to watch for

The Texans (3-3) travel to Pittsburgh to take on the Steelers (3-3) on Monday Night Football. Here are five matchups to watch:

1. Arian Foster vs. Cam Thomas

The Steelers are without normal nose tackle Steve McLendon (shoulder) for Monday's game. That means Cam Thomas will step in and have to stop the third-leading rusher in the NFL. Despite missing a game, Foster has 513 yards on 106 attempts. That's behind just DeMarco Murray and Le'Veon Bell.

2. Le'Veon Bell vs. Texans defense

Speaking of Le'Veon Bell, he came into the weekend as the NFL's second-leading rusher with 542 yards. He's a big back but deceptively quick. The Texans haven't been great against the run even though it seems like they have the ability. They have given up 125.7 yards per game, good for 21st in the NFL. Against the Cowboys, the Texans' defense used nose tackle Ryan Pickett at defensive end and Jerrell Powe at nose. Don't be surprised to see them do that again.

3. Johnathan Joseph vs. Antonio Brown

Joseph is still the Texans' best outside cornerback and Antonio Brown is off to a fantastic start to 2014. Brown has 629 receiving yards, which to start the weekend was just three behind the NFL's leading receiver, Jordy Nelson. Brown was a Pro Bowler last season but he's on pace for an even better season in 2014.

4. J.J. Watt vs. Ben Roethlisberger

Normally, the matchup to watch is J.J. Watt vs. a tackle or guard but once he gets to Roethlisberger, can he bring him down? Watt had Andrew Luck in his sights last week but couldn't bring him down. Roethlisberger, like Luck, is tough to bring down. But Watt should have his chances. Since he entered the league in 2004, Roethlisberger has been sacked 403 times and no one else is close. The next player on the list is Eli Manning with 265. What does that mean? Well, the Texans will have their opportunities on Monday.

5. Garrett Graham vs. Steelers safeties

Yes, the Texans haven't used their tight ends much in 2014. But there might not be a better chance to start. Mike Mitchell (knee) is probable but has been banged up and while Troy Polamalu has been solid against the run, he's a liability in coverage. The Texans have to find a way to get their tight ends more involved in the offensive gameplan aside from being extra blockers. They can be utilized much better in Bill O'Brien's offense.

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October 16

Houston Sports Beat now reaching 30 Countries

By: Jordan Smith

Houston Sports Beat has now reached 30 different countries with pageviews around the world after Poland joined the group earlier this week. We would like to thank all 30 countries for your continued support in Houston Sports Beat. We only hope you continue to keep coming to the exclusive home for all of your Houston Sports, Houston Sports Beat.

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October 16

HSB now halfway to 2,000

Houston Sports Beat is one of the most up and coming blogs in the world

By: Jordan Smith

On October 13th, 2014, Houston Sports Beat reached its' 1,500th unique visitor. Let's get to 2,000 before the year ends!

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October 12

Orbit headed to Japan

Orbit will join Altuve at the USA vs Japan series

By: Jordan Smith

Astros mascot Orbit has been selected by Major League Baseball to join the All-Star team taking part in the 2014 Japan All-Star Series in November. He was the only mascot selected for the trip. Orbit will join Astros second baseman and American League batting champion Jose Altuve, who is among the MLB All-Stars participating in the series. The MLB All-Stars will play a five-game series against "Samurai Japan," which is Japan's national team.

Orbit, who was also a part of the 2014 All-Star Game festivities in Minnesota, has become one of MLB's most popular and visible mascots since making his return to Houston prior to the 2013 season. Many of Orbit's antics have earned him numerous appearances and mentions on several national media outlets. Seven players have been confirmed for the Japan Series, with Bryce Harper, Justin Morneau, Robinson Cano, Adam Jones, Yasiel Puig and Albert Pujols joining Altuve.

The Japan All-Star Series games will be hosted in Osaka (Kyocera Dome), Tokyo (Tokyo Dome) and Sapporo (Sapporo Dome). Two exhibition games will complement the five-game series, with one game in Osaka (Koshien Stadium) and the other in Okinawa (Okinawa Cellular Stadium).

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October 9

New Changes here for HSB

By: Houston Sports Beat

As you might of seen already, the blog's profile picture has changed. Well, that is a custom logo made from scratch that Jordan Smith has created for the blog. It is now our new primary logo. Take a look in this expanded form and tell us what you think of it in the comments below and in the poll below the picture. Don't forget to also follow the blog by e-mail or by your account on Sportsblog.com. If you don't have an account, but would like to, click here to go to my website that includes a link on the home page to creating a free acount on Sportsblog.com

Houston Sports Beat has a new identity

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October 8

Harden to recruit Durant; Quessenberry coming to Texans facility

By: Jordan Smith

Just how persuasive is James Harden? Evidently the Rockets hope the answer is very persuasive. A report by ESPN's Marc Stein came out this week that the team is planning on using the all-star guard to recruit Kevin Durant, who is scheduled to be a free agent in the summer of 2016, to Houston.

Harden spent the first three seasons of his career in Oklahoma City with the reigning NBA MVP before getting traded to Houston before the start of the 2012 season. The Rockets, evidently, are counting on that relationship to be part of the sales pitch to land Durant when he hits the open market.

Every once in a while, during recent team meetings, Texans head coach Bill O’Brien glances up at his sea of players and one certainly stands out. In the last few weeks, cancer-stricken offensive lineman David Quessenberry has been paying visits to the team’s facility in between his chemotherapy treatments. “Quiz, what an incredible guy,” O’Brien said. “I mean I can’t say enough about this guy. The other day I looked up, we’re in at team meeting and he was sitting there. It’s unbelievable. He’s there and he’s going through the chemotherapy. He just loves his teammates. He loves football. He’s a tough guy.”

Quessenberry, 23, shows up to meetings, takes notes and continues to watch film as he undergoes his fight against cancer at MD Anderson. His visits are always a welcome surprise; the team never knows when he’ll be at the facility because it depends on doctors’ orders. “He’s still your same DQ that we know and love,” center Chris Myers said. “It’s going to be awesome to have him out there on the field with us.” On Thursday night, before the Texans play the Colts at NRG Stadium, Quessenberry will serve as an honorary captain and will help present a $100,000 check for lymphoma research. The money was raised as a part of the team’s DQ Strong campaign, which is still selling t-shirts at the team store and online.

His teammates are ready for what should be an emotional moment before Thursday night’s game. “I think it’ll be as loud as that place ever gets and as it should be,” J.J. Watt said. “There’s football and there’s life and that’s a life thing and it’s going to be a really cool moment.” The game is against the Colts and head coach Chuck Pagano. Pagano, who is a cancer survivor himself, befriended Qussenberry in the wake of the young Texan’s diagnoses. “It’ll be unbelievable for him just to be back with his teammates and back on the grass where he wants to be,” Pagano said. “He’s battling. He’s one tough cookie and I know he’s got great support there.”

Quessenberry was diagnosed with lymphoma in early June and the entire franchise has rallied around him. He underwent Round 1-5 of his cancer treatment in California. During that time, he had film of practice send to his Surface tablet so he could keep up. So it’s really no surprise he’s been around the team since his return to Houston. He was even able to attend the season opener on Sept. 7. Quessenberry’s diagnosis this spring garnered national headlines, while the DQ Strong t-shirts and DQ Strong day in training camp became big stories too. Since then, the Texans have been playing real football games, so X’s and O’s and football talk have taken over.

But the Texans still communicate and think about Quessenberry on a daily basis. “We’ve never forgotten about it. We’ve never forgotten about him,” Duane Brown said. “He’s always in the back of my mind, week in, week out. And when he was away from here, getting his treatments, we tried to do our best to keep in touch with him and just keep him in our hearts. Having him around here recently has done a great deal for us.” 

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October 6

Foster fights Thursday Night

Arian Foster is coming into his own this season

By: Jordan Smith

Arian Foster doesn’t like Thursday Night Football. And he doesn’t think he’s alone. “Thursday Night Football is pretty … it’s annoying for players,” said Foster, whose Texans host the Colts at NRG Stadium this Thursday. “I don’t know one player who likes it. I really don’t know a fan who likes it either. It’s just the league’s way of trying to generate more revenue but that’s what they’re here for.”

The Texans just played a tough overtime game against the Cowboys on Sunday afternoon. They have just three full days before they have to play again. The NFL makes many of its rules to emphasize player safety but when asked if the league is hypocritical because of Thursday Night Football, Foster said it is. “Oh yeah, definitely. Definitely,” Foster said. “They emphasize concussions when they start getting hit with lawsuits. And they care about the players’ safety but Thursday Night Football is putting every football player on the field in danger. Nobody is ready to play physically after a Sunday game but we have to go out there and do it.”

Is it something the union (NFLPA) should talk about with the league? “The union and the league is kind of the same thing, man,” Foster said. “They gonna do what they told.” There are extra challenges to prepare for a game on a short week. Foster said he’ll get in the ice tub every day and get massages. He also said it creates longer days and the team doesn’t really get to practice; they’ll just have more walkthroughs. Foster said in his conversations with other players from around the league, he hasn’t found a player who likes Thursday Night Football. “Yeah, nobody likes it. It’s hard for that turnaround,” he said. “It’s just hard on your body, especially if you play a physical position, if you’re in the trenches, the interior linemen, the running backs — I’m pretty sure kickers don’t mind — but if you’re actually in the physical midst of the game, it’s hard to turn around.”

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October 1

Watt Wins AFC Defensive Player of Week

By: Jordan Smith

J.J. Watt has another award for his shelf. After his dominant performance against the Bills on Sunday, Watt has been named the AFC Defensive Player of the Week. It's the third time in his career, he has been given the award. He won it twice in 2012.

In addition to his 80-yard interception return for a touchdown, Watt had an amazing nine quarterback hits and changed the dynamic of the game. Bills quarterback E.J. Manuel was benched the day after the game. Through the first three weeks of the season, no player had more than eight quarterback hits.

 J.J. Watt has another quarterback in his sights: Tony Romo. And Romo knows what kind of player he'll be going against. "I see a dynamic player who might be the best player we're going to go against all season," Romo said on a conference call with Houston media on Wednesday. "He's very disruptive. He makes a game-changing play in every game I see. It's going to be a great test for us to somehow figure out a way ... you're not going to stop him. You just hope that you minimize his chances to change the game."

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