The Houston Texans improved to 11-1 on Sunday and clinched their second consecutive playoff berth as they defeated the Tennessee Titans 24-10 at LP Field in Nashville.
Houston remains atop the NFL, tied with Atlanta, for the best record in the league.
All things considered, it was a rather quiet day on the field for the Texans who scored all three of their touchdowns in the first half, and managed only a field goal throughout the second half.
It wasn’t dramatic but Houston controlled the game as they’ve managed to do in almost every game this year and earned another spot in the NFL postseason. While the details haven’t officially been figured out, meaning that technically the Texans haven’t secured the AFC South title, the Texans will definitely be a part of the AFC playoff picture.
Exactly how big of a part will be greatly impacted next week as Houston will meet New England in a heavyweight bout on Monday Night Football. The meeting with the Patriots will be the Texans’s third consecutive road game – the fourth in five weeks. There is no doubt that this is the biggest test for the Texans to date.
What happens a week from now can either propel Houston into the postseason on a rocket or shake the confidence of an otherwise unshakeable team.
But that showdown is still a week away, and we will have days and days to discuss the ins and outs of what is to come.
As for this week’s game, the takeaway for the Texans was their depth.
It’s no lie that Houston’s defense is banged up. There are second and third stringers starting all over the field.
Connor Barwin is filling in for Brooks Reed, who was injured last Thursday against Detroit. Obviously Brian Cushing has been missed, along with Johnathan Joseph, and even J.J. Watt missed a few practices earlier in the week.
But through it all Houston continues to play stingy defense and win games.
Against the Titans, the Texans forced six turnovers, recorded five sacks and deflected 16 passes.
Good teams win when their stars play well, but great teams find ways to win no matter who is playing for them. That is what has made the Texans so impressive to this point in the season.
On offense, Arian Foster got into the end zone early on in the game, but didn’t do much statistically the rest of the way and managed only 38 yards on 14 carries. Foster leads the league with 12 rushing touchdowns this year.
It’s probably safe to say that Foster’s production was limited by the return of Ben Tate, and the continued use of Justin Forsett.
Together, the trio combined for 120 yards on 31 touches and the lone Foster score.
Matt Schaub returned to planet earth after throwing for nearly 1,000 yards (officially 842 yards) and six touchdowns in the previous two weeks combined.
Schaub finished the day 21-of-35 passing for 207 yards, two touchdowns and most importantly: no interceptions.
Lestar Jean recorded his first career touchdown on a 54-yard pass from Schaub in the first quarter.
Overall, this game ended with another solid performance on the part of Houston and another win for the franchise.
Now four weeks separate the Texans from the postseason, and the team has earned their spot. A year ago, the team was quietly sneaking in on the shoulders of T.J. Yates, but a healthy offense and consistent defense are setting the bar high in Houston for the beginning of 2013.
With this win, Houston won a franchise-record eleventh game and swept the Titans for the first time in a regular season. In the spirit of the holiday season, I’ll say there isn’t much more you can ask for if you’re a Texans’ fan, save maybe for home field advantage in the playoffs.
But hey, this is Texas where everything is bigger, right? I suppose that would include Christmas lists, and in that case let’s go ahead and throw a Lombardi trophy in there too.
If the Texans keep playing in the fashion they’ve shown so far this season, Santa won’t have to do much to deliver on that request.
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