Texans move closer to AFC South title after beating Jets

The Sports Xchange

December 15, 2018 at 9:55 pm.

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The Houston Texans reached 10 wins for the first time under coach Bill O’Brien with a 29-22 victory over the New Jets on Saturday.

The Texans struggled most of the game but moved closer to winning the AFC South.

“It’s great,” O’Brien said. “I think 10 wins is hard to do in this league. I give our players and coaching staff a ton of credit. Our players have worked very hard to get to this point in the season.

“There is a long way to go here, there really is. We really haven’t clinched anything.”

Deshaun Watson threw for 294 yards and two touchdowns, both to wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, who amassed 170 yards. It was the Texans’ 19th consecutive game with a touchdown pass.

Watson was effective despite the Jets recording a season-high six sacks. The sacks are the most by a Jets defense since posting seven against Buffalo last season. It brings the season total to 34, the most in a season since 2015 when the Jets had 39.

Safety Jamal Adams contributed to the Jets sack count, bringing down Watson in the fourth quarter for a loss of 14 yards on third down. Adams now has 3.5 sacks on the season, tied for first in the NFL among safeties. Adams finished the game with four tackles, a sack, one tackle for loss and a quarterback hit.

“Again, we’re a good football team,” Adams said. “We’re obviously in every ball game besides the Buffalo Bills game (41-10 loss at home Nov. 11), but the rest we’ve been in. So I don’t really know where the speculation of just because we’re losing we’re a bad football team. We’ve just got to make more plays and play smarter at certain times.

Houston’s J.J. Watt finished with six total tackles, two sacks and a forced fumble for the Texans. Houston kicker Ka’imi Fairbairn continued to be solid converting all five of his field goal attempts.

At age 26 years, six months and nine days, Hopkins became the second fastest to reach 500 receptions, behind only Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald.

The Texans and Jets played a back-and-forth game with three lead changes in the fourth quarter alone.

New York rookie quarterback Sam Darnold finished completing 24 of 38 passes for 253 yards and two touchdowns with a passer rating of 100.0. Darnold’s yards are his third-highest total this season, and his 100.0 passer rating is the third time this season he posted a 100+ rating. Darnold also added 35 rushing yards in the game.

“He played a gritty ballgame,” Jets coach Todd Bowles said. “He played tough. He made some throws. He played a good ballgame. He played tough.”

Watson led the Texans on a seven-play, 70-yard drive that he capped with a 14-yard touchdown pass to Hopkins late in the fourth quarter.

It was an up-and-down day for Watson, but he managed to come through on the final drive.

“He did a good job,” O’Brien said of Watson. “I thought the line did a good job on that drive. They protected well and we just tried to spread him out and let Deshaun see some things and he delivered.

“Hopkins, Demaryius (Thomas), Alfred Blue and all those guys, the tight ends were involved in that drive and the line blocked well. It was a really good drive.”

Watson became the first quarterback to throw for at least 5,000 yards and 40 touchdowns and rush for at least 700 yards in his first 21 career games in NFL history.

“Thank God he is our quarterback. That is what was going through my mind,” O’Brien said of Watson. “He is a great player. He wants the ball in those situations. That has always been the case with him since he was probably 12 years old. We have faith in him to be able to direct it.

“We talked a little bit about the drive before that last drive. I said ‘Look. I am going to spread them out for you and see if you can see things.'”

In the fourth quarter, Watson was 9 of 10 for 90 yards with a touchdown, including 6 of 7 on the winning drive.

“He just went out there and did it,” O’Brien said. “It was a great drive.”

Bowles said, “The holding call (earlier in the drive) hurt us. That got them down the field. The guy made a heck of a catch at the end. Mo (Claiborne) had great coverage. He’s a great receiver (DeAndre Hopkins). He made a heck of a play.”

“Just do what we do,” Watson said of the Texans’ game-winning drive. “Everything is out in front of us. We have plenty of time. No one should panic, no one should press. Just take it one play at a time, just execute the play calls.

“In the third quarter, we just got out of our system and wasn’t as disciplined and locked in. They had the momentum. The last drive, that is where everything matters. We got to be extra focused and that is what we did.”

The Texans’ running game has been nonexistent the past two games and the running backs rushed for only 14 yards on 12 carries. But Watson provided the spark in the running game and through the air.

“I just like the ball in my hands,” Watson said of the offense falling on his shoulders. “Just give me an opportunity to make a play. I feel like I can make it. Be smart and don’t try and not take any unnecessary hits and protect myself. It just feels like when the ball is in my hands, it gives the team a lot of energy and this offense can go far.”

The winning drive was Watson’s fifth in the fourth quarter or overtime this season. He is tied with New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees for the most in the NFL.

“It is always fun when it comes down and you have an opportunity on the big stage to lead your team to victory,” Watson said. “I guess it is in my DNA, I did it a lot in college and got to continue to do it in the NFL at this level. The best do it, like I said before, every game comes down to the final drive and when you have the ball in your hands with the opportunity to win it, you got it.”