Houston Texans (9-3) – 17
Atlanta Falcons (7-5) – 10
Another win for the Texans, another loss of a major player due to injury.
In his second week since returning from a left hamstring injury that sidelined him for six straight weeks, Andre Johnson went down with an injury to his right hamstring in the third quarter. Head coach Gary Kubiak tried to calm the conversation about another extended absence, telling reporters after the game that the injury is not severe. He did add that the team would know more after Johnson underwent testing on Monday.
It was the last in a long string of unfortunate injuries for the Texans, with the two top quarterback options – Matt Schaub and Matt Leinart – both falling to season-ending injury in back-to-back weeks.
Even with the injuries, a win for the Texans still turned some heads. Defeating the Atlanta Falcons sent a pretty strong message to the rest of the AFC, especially behind rookie quarterback T.J. Yates. In his first career start, Yates threw for 188 yards and a touchdown on 12/25 passing. While his sub-50 percent completion percentage and sub-200-yard performance was nothing to remember, it was enough to supplement Arian Foster’s 152-yard, one touchdown combined rushing and passing performance for the win.
From there, the Texans defense was able to hold the Falcons offense to its lowest point total of the season. Two interceptions limited Matt Ryan’s success, as did 26 incompletions. Michael Turner was just as unimpressive, averaging just three yards per carry for 44 yards on 14 rushes. Tony Gonzalez, though, did have a big day, leading all receivers with 100 yards on seven catches.
The win shows that the Texans aren’t just going to win the AFC South by default, and that they might earn it rather than get lucky because of Peyton Manning’s neck.
The Falcons, meanwhile, will have to bounce back quickly, especially with the division-leading Saints rolling like they are.
— Colin Neagle