HOUSTON – What’s that people say about the best teams being able to win any kind of game?
A week after surviving a sloppy, muddy slugfest in Chicago, the Houston Texans moved to 9-1 by outracing the Jacksonville Jaguars for 73 minutes in a 43-37 overtime win Sunday at Reliant Stadium.
“We found a way to win a game another way,” coach Gary Kubiak said. “We talk about it all the time.”
The difference was stark.
Last week in Chicago: Matt Schaub threw for 95 yards, the Texans ran for 129 and beat the Bears 13-6.
Sunday in Houston: Schaub went 43-for-55 for 527 yards, five touchdowns and two interceptions, falling just 27 yards short of the single-game NFL record. Andre Johnson had 13 catches for a franchise-record 273 yards and one TD.
Houston ran 92 plays for 640 yards and had 39 first downs, which was barely enough to beat Jacksonville, which had 458 yards and 17 first downs.
“I knew if we ever got in a situation we had to throw it 50-plus times our quarterback’s capable of doing it,” Kubiak said. “That’s his job. That’s why he’s here. That’s why Matt’s a great player.”
Schaub was typically deferential.
“Those types of numbers, that’s for everybody,” he said. “That’s what we had to do to win.”
All of this against the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars (1-9). And yet this was a game.
The more cynical among us might argue that was because an first-quarter elbow contusion on Jaguars starting quarterback Blaine Gabbert forced the Jags into playing Chad Henne. He went threw for 354 yards, doing his best work in tandem with Justin Blackmon, who had seven catches for 236 yards and a touchdown.
It was the first time in NFL history two receivers went over 200 yards in the same game.
The Texans groaned about a series of mental errors in the first half, and there were errors, but it might come closer to the truth to point not to individual errors but a general sense of lethargy. Houston had already beaten Jacksonville once this year, and it was difficult for anybody to see a path to a Jaguars victory that didn’t rely on Houston turning it over several times.
Of course, that was assuming Gabbert would be the quarterback. He left after attempting just two passes with an elbow contusion. Initially, his return was officially described as “probable.” But the better Henne played, it seemed, the worse Gabbert’s injury got. The official prognostication was updated to “questionable” later in the first half, and finally to “doubtful” in the third quarter.
He, of course, did not return, and who knows what happens in Jacksonville now that Henne went off on the road against the NFL’s No. 2 defense.
Jacksonville went up 34-20 with less than 13 minutes left on Henne pass to Blackmon. Houston immediately responded by going five-wide and peppering the Jaguars with short passes to its tight ends. At pass from Schaub to Garrett Graham made it 34-27 with 5:39 to play.
On the Jaguars’ possession, Blackmon saw a third-down pass bounce off his facemask, and Houston scored the tying touchdown on another pass to Graham with 1:34 to play.
The Texans got the ball back again, and got it close enough for Shayne Graham to make a 42-yard field goal as time expired. But Houston was flagged for a false start and Graham missed from 47, sending the game into overtime.
After trading field goals with Jacksonville, throwing an interception and getting a stop at midfield, the Texans called a screen pass to Johnson and caught Jacksonville in a blitz.
Johnson raced 48 yards into the end zone to end it, capping a career day.
“I’ve been around some great players,” Kubiak said. “That’s the greatest day by a wide receiver I’ve ever been around. … I don’t know if that one will ever be touched.”
Another week, another way.
“This team keeps facing adversity and rising to the occasion,” Schaub said. “It just shows we can win in a lot of different ways.”