Texans roll to sixth straight win entering bye week

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              Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt (99) celebrates after an NFL football game against the Denver Broncos, Sunday, Nov. 4, 2018, in Denver. The Texans won 19-17. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
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HOUSTON (AP) — The Houston Texans have won six straight games for the first time since 2012, leaving their terrible start behind them and putting them firmly in control of the AFC South as they head into their week off.

Despite the dramatic turnaround, coach Bill O’Brien and the Texans (6-3) know that they haven’t accomplished anything yet.

“We’ve done a great job of coming back from where we were,” O’Brien said. “But we’ve got a long way to go.”

Houston’s latest win came in dramatic fashion on Sunday in Denver when the Broncos missed a field goal as time expired to allow the Texans to hold on for the 19-17 victory to keep their winning streak intact. Now they have two weeks to prepare before a trip to visit the Redskins on Nov. 18.

Four of the team’s wins during this streak have come by a touchdown or less, giving the Texans confidence in their ability to win close games.

“Our first two wins were overtime wins,” J.J. Watt said. “When you have to go through those, you learn to never give up hope. You just keep growing one day at a time, one game at a time. It will come.”

He agrees with his coach that the Texans can get a lot better and believes this team filled with hard workers will make that happen.

“It will continue to come,” Watt said. “We still have a lot of things to work on. You continue to find a way to win while you work on those things. It is a lot better to work on them while you are winning than losing.”

The Texans had a shakeup on offense last week when receiver Will Fuller was lost for the season with a torn knee ligament and they traded with Denver for star receiver Demaryius Thomas to take his place. Thomas had three receptions for 61 yards in his Houston debut, but had a false start, lined up in the wrong spot and looked lost on a drive in the fourth quarter, showing he has plenty of work to do to get up to speed before facing Washington.

O’Brien said his struggles were understandable considering he only had three days of practice to try and learn what he needed to know before Sunday’s game.

“(We’re) just continuing to try to coach him up on what we’re doing offensively,” O’Brien said. “Now, we can kind of take a step back and really go back into what we call the basic information, teach him the formations, teach him the routes, the protections, how the protections fit with the routes that he’s running and things like that and the technique of the route.”

While Thomas gets acclimated in Houston, the Texans have been impressed with the development of big rookie tight end Jordan Thomas. The 6-foot-5, 280-pound Thomas, who was a sixth-round pick in this year’s draft, has recently emerged as a great goal-line target. He’s grabbed three short touchdowns in the past two games, adding another dimension to Houston’s red zone offense, which struggled earlier this season.

“He was a wide receiver and then as he got bigger, (former Mississippi State coach) Danny Mullen moved him closer to the ball and he became a tight end,” O’Brien said. “Now, he’s had to learn how to block against some of these defensive ends and outside backers and he’s gotten better and better at that.”

The Texans’ big winning streak has coincided with long skids by both the Titans and Jaguars, who both have just three wins. The Jaguars have dropped four straight and the Titans have lost three in a row entering Monday’s game against Dallas.

The Texans think the attitude they showed in getting through their early struggles will help them as they try to add to their streak after the bye.

“A team with grit, fight, one that can really overcome adversity, play good football in tough situations, take care of the football in critical situations, I think that’s the kind of formula that you want to have going down the stretch, hopefully, playing in the playoffs,” safety Tyrann Mathieu said.