Texans roll to fourth straight win
The streaking Houston Texans are gaining confidence by the victory.
The AFC South leaders pummeled the reeling Tampa Bay Buccaneers 37-9 on Sunday with Matt Schaub throwing for two long touchdowns, Arian Foster, Ben Tate and Derrick Ward each running ran for scores, and the NFL's No. 1-ranked defense delivering another strong performance.
''We're playing well as a team,'' Schaub said after the Texans (7-3) won their fourth straight with star receiver Andre Johnson sidelined by hamstring injury, matching a franchise mark set in 2009 to head into their bye week with their best-ever record through 10 games.
''We have some playmakers on this offense,'' the quarterback added. ''Defensively, we're playing really well. They're holding teams, making them turn the ball over. They're just playing exceptional football.''
Jacoby Jones filled in for Johnson with an 80-yard TD reception on the first play from scrimmage and Foster turned a short pass into his second 78-yard scoring reception of the season for Houston.
A defense that's made a dramatic turnaround under coordinator Wade Phillips had four sacks, three interceptions and recovered a fumble.
The Texans lead their division by 1 1-2 games over second-place Tennessee and may get Johnson, who's been sidelined six weeks, back when they travel to Jacksonville in two weeks. After losing two straight without Schaub's favorite target, Houston has put together an impressive winning streak by getting contributions from a lot of different players.
The bye figures to give others a chance to get healthy, too.
''It was important today that we got to this point,'' coach Gary Kubiak said. ''We've been working really hard. ... We had five or six players that missed a whole week of practice, and they lined up and played. `We've got a good team thing going on right now.''
The Bucs (4-5), on the other hand, have lost three straight and four of five following a 3-1 start.
Josh Freeman threw three interceptions and was sacked four times, and Tampa Bay's offense didn't get into the end zone until the fourth quarter for the second game in a row. Defensively, the Bucs tackled poorly and yielded 268 yards in the opening half and 420 overall.
''Terrible game. Completely, put the blame on me for this one. ... We started the game just like we finished it,'' Tampa Bay coach Raheem Morris said. ''Poor job by myself. I'll take complete responsibility for that. I refuse to believe that our guys are that bad, so it has to be my fault.''
Houston, which is ranked No. 1 in total defense for the first time, has limited opponents to just over 10 points per game during its winning streak. After limiting the Titans, Jaguars and Browns to fewer than 175 yards the previous three weeks, the Texans held Tampa Bay to 231.
Foster and Tate each ran for over 100 yards to key last week's 30-12 victory over Cleveland. They weren't as successful running this time, however the Texans did finish with 185 yards on the ground. Foster gained 84 on 17 carries and Tate wound up with 63 on 13 carries, including an 11-yard TD burst to make it 37-9 with under six minutes remaining.
''With winning comes a winning mind-set, and believing in each other keeps that positive energy flowing,'' Texans defensive end Antonio Smith said. ''I think everybody is in on it from top to bottom.''
Tampa Bay scored on Connor Barth's 55-yard field goal on the final play of the first half and didn't get into the end zone until Freeman threw a 9-yard TD pass to Preston Parker early in the fourth quarter. Defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth made his debut for the Bucs, blocking an extra point after Houston's first touchdown and finishing with five tackles.
The two-time Pro Bowl selection was released by New England on Tuesday, claimed off waivers Wednesday and practiced with his new team for the first time on Thursday. Gerald McCoy's season-ending injury left the Bucs thin on the offensive line, and with backup Frank Okam still sidelined by a sore calf, the 350-pound Haynesworth moved into the starting lineup.
A week after rushing for a club-record 261 yards during a 30-12 victory over Cleveland, the Texans came out throwing on a Bucs defense that has struggled to stop the run and had to honor Schaub's play-action fakes. A wide-open Jacoby Jones caught an underthrown ball at the Tampa Bay 45 on the first play, cut back to his left between safeties Tanard Jackson and Sean Jones and sprinted to the end zone to finish Houston's longest scoring play of the season.
Foster's long TD reception nearly covered as much ground and also involved some nifty running after the catch. The third-year running back took a short throw from Schaub, broke a tackle and headed up the left sideline before cutting inside near midfield to avoid Sean Jones and easily outrun the remaining pursuit.
Houston's first three scoring drives covered 80, 80 and 90 yards. Foster had four receptions for 102 yards, and missed going over 100 yards rushing when he had a 39-yard gain wiped out by a penalty in the fourth quarter.
Schaub only attempted three passes after halftime, finishing 11 of 15 for 242 yards and no interceptions. One apparent pick at the Tampa Bay goal line was reversed following a replay review that showed that intended receiver Derrick Mason jarred the ball loose from Talib before the Bucs cornerback gained control. Neil Rackers kicked a 22-yard field goal on the next play for a 9-0 lead.
Freeman completed 15 of 35 passes for 170 yards. The Texans limited LeGarrette Blount to 34 yards rushing on 10 attempts.
''The last three weeks have been tough. We haven't won in about a month,'' Morris said. ''The guys right now are not playing well, and we've got to find a way to get better.''
Notes: Schaub has thrown 10 TD passes and just one interception in five road games. . ... Brian Cushing, Brice McClain and Quintin Demps had Houston's interceptions. ... Bucs backup DE George Johnson injured his knee late in the first half and did not return.