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Defense propels Texans to preseason-opening win

Posted Aug 15, 2011

Led by seven sacks from Wade Phillips' defense, the Texans beat the New York Jets 20-16 in their preseason opener on Monday night.


*Watch Texans TV on Tuesday, August 16 at 3:30 p.m. CT for head coach Gary Kubiak's live press conference.

Wade Phillips’ debut as Texans defensive coordinator was a smashing success. Just ask Greg McElroy.

The New York Jets’ backup quarterback was sacked five times in three quarters at Reliant Stadium on Monday night. The Texans had seven sacks overall – they had eight in the entire preseason last year –and 16 quarterback hits as they beat the Jets 20-16 in their preseason opener, which also served as the first look at Phillips’ 3-4 defense.

“I thought we did a good job,” Phillips said. “We played hard. We made some mistakes, obviously, but we’re looking for effort and assignment. I didn’t expect that many sacks, because most of the stuff we ran was base defense and we didn’t run any blitzes.”

Linebacker Xavier Adibi had two sacks, undrafted rookie linebackers Bryan Braman and Steven Friday had 1.5 apiece and defensive tackle Earl Mitchell and linebacker Jesse Nading both had one as the Texans constantly harassed McElroy and Mark Sanchez.

“I think we should have had about 12 (sacks),” Texans head coach Gary Kubiak said. “We have to do a better job of wrapping up when we get there, but we had some young guys really doing a good job. Jesse and Bryan got there a couple times. I just thought, in general, you could see the aggressive nature of the defense, and we stayed away from giving up big plays.”

Most of the Texans’ starters played for about a quarter before giving way to backups. Rookie defensive end J.J. Watt and outside linebacker Mario Williams made their much-anticipated 2011 debuts. Williams played about 14 snaps in his first game since moving from defensive end.

“I think he was comfortable,” Phillips said. “He didn’t get ‘em (sacks), but we got ‘em probably because they were sliding towards him a lot. I thought he had a good outing.”

Second-string quarterback Matt Leinart went 8-of-14 for 78 yards, one touchdown and one interception in almost two full quarters of action. Chris Ogbonnaya was the Texans’ only available running back after Derrick Ward left early with a head injury, and he finished with 104 yards of offense and both of the Texans’ touchdowns.

Undrafted rookie wide receiver Lestar Jean had two big catches for 53 yards in the fourth quarter, including one that set up Ogbonnaya’s game-winning touchdown run. Texans rookie quarterback T.J. Yates went 6-of-12 for 97 yards.

After falling behind 3-0 on New York’s first drive of the game, the Texans shut out the Jets for the rest of the first half. Leinart came in to start the second quarter and led the Texans to a 49-yard field goal by kicker Neil Rackers.

On the next series, Nading flattened McElroy for an eight-yard sack at the Jets’ 14-yard line, forcing a fumble that Tim Jamison recovered. Six plays later, the Texans scored on a four-yard pass from Leinart to Ogbonnaya to make it 10-3. Rackers added a 47-yard field goal with one minute left before halftime, and Adibi ended the half with his second sack of the game.

The Jets cut the gap to 13-6 with a 35-yard field goal on the opening drive of the second half. The Texans’ ensuing drive lasted just one play, as Leinart’s pass on first down was tipped at the line of scrimmage and intercepted at the Houston 23-yard line. Four plays later, McElroy hit wide receiver Patrick Turner for a two-yard touchdown pass that tied the game at 13.

With six minutes left in the game, the Jets went up by three on a 40-yard field goal by Nick Folk. The Texans were unable to answer offensively, but Braman and Friday got the ball back for Houston with a drive-ending sack at the New York seven-yard line.

Derrick Townsel had a 19-yard punt return to give the Texans good field position. Yates hit Jean for a 27-yard pass to the one-yard line, and Ogbonnaya punched it in a play later for the game-winning score with 1:56 remaining.

Braman, a terror in the second half, sacked McElroy for a 10-yard loss with 21 seconds remaining. The game ended two plays later when McElroy chucked the ball toward the end zone after he already had scrambled 10 yards past the line of scrimmage.

"It was exciting to find a way to win the game there at the end because we played really, really exceptionally on the defensive side of the ball throughout the game," Kubiak said. "We had some struggles offensively, had some problems physically with some injuries that we’re trying to work through in the football game, but we have to step up and make plays at the end... That’s been a difference in our team. ”

Inactives:
Wide receiver Andre Johnson, running back Arian Foster, cornerback Johnathan Joseph, linebacker Brian Cushing, wide receiver Trindon Holliday, wide receiver Paul Williams, running back Steve Slaton, cornerback Roc Carmichael, safety Antonio Baker, running back Ben Tate, long snapper Jon Weeks, linebacker Mister Alexander, linebacker Matt Marcorelle and defensive end Damione Lewis did not dress for Monday night’s game.

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