The Texans won on the road by a field goal Saturday against the Buccaneers, and did so in large part because of stellar special teams play.
It's easy to point to Angelo Blackson's first quarter block of Matt Gay's 54-yard field goal attempt. It was the second week in a row for Blackson to help keep three points off the board.
It's simple to remember Ka'imi Fairbairn's three field goals and two extra points sailing through the uprights and giving the Texans 11 points.
But not as many noticed the punt and coverage units. The 12 times Houston kicked off or punted to the Buccaneers, Tampa Bay wound up starting on average at its own 17.5 yard line. Three of Bryan Anger's five punts were downed inside the 20-yard line, and Fairbairn's first half punt went out of bounds at the 10-yard line.
DeAndre Carter continued his strong season as a punt returner, as he picked up an even 10 yards, moving Houston from its own 10-yard line to the 20.
"Look through our special teams roster and you see the guys that we have that make a lot of big plays for us," head coach Bill O'Brien said. "That's a good example of the resilience that we have."
One of those resilient players has been Taiwan Jones. In his ninth NFL season, Jones is second on the squad in special teams tackles with eight. A.J. Moore leads the way with 10. Jones described why the special teams units have thrived.
"We take pride in it," Jones said. "We've got a lot of young guys that understand the importance of special teams and how it helps our offense and defense. Every time we go out there, we go out there with the expectation of making a difference in the game. You can see that in the way guys fly around. From the rookies on the team to the veterans."
Carter, who ranks second in the NFL with 9.5 yards per punt return, agreed with Jones.
"We got a great unit," Carter said after the win. "Punt team, kickoff team, kick return, we're starting to get our rhythm. We've got great core special teams guys. The last two weeks we've been gelling making big plays. Kickoff team came up big today, huge. Bryan's been punting the ball great all year. We've just got to keep it rolling next week and into the playoffs."
Whitney Mercilus didn't log any special teams snaps on Saturday, but their impact and importance was "huge", according to the veteran outside linebacker.
"They definitely need a shoutout, for sure, because those boys have been working their butts off for sure," Mercilus said. "They've got to continue it forward and it's going to be huge for us."
The Texans close out the regular season against the Titans this Sunday at 3:25 inside NRG Stadium.
Houston Texans take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium for the fifteenth game of the 2019 NFL season.