Jimmie Ward's presence was felt in his return to the field at NRG Stadium.
The veteran safety had missed the previous three games dealing with a hamstring issue. Despite not being able to help the Texans on the field, Ward assisted them off the field by encouraging his teammates and rehabbing to make sure he was ready to go.
Ward was cleared to return to action this week against Russell Wilson and the Denver Broncos. "I've been on the shelf for three weeks, so to come back as a captain and talk to the guys, get them going and make plays for this team, it was phenomenal," Ward said.
In the waning seconds of the fourth quarter, Ward had already made an impact throughout the game – six tackles, four solo, one pass deflection. But the Texans cornerback had one more stat to add to his line.
With 20 seconds remaining and the Texans clinging to a 22-17 lead and no timeouts left, the Broncos were threatening from the eight-yard line.
Wilson fired a shot for the back of the end zone for tight end Lucas Krull. Ward jumped the route and leaped in front of the intended receiver to intercept the pass in the endzone and end the game.
"As I saw the ball floating, I saw it start to drop and I was like I know I have to go attack the ball," Ward said. "That's what I did." It was Ward's first interception since December 24, 2022 as a member of the San Francisco 49ers.
"It was great having Jimmie back and you see his impact instantly on our entire team, not just defensively," Texans coach DeMeco Ryans said. "But you see his impact on our team, so it was great to have him back."
Ward's interception was the Texans defense's third of the game – Wilson hadn't thrown an interception in five-straight games entering Sunday. Derek Stingley Jr. intercepted two earlier in the game to give him his first multi-interception game.
"Having Jimmie out there, that has a big effect on how we play as a defense," Stingley said. "He'll fly around, he'll hit someone hard, he'll catch everything thrown to him. I saw Jimmie standing over there and I saw the ball floating in the air, I knew he was about to come down with it."
Defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins added: "Whoever this next opponent is he's putting himself in position on Monday to be able to make those kinds of plays on Sunday.
"Then he brings the energy, he's a vocal guy, he leads by example but he also leads with his energy and his effort." As Ward hit the ground in the endzone with the ball, NRG Stadium erupted as the fans knew the Texans had just secured their seventh win of the season.
"It's fun to play football," Ward said with a smile as he described the final moments of the game. "I can't explain the feeling. The feeling is crazy to close a game out and just to hear the roar of the crowd, the excitement. Your teammates are happy, your coach is happy. You can't get that feeling nowhere else besides professional sports."