For most of the afternoon, it was a game only a parent could love.
But in the locker room after the game, Texans head coach Dom Capers was one proud papa.
"The last two weeks we sat here talking about missed opportunities," he said. "But today, you guys kept fighting and I'm proud of you."
The Texans defeated the Giants 16-14 Sunday to secure their third win of the season. Houston was outgained by 146 yards, committed eight penalties and punted nine times. But after losing two consecutive heartbreakers to Tennessee and Jacksonville the previous two weeks, the Texans today made the plays they needed to make at the end of the game. And the result was a remarkable victory over a team that was pointing towards a playoff berth.
"We have a lot of heart on this team," Capers said at his post-game press conference. "I think they showed you by fighting and holding onto the rope. That's life in the NFL -- keep fighting and find a way to make a play and win."
In this case, it was three plays by a defense that played tenacious football once its offensive counterparts had handed it one final lead. After kicker Kris Brown booted a 50-yarder to put Houston up by two with 6:57 remaining, the Giants would get the ball back three times and come up empty.
"We just put it on our shoulders right there," Texans linebacker Jamie Sharper said. "We knew our offense was struggling a little bit but they put us in a position to have the lead. We just had to go out there and take control."
First, free safety Matt Stevens picked off Giants quarterback Kerry Collins at the Texans 39 with just under six minutes left. On New York's next possession, Collins marched the Giants down to the Texans 33 with the clock at 1:24 and ticking. New York just needed a few more yards to get into comfortable range for kicker Matt Bryant. But when Collins took the snap, trouble found him.
"We were blitzing to the running back's side and we were in man-to-man," Sharper said. "They didn't see me coming. Collins tried to make a play and it just didn't happen."
What did happen was linebacker Jeff Posey turning towards the ball as he blanketed Giants tight end Jeremy Shockey.
"We figured they were going to go to Shockey so I just dropped in my zone and the next thing I know I saw the ball coming," Posey said.
Posey cradled the offering at the Texans 28 with 1:24 left. The interception capped a remarkable day for Posey, who is enjoying a career season. The fifth-year pro had six tackles, one sack, three passes defensed and one forced fumble to go along with the pick.
But Houston's defense wasn't finished just yet. Running back Jonathan Wells came within inches of a first down on 3rd and 11 but the Texans were forced to punt with 30 seconds left. Collins hit Shockey for 24 yards to the Texans 46, rushed his offense to the line and spiked the ball. Three seconds still remained.
And just like in Houston's last win -- a 21-19 victory at Jacksonville Oct. 27 -- the last play would be a Hail Mary sailing towards the Texans' end zone. Collins heaved it high but cornerback Marcus Coleman batted the ball down and the crowd of 70,054 could finally exhale.
Three late drives, three late stops. One satisfying victory.
"That was huge," Coleman said. "It's our job to go out there and stop them. We made some big plays."
Yes, the Texans yielded 368 total yards, including 167 on the ground. But Collins, who entered the game completing nearly 63 percent of his passes, connected on just 18 of 41 attempts. Houston held Shockey to four catches after he hauled in 11 passes last week against Washington. And the Texans forced three turnovers and broke up a season-high 16 passes.
"Except for that first touchdown drive, they really didn't get much on us," Sharper said. "Our corners matched up well against Collins. We were in man-to-man pretty much the whole game and played shutdown defense.
"Victories are hard to come by. And to win a close game in the fourth quarter, after we lost a couple of close games, shows a lot."
After battling back only to slip at the finish line against the Titans and Jaguars, today's late show belonged to the Texans. And they have their defense to thank.
"Our defense played hard with a lot of heart," Capers said. "We held onto the rope and didn't let the pain of the close losses affect us.
"It was a rewarding win."