A day after Davis Mills saw his first regular-season action in an NFL game, the quarterback's head coach and teammates had positive reviews.
The Texans lost, 31-21, on the road at Cleveland. Mills entered to start the third quarter, after starter Tyrod Taylor exited with a hamstring injury. A 14-14 ballgame at the time quickly became a 24-14 contest after a 3-and-out and an interception on Mills' first two series under center.
But then, he responded.
"We know he's always one of those guys that when a bad thing happens, he comes back, he makes a play," Texans Head Coach David Culley said. "He had the INT there and came back the next series and ended up just playing exactly like we thought he would play; it never bothered him at all."
On his third possession at quarterback, Mills engineered a 16-play, 75-yard drive that chewed up 8:08 of the game clock. After completions of 17, 14 and seven yards, with a pass to WR Brandin Cooks that saw the Browns commit pass interference for 27 yards, Mills hit Cooks for a 2-yard touchdown strike. The Joey Slye extra point made it a 24-21 ballgame.
"He did a great job," Cooks said. "Obviously, when you get put in a situation like that, one of the things you want to show is toughness. You know he took a couple to the face and bounced right back up, and when you see that from a rookie, you got a lot of respect for him."
So many Texans are new to the club in 2021, and the majority of those new faces are NFL veterans of three or more years. Some, like RB Phillip Lindsay, have played with a rookie or inexperienced quarterbacks in their respective careers. Lindsay liked what he saw from the Texans rookie on Sunday.
"As he got more comfortable, as things went on, he looked sharp," Lindsay said. "He looked good. In Denver we had different quarterbacks all the time. Young ones. That's just how it goes. You've got to get your feet wet. You've got to get used to it. Davis wasn't the one taking all the reps at the beginning of the week. So I'm excited to see what he does as time goes on."
After the loss, Mills was looking to fix some mistakes and improve. He completed 8-of-18 passes for 102 yards, with the touchdown and interception. Later in the game, he helped take the Texans 55 yards on nine plays in a possession, but Slye's 41-yard field goal try was wide left. But according to Cooks, since Mills' arrival in May, the young quarterback has grown quite a bit in the way he commands the huddle.
"The times that he does get in there and practice, he has a command of the offense and the huddle," Cooks said. "A lot more vocal, a lot more confident in that aspect. And just not being quiet, but steps up and talks when he needs to. So when you see that from a young guy and see that build every single day from spring to camp until now, that's been huge."
Mills and the Texans face a stiff challenge Thursday evening at NRG Stadium when the Panthers come to town. Carolina has won both its 2021 games, and the defense has allowed the fewest points per game and yards per game this season.
The Texans will host the Carolina Panthers on Thursday Night Football. Kickoff is set for 7:20 p.m. CT on NBC, NFL Network and SportsRadio 610. Click here for tickets.