The Texans' defense didn't just limit the Bills to a trio of field goals in Sunday's 21-9 victory at Reliant Stadium. They bludgeoned Buffalo quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, sacking him three times and hitting him on seven other plays.
"We had a lot of hits on the quarterback," defensive coordinator Wade Phillips said. "I'm sure he is going to be sore."
The Bills never scored a touchdown, and Fitzpatrick was 25-of-38 passing for 239 yards. In the second half especially, it was tough for the Buffalo field general. He threw for just 95 yards after the intermission and had a 64.6 quarterback rating.
"I thought we put pressure on the guy," Phillips said. "I thought he played really tough, but we finally wore him down in the second half."
Outside linebacker Connor Barwin joined in the fun with a sack and four quarterback hits, helping harass Fitzpatrick and limit the Buffalo offense.
Defensive end J.J. Watt broke through for a sack and five quarterback hits, as well as a pair of tackle-for-losses. The NFL's sack leader with 10.5 in 2012, he added to the total when he dropped Fitzpatrick for a loss of six yards with nine seconds remaining in the first half. The Bills were forced to kick a field goal in the red zone, and it was a key play in the win.
"That's kind of when you need to step up, in a moment like that," Watt said. "It was a great sack and we got a couple of good ones on the day."
Fitzpatrick was very complimentary of the Houston defense, but not surprised by the harassment.
"The amount of sacks, the quarterback hurries, hits, batted balls and all that stuff has been talked about a lot with this team," Fitzpatrick said. "They're as good as advertised up front and they did a good job with it today."
For the second consecutive game, outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus notched a sack. He brought Fitzpatrick down on the game's final play for a loss of two. Mercilus also ended the drive before that by forcing a Fitzpatrick fumble at the Houston 38-yard line, which safety Quintin Demps recovered. The 2011 NCAA leader in sacks and forced fumbles came up with one of each on Sunday. Being able to contribute in game-changing ways in each of the last two weeks has Mercilus playing with a new confidence.
"I feel like a part of the team more," Mercilus said. "The coaches look at me and can depend on me to make plays on the field."
That playmaking defense didn't just entertain the fans on Sunday at Reliant Stadium. The offensive players on the home sideline enjoyed what they saw as well. Running back Arian Foster, who gained 111 yards on 24 carries, was enthused by what he witnessed.
"It is fun to watch them fly around," Foster said. "I think big plays on both sides of the ball is inspiring to see and makes you want to do better for your team."