In their final road game of the season, the Houston Texans snapped their two-game win streak in a 23-7 loss to the San Francisco 49ers.
It was a battle between two rookie quarterbacks in Davis Mills and Trey Lance, who started in place of the injured veteran Jimmy Garoppolo. The 49ers recorded 416 net yards on offense (241 passing and 175 rushing), most of which came in the second half when they scored 20 unanswered points.
"Well the second half, we did some of the things we had been doing earlier to lose ball games," Head Coach David Culley said. "We didn't protect the ball, we weren't able to stay consistent on offense, and we gave up some big plays on defense that we hadn't been giving up. Those things have been Achilles' heel all year long. Got to look at the video but it looks like we had some missed assignments there on a couple of their big plays. Other than that, those have been some of the things that have got us all year long."
In his tenth career start, Mills threw a touchdown pass to Brandin Cooks in the second quarter to take a 7-0 lead. Mills was 21-of-32 for 163 yards, one touchdown, one interception and a 75.4 passer rating.
"Those guys, obviously have a lot of respect for them, did a great job applying pressure," Mills said. "Overall, I felt like we held up well up front. I felt like our guys stayed in front of them, gave me time to get through my progressions. Obviously, I was able to find the backs for checkdowns. I was able to see enough to get the progressions and find the backs. They were giving me enough time to do that."
Cooks eclipsed 1,000 yards on the season with his performance. The veteran wide receiver finished with a team-high seven catches for 66 yards plus the touchdown.
DB Desmond King II had the lone interception for Houston's defense and now has three on the season, tying his single-season career high in 2018.
"Made the play and I told myself all week I was going to go sit in those seats," King said. "I definitely had the opportunity to go do that and it felt really good to go do it."
LB Christian Kirksey returned to the lineup and led the defense with nine tackles (five solo) and one pass defensed. Lance was 16-of-23 for 249 yards, two touchdowns, one interception and a 116.0 rating.
In the second quarter, King's interception paved the way for Houston's offense. King picked off Lance on a pass intended for TE George Kittle and returned it 32 yards.
"Just playing my zone, I saw Kittle from the front side and it was just a drawn-up play," King said. "It was a play that they definitely drew up to get the ball in Kittle's hands and I know he's a very impact guy for their offense. I'd just seen him coming back from the other side and something just told me, 'Just look back' once I ran with him and the ball was coming."
Mills led a 14-play, 85-yard scoring drive that lasted 7:15. On third down, Mills found Nico Collins for a 15-yard gain and then Cooks for 24 yards. On third-and-goal, Mills connected with Cooks on an eight-yard touchdown pass to give Houston a 7-0 lead with 1:57 left in the second quarter.
San Francisco added a 37-yard field goal as time expired in the first half. The Texans led 7-3 at halftime.
The Texans stopped the 49ers' opening drive of the second half with King's pass breakup on 4th-and-1. However, Houston's first offensive series would end in a takeaway. Mills threw an interception on a pass intended for Chris Conley. Despite being punched out by Conley and recovered by Burkhead, the officials ruled the play a turnover for the 49ers with forward progress stopped and no second fumble recovered by Houston. Lance and the offense took over at the San Francisco 42-yard line.
On the next play, a costly defensive pass interference call on DB Terrence Mitchell extended the drive 37 yards. Lance threw a short pass to Elijah Mitchell who scored an eight-yard touchdown. San Francisco took its first lead of the game, up 10-7 lead with 5:53 left in the third quarter.
The Texans were unable to tie the game after Ka'imi Fairbairn missed a 45-yard field goal. The 49ers pulled away after scoring on their final three drives of the game. Lance connected with WR Deebo Samuel for a 45-yard TD. San Francisco took a 17-7 lead with 9:56 left in the game. Robbie Gould would add two more field goals, from 27 and 36 yards, consecutively.
With the loss, the Texans fall to 4-12 on the season and will host the Tennessee Titans next Sunday in the final game of the 2021 regular season. Find tickets here.
Check out the best photos from the Houston Texans Week 17 matchup with the San Francisco 49ers.