TheTexans locked up their second-consecutive AFC South title with a 23-20 win in Tampa Bay on Saturday. Houston's defense came up with five takeaways (four interceptions, one fumble recovery), but the Texans still found themselves in a closely-contested matchup against a Buccaneers team that had won four straight games heading into Week 16.
"I thought our defense came out big today and I thought our special teams played really good today and so the takeaways with our defense are huge in the game," head coach Bill O'Brien said. "Offensively we struggled, Tampa Bay's defense is an excellent defense and we give them a lot of credit. They took a lot of things away and it was a struggle."
The Texans scored 17 points off turnovers in the win, which included a pick-six by Bradley Roby. Johnathan Joseph and Jahleel Addae each had an interception. Justin Reid picked off a pass and also recovered a fumble. Whitney Mercilus recorded two sacks.
Tampa Bay quarterback Jameis Winston completed 25-of-48 passes for 335 yards, with one touchdown and four interceptions for a 46.8 passer rating for the Buccaneers.
Deshaun Watson completed 19-of-32 passes for 184 yards and one interception. Carlos Hyde rushed for 27 yards on 17 carries and the lone touchdown of the game.
"It feels good, I'm excited, I'm happy," Hyde said. "It's my first time (winning the division). We got a lot of work to do, especially on offense so we got to get back to practice, keep working."
Ka'imi Fairbairn was 3-for-3 on field goals (32, 25, 37 yards). Defensive lineman Angelo Blackson blocked his second field goal in two weeks.
"It feels great, it's always fun to win it," Watson said. "Definitely something that we had to go out there to earn and take, but it definitely feels good to be AFC South champs."
On the opening drive, Roby's pick-six gave Houston an early 7-0 lead. Roby broke in front of a Winston pass intended for Justin Watson, and galloped 28 yards for a score. It was the second play from scrimmage.
"Definitely helped us out in the long run," Watson said. "It set the tone for the defense to help them keep their energy and build that confidence that they are going to try to create turn overs. And that's what we need as a team."
The Bucs' next possession ended in similar fashion. Reid picked off Winston on third-and-6 and returned it for a a score. An illegal block penalty nullified the touchdown though, and gave Houston possession at the Tampa Bay 24-yard line. Fairbairn kicked a 32-yard field goal as the Texans took a 10-0 lead with 11:34 left in the first quarter.
Tampa Bay's offensive struggles continued when Blackson, who blocked a 45-yard field goal against the Tennessee Titans in Week 15, got a hand on the Buccaneers' attempt from 54 yards.
Tampa Bay settled for a 50-yard field goal on the next drive, trailing 10-3 at the end of the first quarter.
The Buccaneers' next two possessions also ended in turnovers. Joseph picked off Winston. It was his first interception of 2019, and his 17th as a Texan. He's now the franchise's all-time leader in interceptions.
Later, linebacker Tyrell Adams popped the ball loose from running back Peyton Barber, and Reid recovered the fumble. Hyde scored on a one-yard touchdown run to cap a seven-play, 42-yard drive. The Texans took a 17-3 lead with 9:25 left in the second quarter.
Tampa Bay then scored two unanswered touchdowns to tie the game.
Winston led the Bucs on a nine-play, 81-yard drive that ended in a four-yard touchdown run by Ronald Jones II. On the Texans next drive, Watson's deep pass to Kenny Stills was intercepted and returned 31 yards to the Houston 39-yard drive. Winston connected with Watson on an eight-yard touchdown pass with 20 seconds remaining in the first half.
The Buccaneers and Texans headed into halftime tied at 17-17.
Each team traded field goals in the third quarter, but Fairbairn's third field goal of the day gave the Texans a 23-20 lead. The 37-yard field goal ended a 10-play, 69-yard scoring drive that lasted 4:50 in the fourth quarter.
The Texans defense came up with big play as the Buccaneers were driving down the field to score again. Addae picked off Winston, his fourth and final interception of the day, to end the Bucs' drive. The Texans would hold onto their 23-20 lead to win their fourth AFC South division title in six years under O'Brien and Watson's second in two seasons.
"This is not the ultimate goal," Watson said. "This is one goal to get us to the ultimate goal and we have our opportunity. We are definitely going to celebrate this and build on this one and then finish up next week and get ready for the big show."
The Texans are now 10-5 on the season and will host the Tennessee Titans a week from Sunday.