The Texans fell, 23-16, to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in their preseason finale at NRG Stadium Saturday night.
"We ran the ball very well," Head Coach David Culley said. "I thought our first group did a nice job of running the ball, which was an emphasis that we wanted to do, but the thing about it is three turnovers. We can't have three turnovers. That's bad football and we didn't finish the drives that we had on offense. Two of the things we wanted to do going in here as an offense and a defense was to finish them when they got in the red zone, and us to finish the play when we got in the red zone, and we didn't do either of those."
The Texans came up with three takeaways (one interception and two fumbles), scored on a safety, blocked a field goal and an extra point attempt but also committed five turnovers.
Defensive Back Justin Reid pulled double-duty and filled in for Kicker Ka'imi Fairbairn, who "tweaked" something in pregame warmups, according to Culley. Reid boomed the opening kickoff 64 yards.
Because they were without Fairbairn, the Texans approached fourth down and extra point conversions differently.
"Well, obviously the one fourth down, I probably would've kicked the ball, but he's got a little pulled muscle and we don't want to chance it," Culley said. "We want to get him ready for Jacksonville."
Houston's offense finished with 209 rushing yards. Scottie Phillips led the way with 73 yards on eight carries. Tyrod Taylor started the game and played one drive into the second quarter, completing 6-of-9 passes for 31 yards. Davis Mills relieved Taylor and finished the game with 10-of-27 completions for 106 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions. Rookie Receiver Nico Collins and Receiver Jordan Veazy each caught a touchdown pass.
"Long drives, obviously we were without a kicker tonight, hopefully he gets healthy for Week 1," Taylor said. "But yeah we moved the ball down the field and there were some things I think that we'd done throughout different drives that were definitely good, blitz pickups, some of the stuff that kind of shot us in the foot last week; but went into this by executing as a whole and not just one part of the puzzle."
Tom Brady started the game at quarterback for Tampa Bay, and exited in the second quarter after leading two touchdown drives. Brady completed 11-of-14 passes for 154 yards and one touchdown. Chris Godwin caught a 24-yard touchdown reception. The Buccaneers led 6-0 lead after Texans Defensive Lineman Vincent Taylor blocked the extra-point attempt.
A touchdown run by Ronald Jones II gave Tampa Bay a 13-0 lead with 11:43 remaining in the second quarter. Brady left the game and was replaced by Quarterback Blaine Gabbert.
"We all know when it's all said and done, he might be arguably the best quarterback to ever play," linebacker Christian Kirksey said. "When you can go against a challenge and see the things that you need to fine tune, it's really great for us. It's not too many quarterbacks like Tom Brady that's been where he's been and made the plays he's made. So when you are going against somebody at that high level, you can just tell like where you need to be as a defense."
The Texans' lone score in the first half came on a safety late in the second quarter. Gabbert scooped up a fumble on a bad snap and was tackled in the end zone by DeMarcus Walker.
The Texans trailed 16-2 at halftime following a 36-yard field goal by Tampa Bay.
After halftime, the Texans defense forced two fumbles. The offense converted both into touchdowns.
"I think that's ten for the preseason in three games," Justin Reid said. "That's awesome. You could just see what Coach Lovie Smith is preaching about getting to the ball, being aggressive, finding ways to get to the ball. Everything is about the ball you know what I mean and it's coming out on the tape so we have to take that with us to the regular season and continue to force turnovers to help our team continue to win games."
In the third quarter, Quarterback Kyle Trask entered the game for the Bucs and fumbled. Linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill recovered on the Tampa Bay 11-yard line. Mills threw his first touchdown pass of the preseason on the next play, an 11-yard score to Collins. The Texans went for two and were successful after Mills connected on a pass to Keke Coutee. Houston trailed 16-10 with 8:44 left in the third quarter.
The Buccaneers responded with a score of their own. Trask threw a 20-yard touchdown pass to give Tampa Bay 23-10 lead.
Early in the fourth quarter, Walker's strip-sack on Trask was recovered by Vincent Taylor. Mills converted the takeaway into six points after a touchdown pass to Veazy capped a five-play, 39-yard drive. The two-point conversion, another pass to Veazy, was no good. The loss left Houston with a 2-1 preseason record.
The Texans were 2-of-4 from the red zone. For every visit to the red zone, TDECU has committed to donate $300 to the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Houston, totaling this week's donation to $1,200.
The Texans will open their 2021 regular season at home against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday, September 12. Kickoff is set for 12 p.m. CDT on CBS and SportsRadio 610. For tickets, click here.
Check out the best photos from the Texans final 2021 preseason game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.