The Texans got a 31-24 victory over the Bears to knock Chicago out of the playoff picture and finish 8-8 for the second consecutive year. Houston saved some of its best stuff for the season finale, putting up 455 yards of offense and holding Chicago to 69 yards rushing.
A better 8-8 team: For the second consecutive year, the Texans finished with an 8-8 record. But this season, they believe they're a better team and they point to wins over quality team as proof.
"I think we're a better team than we were last year," coach Gary Kubiak said. "We have the same record. It was important that this team didn't step backward today, and we could have if we had walked out of here and got beat today."
Houston crawled out of an 0-4 hole and went on to record December victories over the Packers, Titans and Bears, a team that needed to win to keep its playoff hopes alive.
"We lost four straight games and through the next three months, we only lost four games after that," cornerback Dunta Robinson said. "To finish that way, it's a big compliment to our team, our coaches. We never quit and we never stopped believing. When we were 0-4, we knew we were better than that."
The Texans also have the stats to back up their argument. The offense spent most of the season ranked in the top five in the NFL and finished the year averaging 382.1 yards per game. Johnson led all NFL receivers in receptions (115) and receiving yards (1,575). Running back Steve Slaton led all rookie running backs with 1,282 yards rushing.
"I think we learned a lot about ourselves this year," Johnson said. "We have a lot of talent and have a lot of guys who can go out and make plays for us. If we can go out and keep everyone healthy, the sky's the limit for us."
Schaub shines in finale: Matt Schaub played one of his best games of the season against the Bears' tough Tampa 2 defense. The quarterback didn't let Chicago's blitz rattle him and finished 27-of-36 for 328 yards and two touchdowns. He didn't throw an interception, wasn't sacked and put up a passer rating of 121.1.
"He did a tremendous job of getting of the ball and saving us out of some bad, bad situations," Kubiak said. "We did not protect well as running backs early in the game, and it could've very well cost us our quarterback."
After a bumpy first quarter, Schaub helped get the team back on track and found Johnson for a 43-yard touchdown pass for the Texans' first score of the game.
"We definitely didn't start the way we had planned or hoped," Schaub said. "There were just miscues that at this point in the season, you can't win with.
"We were able in the second quarter to string together play after play. We were successful and got into a rhythm, and from that point on, we were clean."
Schaub connected with Johnson for a second touchdown, which the receiver grabbed out of the hands of a defender to give Houston a 14-10 lead at halftime. In the second half, the Texans never looked back.
"I thought I played pretty well, but in order for me to do that, there's got to be 10 other guys who are doing their thing," Schaub said. "The offensive linemen, they were fighting. That's a good defensive line they were facing, bringing some pressure, and they were handling it. Our guys down the field were making plays down the football field for us, so it was everybody doing their job."
Despite missing five games for health reasons, Schaub finished the season 380 attempts for 3,043 yards and 15 touchdowns. Schaub also completed 66.1 percent of his passes and had a passer rating of 92.7. He was at his best late in the season and has not thrown an interception in 107 consecutive attempts at Reliant Stadium.
"I feel like I am progressing in the right direction," he said. "I don't think I can put my finger on any one thing that happened, but it is just getting more timeline-centered in game action and just being more comfortable and understanding things a little better and just going out and playing."
Third-and-stout: The Texans' defense was stout on third downs, allowing the Bears to convert only twice in 10 attempts. The defense also helped to turn the game around when the Texans went down 10-0 in the first quarter.
"When it was 10-0, I think they had the ball twice - once at the 50 and once at their own 40, two really good possessions with us down 10-0 - and our defense stepped up both times and stopped them," Kubiak said. "That was key because all of a sudden, the momentum was headed big-time in (our) direction."
The Texans' front seven kept the pressure on quarterback Kyle Orton and contained rookie running Matt Forte, who finished with 13 carries for 50 yards.
"I think we tackled pretty darned well in the first series," Kubiak said. "We did a good job of tackling from there on out, got them into some tough third-down situations as we got going in the game and just did a good job of keeping (Forte) in check."
Making the "Moats" of it: Running back Ryan Moats had hardly seen the field since signing with the Texans in October. Moats, a third-round draft pick by the Eagles in 2005, had 14 carries for 56 yards in relief of Slaton before the season finale.
Moats took advantage of increased opportunities against the Bears. With Slaton struggling early, Moats got the bulk of the Texans' carries in the second and third quarters. He scored on a two-yard run to stretch the Texans' lead to 21-10 in the third quarter and finished the game with 12 carries for 38 yards.
"This is how I look at it: When they give me the ball, I just try to do what I can do and look back on it later," Moats said. "You just go out there and run, don't be too technical about it. I'm hoping this is an audition."
Injury notes: Defensive end Mario Williams injured his groin and was forced to leave the game midway through the third quarter.
"He said he heard it pop and tried to go back and tape it up and couldn't go," Kubiak said. "We had a bunch of beat-up guys. (Tim) Bulman's beat up. He basically played on one foot the whole game, so we just tried to rally around what he had left."