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Texans beat Bears 31-24


Like many of the fans who endured the cold, drizzly conditions inside Reliant Stadium at the start of the game, the Texans took a few minutes to warm up Sunday afternoon in the regular-season finale against the Chicago Bears.

After a wake-up call courtesy of a momentum-changing sack by defensive end Mario Williams and a stern message from coach Gary Kubiak, the fans were treated to a spectacular offensive display led by Pro Bowl receiver Andre Johnson and rookie running back Steve Slaton.

The 31-24 win gave Houston an 8-8 record for the second consecutive season, and it shut out the Bears from postseason contention.

Texans owner Bob McNair admired his team's strong finish to the season.

"I'd rather be 16-0," McNair said. "But I think starting out the way we did, 0-4, coming back - understand that only nine other teams have ever done that (start 0-4 and finish .500 or better) in the history of the NFL. So I think it was an accomplishment for our team."

Early on, the Texans appeared to suffer from the same malaise they showed at Oakland a week earlier. But the team erased a 10-0 first-quarter deficit with 21 unanswered points to take a 21-10 lead early in the third quarter.

In that stretch, Johnson scored back-to-back touchdowns to bring the franchise-record crowd of 70,838 to its feet. The Pro Bowler finished with 10 catches for 148 yards (14.8 avg.) to end the season with the NFL lead in receptions (115) and receiving yards (1,575).

Meanwhile, Slaton rebounded from a first half in which he totaled only 19 rushing yards and lost a fumble to put the offense on his back in the final quarter of play. By gaining 128 total yards from scrimmage and scoring a touchdown in the game, Slaton made a case for NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year honors.

Slaton's five-yard gain with 1:24 remaining in the contest gave Houston a first down and allowed the team to run out the remainder of the clock.

"I really like the way we came back and played after we played pretty poorly on both sides of the ball throughout the first quarter," Kubiak said.

Chicago scored its first touchdown with 5:57 remaining in the first quarter when wide receiver Brandon Lloyd stretched out for a four-yard touchdown grab near the front left pylon. A 15-yard reception by wide receiver Devin Hester and a 15-yard penalty on defensive end Tim Bulman for roughing the passer set up the score.

Wide receiver André Davis' 39-yard kickoff return down the Bears' sideline gave the Texans solid field position at their 42-yard line to begin their second possession. But Slaton fumbled on the next play after being tackled by cornerback Charles Tillman. Defensive end Alex Brown recovered the fumble and returned it 17 yards to the Houston 38.

Three plays later, Robbie Gould's 37-yard field goal made the score 10-0.

The next drive started promisingly when quarterback Matt Schaub threw a tight spiral to Davis for a 33-yard gain up the middle of the field. But tight end Owen Daniels was penalized 15 yards for unnecessary roughness on the next play, and Schaub was flagged 10 yards for intentional grounding one play later to derail the drive and force a punt.

Upon returning to the sideline, the offense received an earful from Kubiak.

{QUOTE}"I just didn't think we were going about our business the way we were capable of playing," Kubiak said. "That's not us. We're usually a pretty poised group as a football team, and right there is losing poise and getting a shot in on a guy and all of a sudden, it took a lot of momentum away from us."

With 11:26 left in the first half, Chicago took over at the Houston 49 following a three-and-out series by the Texans. But Williams saved the defense with his 12th sack of the season by tackling quarterback Kyle Orton at the Chicago 45 for a 10-yard loss on third down.

From there, Johnson caught three passes for 72 yards, including a 43-yard touchdown where he dragged two defenders with him over the goal line. Kris Brown's extra point cut the Bears' lead to 10-7 with 5:50 remaining before halftime.

Running back Ryan Moats forced a fumble on the ensuing kickoff when he tackled Danieal Manning. Kris Brown dove on the ball at the Chicago 38 for the Texans' first takeaway.

On third-and-goal from the three-yard line, Schaub threw a fade route to Johnson in the back left corner of the end zone, and Johnson ripped away the ball from Tillman for the score.

Manning returned the opening kickoff of the second half 40 yards to the Chicago 45. But on third-and-six, rookie Texans safety Dominique Barber blitzed off the right side to sack Orton for a nine-yard loss.

Picking up where he left off in the first half, Johnson gained 21 yards to the Houston 48 on his first reception of the third quarter. Later, Slaton's 17-yard catch and wide receiver Kevin Walter's 23-yard grab helped give the Texans a first down at the Chicago 17.

Moats scored his first touchdown with the team on a two-yard rush off the left guard to cap a nine-play drive. Brown's extra point extended the Texans' lead to 21-10 with 8:30 left in the third quarter.

The Bears refused to lie down and responded with a seven-play, 77-yard drive over 3:00. A 37-yard catch by Hester to the Texans' one-yard line set up Orton's touchdown pass to tight end Greg Olsen.

Late in the third quarter, the Texans moved into scoring range thanks to a 33-yard catch by Daniels to the Chicago 15. On third-and-10 at the 15-yard line, wide receiver David Anderson made a diving nine-yard reception, and Schaub dove forward on fourth down to keep the drive alive.

Following two short rushes by Slaton, Schaub's pass intended for Anderson on third-and-goal from the four-yard line fell incomplete, setting up Brown's 22-yard field goal.

Following a Chicago punt to the Houston 11 midway through the fourth quarter, Schaub drove the offense 89 yards in 11 plays. On the first play of the series, he avoided a safety on first down by tossing a pass to Slaton in the flat, and Slaton outran a defensive lineman for an 11-yard gain. Two plays later, Slaton rushed for 47 yards before Manning tackled him at the Chicago 29.

A 14-yard reception by Johnson set up a 15-yard touchdown run by Slaton, but a holding call on right guard Mike Brisiel negated the score. On Slaton's next run, he was tackled and fumbled after a one-yard gain, but Kubiak challenged the call. Replays showed that Slaton's elbow was down before the ball came loose, and officials overturned the call.

On third-and-14, Bears linebacker Nick Roach was penalized for holding, giving the Texans an automatic first down at the 14-yard line. Slaton capped the team's second-consecutive 11-play series with a two-yard touchdown run to make the score 31-17 after Brown's extra point.

The Bears made things interesting by picking apart the Texans' prevent defense on an 11-play, 72-yard drive over 1:55. On fourth-and-one at the Houston 11, Orton dove forward for a first down at the two-minute warning. He moved the Bears to the one-yard line by finding running back Adrian Peterson open on screen pass for a nine-yard gain.

Safety Eugene Wilson was injured on the play, resulting in a timeout being charged to Houston. Once play was restored, Orton pushed his way over the goal line for a touchdown that made the score 31-23 with 1:29 left in the game.

But Gould's onside kick was recovered by Walter at the Chicago 44, and Slaton preserved the win on his final carry of the game by running for five yards and a first down.

Injury report

  • Defensive end Mario Williams walked off the field in the third quarter with a strained groin. He did not return.
 "He said he heard it pop and tried to go back and tape it up and couldn't go," Kubiak said. "I hope that Mario can get healthy because he deserves to play in the Pro Bowl game, and hopefully we can get him healthy here over the course of the next month." 
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