ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -A game that couldn't have started any uglier couldn't have ended much better for the Texans on Sunday. The Texans overcame a mistake-filled first quarter to beat the Buffalo Bills with stout defense and a breakout performance by running back Ryan Moats.
The Texans never led in the first three quarters, but they pulled away late with three fourth-quarter rushing touchdowns from Moats. Houston dominated the time of possession, holding the ball for more than 39 minutes, and is now 5-3 for the first time in team history after a 31-10 victory at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
"Through adversity, teams get stronger, or they can go the other way," Texans coach Gary Kubiak said. "It tells you about the character of the group. They didn't make any excuses. We played very poorly offensively and on special teams in the first half, but the game's about winning. They went and regrouped and played a tremendous second half."
Moats got the bulk of the Texans' carries after Steve Slaton lost a fumble in the first quarter. He wound up with 23 attempts for 126 yards and three touchdowns, all career-highs, and became the first player in club history with three touchdowns in a game.
Wide receiver Andre Johnson (lung contusion) played, as expected, and led the Texans with six catches for 63 yards. The defense pitched a shutout in the second half and allowed only 23 net yards before the Bills' final desperation drive, which ended with a Brian Cushing interception.
Just about everything that could go wrong in the first quarter did for the Texans. They had two penalties and three turnovers, one on Slaton's fumble and two on interceptions by quarterback Matt Schaub. Owen Daniels, who came into the game leading all NFL tight ends in receiving yards, was injured on the Texans' second drive and did not return.
Daniels walked off the field with the assistance of trainers. His injury was classified as a sprained right knee.
"It doesn't look good," Kubiak said. "I don't want to be a doctor here, but we're going to get him looked at as soon as we get home. But obviously, they feel like he may have done some damage. It does not look good right now."
Bills rookie safety Jairus Byrd was on the receiving end of both of Schaub's first quarter interceptions. Buffalo needed only one play to turn the second one into seven points, scoring a touchdown on a 29-yard end around by wide receiver Terrell Owens late in the first quarter.
The Texans trimmed the Bills' lead to 7-3 on a 42-yard field goal by Kris Brown early in the second quarter. Brown added another field goal from 22 yards out with 2:21 left in the first half to bring the Texans to within a point. That field goal came after the Texans drove 86 yards, their longest scoring drive of the season.
A 71-yard return by Fred Jackson on the ensuing kickoff put the Bills in position for a 21-yard field goal by Rian Lindell before the end of the half. Cornerback Jacques Reeves prevented a touchdown before Lindell's kick when he broke up a fade pass intended for Owens in the corner of the end zone on third-and-goal from the three.
"That stop right before the half was huge by Jacques, knocking the ball out," Kubiak said. "Our defense had us in position to win the football game."
The offense followed suit in the second half. They outgained the Bills 123-19 in the third quarter. On their first possession, they seamlessly drove 72 yards, keyed by a 36-yard catch by Jacoby Jones, to set up Brown's third field goal of the game. The 26-yard kick made the score 13-9.
"I just told them offensively and on special teams…(that) I was so disappointed, and I told them if they go out and play like they're capable of playing, I'll burn the first half of film," Kubiak said of his halftime speech. "They're going to hold me to it."
The Texans continued their offensive surge by taking the lead for the first time on Moats' first touchdown run, an 11-yarder early in the fourth quarter. Johnson caught a pass in the back of the end zone for a two-point conversion, which put the Texans up 17-10.
Facing a three-and-out on their next drive, the Bills tried a fake punt on fourth-and-two from their own 40. It backfired as they ended up losing three yards on an end around. Six plays later, Moats scored on a one-yard plunge.
On the second play of the Bills' following possession, Fitzpatrick was under pressure from defensive end Antonio Smith, who had a sack earlier in the game. Fitzpatrick heaved a desperation pass down the field, and Reeves picked it off at the Texans' 30-yard line. Ten plays and 66 yards later, the Texans went ahead 31-10 on Moats' third touchdown, a three-yard run with 3:34 left to play.
The Bills gained 54 of their 77 second-half yards on their next possession, but Cushing ended their scoring chance with his interception at the Texans' 25-yard line. Schaub took a knee three times to run the final two minutes off the clock and end the game.
Injuries, inactives:Daniels initially was listed as questionable to return following his injury, but he was downgraded to "out" at halftime. Bills right tackle Jamon Meredith sprained his right knee in the first quarter. Check out the full list of inactives and other updates in the HoustonTexans.com game blog.