Wide receiver Andre Johnson had a touchdown catch to help the Texans win.
This was the way the Texans' offense was supposed to look all season.
In a 28-14 victory over the Tampa Bay Bucs Sunday in front of 70,237 fans at Reliant Stadium, the Texans scored four touchdowns against the NFC's leading scoring defense and accumulated 257 net yards of offense to eat up more than 35 minutes off the game clock.
The performance was ironic considering the injuries to the Texans' offensive line, quarterback and running backs.
Sage Rosenfels replaced the injured Matt Schaub behind center, while former practice squad player Mike Brisiel got the start at right guard and rookie running back Darius Walker had the majority of carries after Ahman Green was placed on injured reserve Friday and Ron Dayne watched from the sideline with a sore ankle.
"I am just so proud of the effort of these guys," coach Gary Kubiak said. "Like I just told them in the locker room, we've got some problems. We've got enough guys nicked up to fill a couple of rooms, but the heart of this football team and the direction of the future of the young kids is just so bright."
Rosenfels finished with three touchdown passes and 209 passing yards despite two fumbles that the Bucs recovered for turnovers. By connecting on 27 of his 36 pass attempts, Rosenfels' completion percentage was a game-high 75 percent.
"He's a gutsy player," Kubiak said. "He's always taken advantage of his opportunities. He knew what type of defense he was playing today. He would have to play big, and he sure did. He got pretty beat up to, and I'm just very proud of his efforts."
Walker, another former practice squad player, had a team-high 46 rushing yards on 16 carries (2.9 avg.) and caught six passes for 35 yards to help the offense stretch many of their second half drives.
While the Texans finished with the same number of takeaways as the Bucs, the Texans were able to capitalize on their turnover opportunities. Safety Will Demps' forced fumble and fumble recovery on wide receiver Ike Hilliard resulted in an eight-yard touchdown catch by wide receiver Kevin Walter in the second quarter. In the fourth quarter, safety C.C. Brown's fumble recovery was rewarded by tight end Owen Daniels' four-yard touchdown catch.
Playing without injured quarterback Jeff Garcia, the Bucs' offense began with Luke McCown behind center. The fourth-year signal-caller completed his first five passes for 42 yards, but the drive stalled on fourth-and-two from the Houston 34 when Demps tackled running back Ernest Graham for no gain.
Johnson caught passes on two of the Texans' first two plays from scrimmage for 22 total yards. A six-yard catch by Dayne on third-and-six gave the Texans a first down at the Tampa Bay 24. After a nine-yard screen pass to Dayne, Rosenfels and Johnson connected on a four-yard touchdown to cap the 12-play, 66-yard drive that made the score 7-0 after Kris Brown's extra point.
After the Bucs' second possession, Rosenfels engineered another scoring drive. Walker picked up four yards on his first career carry. On third-and-six from the Houston 31, former Texans 2002 draft pick Greg White sacked Rosenfels to force a fumble that was recovered by defensive tackle Jovan Haye.
Five plays and 25 yards later, the score was tied 7-7 after Graham's four-yard touchdown run off the right tackle.
Houston started its third series of the game with 10:57 left before halftime. Johnson's 11-yard catch moved the offense near midfield before wide receiver André Davis was stopped short of the first down on third-and-eight from the Houston 42.
Demps forced the Bucs' first turnover when he tackled Hilliard at the Tampa Bay 26 after a 10-yard catch. Demps recovered the ball and was stopped after a three-yard gain with 6:05 left before halftime. Walter's eight-yard touchdown catch helped give the Texans a 14-7 lead that the team carried into halftime.
Davis sparked the Texans in the second half by returning the opening kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown, tip-toeing down the Texans' sideline to help make the score 21-7 (
The Bucs didn't flinch, though. Behind two big pass plays that resulted in 38 total yards, Tampa Bay cut their deficit to a touchdown thanks to a four-play, 69-yard drive over 2:08. Graham scored on an 11-yard touchdown run.
Starting left guard Chester Pitts was helped off the field on the next series with an injury. Right tackle Eric Winston replaced Pitts, and tackle Rashad Butler took Winston's spot at right tackle. But on the next series with 9:40 remaining in the third quarter, Pitts returned to the lineup. Rosenfels marched the offense to the Tampa Bay 18 before White sacked him for a seven-yard loss and forced a fumble that Haye recovered.
Houston returned the favor moments later when McCown fumbled a snap out of shotgun formation and Brown recovered the loose ball for a 19-yard gain to the Tampa Bay 17. A nine-yard catch by Johnson gave Houston a first down at the four-yard line at the end of the fourth quarter. On the next play, Daniels' four-yard touchdown extended the Texans' lead to 28-14.
Linebacker Morlon Greenwood's sack for an eight-yard loss to the Houston 40 forced the Bucs into a third-and-24 situation. An incomplete pass by McCown forced the Bucs' fifth punt of the game.
Walker began to carry the Texans by picking up four rushing yards on three tough carries and catching three passes for 17 yards on the ensuing series that ate up more than six minutes of game clock.
A six-yard loss on defensive end Earl Cochran's sack put Tampa Bay in a third-and-16 situation at their 13-yard line. After another incomplete pass by McCown, the Bucs were forced to punt for the third time in their last four possessions.
Williams thwarted the Bucs' final scoring attempt when he sacked McCown for a 13-yard loss at the Houston 20 with less than a minute left in the contest. A subsequent incomplete pass on fourth down gave the Texans possession and, ultimately, their sixth win of the season.
Next up for Houston is a Thursday night game versus the Denver Broncos on the NFL Network. Winston couldn't be more excited.
"There's nothing that energizes you like a win, and then you get a chance to go out there and we're going for .500 now," Winston said. "We're 6-7, going for .500. This team's never been .500 this late in the year. And we said at the beginning of the season, 'Yes, we want to make the playoffs, but we want to be a winner,' and this is our next step to being a winner."