TAMPA, Fla. -In the final audition before Saturday's league-wide roster cuts, quarterback Rex Grossman and wide receiver Jacoby Jones stole the show. Grossman threw two touchdown passes in three quarters and Jones set a Texans single-game preseason record with 148 receiving yards on just three catches to lead Houston to a 27-20 victory in the preseason finale at Raymond James Stadium.
Grossman, who hadn't played since the preseason opener at Kansas City because of a hamstring injury, went 9-of-16 for 197 yards with a 139.8 passer rating. The former Chicago Bears starter led the Texans on five consecutive scoring drives in the second and third quarters, greatly increased his chances of making the team.
"I was very impressed," coach Gary Kubiak said. "You could see signs of that during camp whenever he was working that first seven or eight days. Obviously, he knows what this league is about. He knows how to make plays. It sure as heck helped him."
The Texans' defense did its part by limiting the Buccaneers to six points on three trips inside the five-yard line. The Texans also had four takeaways, which tied a team preseason record.
Jones' breakthrough performance included an 87-yard touchdown in the second quarter on Grossman's second play of the game. On the play, Jones sprinted past his defender and ran untouched down the left sideline to put the Texans up 7-3.
"Once I found it, I just thought, 'Catch the ball,'" Jones said. "It hit my hand and I just thought, 'I'm not getting caught; don't get caught.'"
Grossman threw an 11-yard touchdown pass to rookie tight end James Casey on the Texans' next possession. Running back Arian Foster, who finished with a game-high 16 carries for 49 yards (3.1 avg.), had 16 rushing yards on the drive.
Safety John Busing also had a big night. He intercepted Bucs quarterback Josh Johnson early in the third quarter and returned the ball 27 yards to the one-yard line. The play set up running back Andre Hall's one-yard touchdown, which put the Texans ahead 24-10. Busing also recovered a muffed punt at the Tampa Bay 36-yard yard line in the fourth quarter.
Kicker Kris Brown made two field goals, a 19-yarder in the second quarter and a 45-yarder in the third. He finished the preseason six-of-six on field goals.
Brown's first field goal was set up by linebacker Kevin Bentley's interception of quarterback Josh Freeman at the Tampa Bay 15-yard line. Receiver Glenn Martinez helped position the Texans for Brown's second field goal, catching two passes for 35 yards on a nine-play scoring drive, the Texans' fifth consecutive under Grossman.
The game started as a turnover fest, with the Texans and Bucs combining for three on two plays early in the first quarter. On the Texans' second play from scrimmage, rookie tight end Anthony Hill lost a fumble after an eight-yard reception. Cornerback Brice McCain intercepted rookie quarterback Josh Freeman at the 36-yard line on the next play, but McCain fumbled the ball and it was recovered by the Bucs.
"There were a lot of young players playing," Kubiak said. "It was a little sloppy early, but then it settled down and it was a good, competitive football game. I think we both got some good work out of it."
After the early turnover exchange, the Bucs scored on a 20-yard Mike Nugent field goal to take a 3-0 lead. The Texans' defense stopped the Bucs from getting into the end zone after Tampa had first-and-goal from the five-yard line.
Tampa didn't score again until the waning moments of the first half. Freeman hit wide receiver Cortez Hankton for a 23-yard touchdown pass with eight seconds remaining in the second quarter, trimming the Texans' lead to 17-10.
A 24-yard field goal by Nugent in the third quarter made the score 24-13. The Bucs had first-and-goal from the three-yard line, but cornerback Mark Parson deflected Johnson's pass toward the end zone on third down to force the field goal. It was the second time that the Bucs had first-and-goal from inside the five-yard line and came away with only three points.
The Bucs got within seven points with eight minutes left on a 14-yard touchdown pass from Johnson to tight end Ryan Purvis. But the Texans' defense held its ground in the game's final minutes, denying the Bucs a chance for the tying or winning score.
With less than two minutes to play, the Texans stopped Tampa on three consecutive plays from the three-yard line to force a turnover on downs. Defensive tackle Frank Okam sacked Johnson for a four-yard loss on fourth-and-goal from the three to give the Texans the ball and effectively end the game.
Dan Orlovsky started at quarterback and played the first quarter, finishing 5-of-7 for 51 yards with a 51.4 passer rating. He threw an interception at the Tampa Bay 35-yard line late in the first quarter on a pass intended for Hill. The ball was deflected by linebacker Bo Ruud before cornerback Torrie Cox came down with it, killing a 44-yard drive.
Twenty-one Texans players, most of them starters, sat out of the game. That included rookie linebacker Brian Cushing and quarterback Matt Schaub, who both hope to be healthy for the season opener against the New York Jets on Sept. 13.
The Texans will have plenty of film to look at before cutting their roster down to 53 players by the league's deadline of 5 p.m. on Saturday.
"All our backups, they played the whole game," Kubiak said. "So we will see 50-60 snaps; we're not going to get just 10-12."
Injuries:Hill left the game early in the first quarter after taking a hard hit over the middle courtesy of safety Will Allen. He later returned to the game...Jones left the game in the second quarter due to heat-induced fatigue. He went to the locker room to cool down and returned to the game before the end of the first half...linebacker Toddrick Verdell was injured early in the fourth quarter with a dislocated right shoulder. He did not return.