Texans lose early lead, fall to Pittsburgh 30-23

The Houston Texans have been plagued by slow starts in 2014. That wasn't the case on Monday night, as the Texans got off to a hot start but lost steam early. A touchdown drive in the final minutes of the game wasn't enough as Houston fell 30-23 to the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field.

"We had a terrible second quarter," head coach Bill O'Brien said after the game. "We couldn't come back from it. Just too many turnovers. We just had a hard time overcoming all of those things. But at the end of the day, we were one onside kick away from tying it. So we are trying to take some positive out of it but we have to coach it better. We have to play a lot better."

After jumping to an early 13-0 advantage, a nightmarish end to the first half put Houston in a 24-13 hole at the intermission. Three turnovers, two deep in Texans' territory, plus costly penalties saw the Steelers peel off 24 points to take a lead they'd never relinquish.

Despite the loss, Arian Foster had his third-consecutive 100-yard rushing performance. Foster rumbledfor 102 yards on 20 carries and added one receiving touchdown on the night. Ryan Fitzpatrick completed 21-of-32 passes for 262 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception.

Jadeveon Clowney worked out before the game but was ruled inactive. Whitney Mercilus had two sacks, a pass defensed, and a forced fumble in Clowney's place. J.J. Watt had a sack for a loss of nine yards and a fumble recovery that resulted in a scoring drive for Houston.

The Texans scored on their first three series to open the game, even picking up an extra possession following a strip sack by Mercilus and the ensuing fumble recovery by Watt. But the Steelers scored 21 points in less than 1:30 to end the first half.

Despite being pinned at their own six-yard line, the Texans marched 94 yards down the field to score first on an 11-yard touchdown pass from Fitzpatrick to rookie Alfred Blue. Early in the drive, Fitzpatrick scrambled and found Damaris Johnson for a crucial 15-yard completion on third down. Foster added 59 yards on the drive, including a 33-yard gain immediately before the scoring play.

On the Texans next two possessions, Randy Bullock added a pair of field goals from 39 and 38 yards, consecutively. The Texans led 13-0 with 7:16 remaining in the second quarter.

Mistakes began piling up in the final minutes of the first half. Following a field goal and touchdown on back-to-back drives, the Steelers added two more scores on as many turnovers committed by the Texans deep in their own territory. 

With 1:27 left in the second quarter, Danieal Manning fumbled but recovered the ball on the kickoff.

The Texans began the drive deep in their own territory and Foster's fumble on the three-yard line set up the Steelers second touchdown drive. Antonio Brown threw the Steelers second touchdown on a trick play, a three-yard pass to Lance Moore. Pittsburgh led for the first time all night, 17-13 with 1:03 left.

On Houston's next possession, Fitzpatrick's pass, intended for Foster, was tipped and intercepted by Steelers defensive end Brett Keisel.

"I think Keisel tipped it on the line and then it hit the linebacker and Kiesel ended up intercepting it," Fitzpatrick said. "We had the turnover on the possession before and went out there really just trying to get three points out of that drive. We had a decent play with Arian (Foster) matched up and it's not a good feeling to see the ball get tipped like that."

Roethlisberger's two-yard pass to Le'Veon Bell was the third score for Pittsburgh in the final two minutes of the second quarter. Roethlisberger finished the game completing 23-of-32 for 265 yards and two touchdowns. Bell rushed for 57 yards on 12 carries but also added 88 receiving yards on 8 catches and one touchdown.

Bullock added his third field goal of the night, a 31-yarder in the fourth quarter. Suisham kicked a pair of field goals from 30 and 40 yards, giving Pittsburgh a 14-point lead with 3:04 left in the game. His second field goal ended a drive that began with the Texans third turnover of the night, a fumble by DeAndre Hopkins recovered by Troy Polamalu.

"I was just trying to get extra, trying to get more than I should," Hopkins said. "I wasn't aware of the defender that stripped it. Just bad awareness and ball control on my behalf."

Fitzpatrick's one-yard touchdown pass to Foster kept the Texans within one score, trailing 30-23 with 1:31 remaining in the fourth quarter. Randy Bullock attempted an onside kick following the score but Pittsburgh recovered.

"It's terrible to lose," O'Brien said. "It's not good to lose, but my point is to these players in the locker room, is that with all those things that we did wrong, if we can fix those things that we're doing wrong, especially turning the ball over twice inside the five-yard line. If we could fix those things, maybe we would have a shot, a better shot to win. It's awful to lose. It's not good to come close. There are no moral victories. But we have to fix these things. We have to coach it better, and we have to play better."

The (3-4) Texans travel to Tennessee to take on the (2-5) Titans in Week 8.

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