TAMPA – Raymond James Stadium was half-empty to begin with on Sunday. The Texans did their best to clear out the remaining Tampa Bay Buccaneers fans in a hurry.
Matt Schaub connected with Jacoby Jones for an 80-yard touchdown on the first play of the game, and the Texans didn't look back in a 37-9 rout. They're now 7-3 and the top seed in the AFC entering their bye week.
"I'm just excited of how hard we're playing, how we're playing as a team, how we're having new guys step up every week, new faces make plays," Texans coach Gary Kubiak said. "They don't care who gets the ball. They don't care who makes the play. They're all in it together."
Four different Texans offensive players scored a touchdown and four different defensive players forced a turnover against the Bucs, who were 3-1 at home and 4-4 overall.
The Texans' No. 1-ranked defense limited Tampa Bay to 231 yards, sacking quarterback Josh Freeman four times. He had been sacked 10 times all season coming into the game.
"They've been exceptional," Kubiak said. "They continue to make big plays… We've got somebody new making plays every week. It's exciting right now, and we need to continue to try to get better."
The Texans have won four consecutive games without star wide receiver Andre Johnson, who's slated to return from a hamstring injury after the bye. They controlled the ball for 35:06 on Sunday, piling up 185 yards on the ground.
Running back Arian Foster gashed the Bucs' 29th-ranked defense for 186 yards from scrimmage (84 rushing, 102 receiving) and two touchdowns. All three Texans running backs – Foster, Ben Tate and Derrick Ward – scored rushing touchdowns.
Foster juked two defensive backs out of their shoes on a 78-yard touchdown catch-and-run in the second quarter. That put the Texans up 16-0 and made Schaub the first quarterback with two 78-yard touchdown passes in one game since Brett Favre in 2007.
"It was a play-action pass, and it was a flat route," Foster said. "It's pretty routine; we run that play a lot. When you get the ball in your hands in this league, you're paid to make people miss, and I was just doing my job."
As is becoming the norm, the game was full of highlights from Wade Phillips' defense.
Linebacker Brian Cushing, who had a team-high eight tackles, stopped the Bucs' first drive with a sack on third down. With 1:45 left in the first half, cornerback Kareem Jackson broke up a jump ball in the end zone on fourth-and-two from the five-yard line. The Texans led 16-0 at the time.
The Bucs gained only one yard in the third quarter. Back-to-back sacks by outside linebackers Brooks Reed and Connor Barwin led to a punt on the first series of the second half. The Texans' offense answered with a five-yard rushing touchdown by Foster.
Barwin and rookie defensive end J.J. Watt teamed up to sack Freeman on the Bucs' next drive. Cushing picked off Freeman at the Tampa Bay 39-yard line on the next play, a pass that was knocked out of tight end Kellen Winslow's hands by cornerback Johnathan Joseph. Ward scored shortly afterward on a four-yard run, which made it 30-3 with 2:08 left in the third quarter.
Texans safety Quintin Demps intercepted a deflected pass at the Tampa 32-yard line with 8:15 remaining. Four plays later, Tate weaved his way to the end zone on an 11-yard touchdown run.
The Bucs brought in backup quarterback Josh Johnson for their next series, and he promptly fumbled his first snap. Linebacker Bryan Braman recovered for the Texans at the 20-yard line.
The Bucs' only scores came on a 55-yard field goal by Connor Barth at the end of the first half and a nine-yard touchdown catch by Preston Parker early in the fourth quarter. The touchdown came at the end of a 61-yard drive that was the Bucs' lone possession of the second half to net more than four yards.
Kubiak drew a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for challenging Parker's touchdown. Scoring plays are automatically reviewed and not eligible to be challenged. But Kubiak won a crucial challenge in the first quarter with the Texans up 6-0, overturning an apparent interception by Aqib Talib in the end zone on third-and-goal. The Texans wound up with a 22-yard field goal by Neil Rackers.
Backup quarterback Matt Leinart made his Texans debut midway through the fourth quarter. He handed off seven times and did not throw a pass.
The Texans now get a week to rest before beginning preparations for their Nov. 27 game at Jacksonville.
"With the bye week here, 7-3 with six games to play, we get a little break here because we have been going strong since the start of training camp," Schaub said. "It's some much-needed rest for a lot of guys, and the coaching staff. We'll come back off the bye and be ready to go. "