The Texans never gave up.
Despite losing their emotional leader, linebacker DeMeco Ryans, in the first half and being gashed by the Kansas City Chiefs for 417 net yards, the Texans stared down a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter and didn't flinch.
Behind clutch efforts by quarterback Matt Schaub, wide receiver Andre Johnson and a host of other players, the Texans beat the Chiefs 35-31 by scoring 21 points in the final 12:06. Johnson's 11-yard touchdown grab in the back of the end zone with 28 seconds remaining proved to be the deciding score.
"My guys up front gave me time to step up and scramble out of the pocket and find Andre," Schaub said. "As soon as I scrambled out, I saw Andre break open in the back of the end zone and I tried to give him a chance to make the play."
Defensive end Mario Williams, who watched from the sideline, summed up the play succinctly.
"It's just Andre making a great play as normal," Williams said. "It definitely lifted up the team. The whole stadium was rocking. It was amazing."
By no means was the victory pretty. Playing with only three linebackers for the entire second half, the Texans had trouble matching up against Kansas City's rushing attack, which totaled 228 yards and a score. The defense also allowed a 42-yard passing touchdown to wide receiver Dwayne Bowe.
After the game, coach Gary Kubiak announced that Ryans will miss the rest of the season with an injured Achilles on his left foot.
"We've got to decide who's going to lead our defense in the middle," Kubiak said. "We're not playing well on defense. We're struggling."
The usual suspects on offense helped the Texans overcome the defensive lapses. Schaub and Johnson connected five times for 87 yards and a score in the second half, while running back Arian Foster scored twice in the fourth quarter.
Schaub finished with 305 yards on 25-of-33 passing with two touchdowns and no interceptions.
"I just think we showed tremendous heart and it was all led by our quarterback, who was absolutely spectacular," Kubiak said. "You can't win games in this league unless your quarterback is special, and ours was special today."
The Texans traded touchdowns with the Chiefs to begin the game before Bowe pulled in a 17-yard scoring pass from quarterback Matt Cassel with 13 seconds before halftime. On that play, Ryans suffered the injury as he dropped back into coverage.
The Chiefs controlled the ball for nearly 18 minutes in the first half and outgained Houston by 78 yards.
"We only ran (21) plays," Kubiak said. "Unless you're getting 10 yards a pop, it's hard to be effective. We couldn't get them off the field. We couldn't get the ball."
Midway through the third quarter, Bowe broke several tackles in the secondary for his long touchdown reception to give Kansas City a 21-7 lead.
With the game slipping away, Ttexans running back Derrick Ward re-energized the 70,926 fans at Reliant Stadium with a 38-yard touchdown run off the left tackle. When cornerback Brice McCain broke up a third-down pass on the next series to force a 24-yard field goal, it gave the Texans a boost of confidence.
The crowd rose to its feet after Foster scored his first touchdown to cut the Texans' deficit to 24-21 with 12:10 on the game clock. But the Chiefs responded with a nine-play, 70-yard drive that running back Thomas Jones capped with an 11-yard touchdown run.
Foster's second score set up the most crucial series of the game for the Texans' defense. With 2:36 left to play, safety Eugene Wilson blanketed tight end Tony Moeaki to force an incompletion on third-and-two from the Kansas City 41.
The ensuing punt led to the Texans' game-winning 80-yard drive. On the last play of the game, Texans defensive tackle Amobi Okoye sacked quarterback Matt Cassel to prevent a Hail Mary pass as time expired. "It was a hard-fought game, but we found a way to win," Williams said. "When the plays really mattered, we came through and we made them. It was a great victory."
The Texans welcome their bye week, which allows the team to lick its wounds before they face the Indianapolis Colts Nov. 1 on ESPN Monday Night Football. Kubiak plans to address the Texans' linebacker depth immediately.
"I'm fixing to work on that as soon as I leave (the postgame interview room)," Kubiak said. "(General manager) Rick (Smith) and I have to sit down and work it out."