The Houston Texans won their first game in nearly 11 months with a 32-7 win over the Atlanta Falcons at home.
It was the first time in Texans preseason history that offense, defense, and special teams all scored in a game.
Ryan Fitzpatrick orchestrated two touchdown-scoring drives. Special teams deflected a field goal and scored on a punt return. The Texans defense recorded a pick-six.
"I thought the coaches, we did better, but it's a long way from where it needs to be," head coach Bill O'Brien said. "We are trying to get better every week."
It may have only been preseason, but the win boosted a team that was without starters J.J. Watt, Duane Brown, Chris Myers, Andre Johnson, Arian Foster, Johnathan Joseph, and Brian Cushing. Penalties continued to plague the Texans who committed 15 for 117 yards on the night.
Fitzpatrick, who left the game after the Texans' first touchdown, returned with less than two minutes remaining in the first half. He finished 9-of-12 for 97 yards, one touchdown, and a passer rating of 126.0.
"I was disappointed in myself last week," Fitzpatrick said Saturday night. "I think the team too, laying a goose egg and all that. We had a bad taste in our mouth and so getting out there and getting a decent effort today, certainly a better feeling in the locker room."
Tom Savage replaced Fitzpatrick for two series and then re-entered the game in the fourth quarter. Case Keenum, who started the second half for the Texans, completed 6-of-9 passes for 81 yards, and one interception.
The momentum started with Jadeveon Clowney, who played just two series in the first quarter but recorded two tackles and a big sack on Falcons starting quarterback Matt Ryan.
Clowney's first NFL sack came on the Falcons' second drive of the game. The No. 1 pick caused a nine-yard loss with a tackle on running back Antone Smith. The following play, he sacked Matt Ryan for a loss of seven yards.
"I can remember in other places I've been, when a guy makes a defensive play that's a big hit, it really lights up your sideline," O'Brien said. "So it's great for the defense, it's great for our team and I thought it helped our whole sideline."
Rookie running back Alfred Blue scored the Texans' first touchdown of the day on a one-yard run to end a 12-play, 69-yard drive. Houston led 7-0, following a 33-yard extra point attempt by Randy Bullock.
"I just go out there every game and every practice trying to impress the coaches and show them that I can be a valuable assest to this team," Blue said.
The Falcons, who were forced to punt on their first four drives of the game, tied the score with 1:32 remaining in the second quarter. Matt Ryan was replaced by backup quarterback Sean Renfree who connected with Devin Hester on a 12-yard touchdown pass. Penalties were an issue for the Texans who were flagged on three-consecutive plays on Atlanta's only scoring drive.
Following the Texans first touchdown, Savage replaced Fitzpatrick for the next two offensive series. He completed 3 of 4 passes for just four yards but Fitzpatrick would re-enter the game just before the end of the first half and run a two-minute drill.
Fitzpatrick orchestrated a 7-play, 74-yard drive that ended in an 8-yard touchdown pass to DeVier Posey. Posey, starting for Andre Johnson, scored with just 19 seconds remaining to give the Texans a 13-7 lead. Chris Boswell, former Rice University kicker, missed the extra point attempt.
The Texans face the Atlanta Falcons at NRG Stadium in Preseason Game 2.
Case Keenum started the second half for the Texans and marched the offense down the field on the opening drive of the third quarter. Keenum completed a deep 18-yard pass to Travis Labhart and consecutive 12-yard throws to Keshawn Martin to extend the drive. Randy Bullock's 40-yard field goal extended the Texans' lead to 9. Houston led 16-7 with 10:20 left in the third quarter.
The Texans first and only turnover occurred at the start of the fourth quarter. Keenum's pass, intended for Ryan Griffin, was intercepted by Falcons safety Kemal Ishmael. T.J. Yates, who took over at quarterback for Atlanta, was unable to convert the turnover into points and went three-and-out on his first series.
Tight end Anthony Denham deflected the ensuing punt, which sailed just 13 yards. It was scooped up by Jonathan Grimes and returned 17 yards for a touchdown. Bullock's extra point was good and the Texans led 23-7.
"I was actually trying to scoop it up but he beat me to it," Denham said. "Grimes beat me to it so I tried to be a team player and I made key block for him."
The Texans defense scored on a pick-six off Yates. Rookie safety Andre Hal intercepted Yates' pass on the following drive and returned it 64 yards for a touchdown. Boswell missed his second extra point but did convert a field goal from the same distance, 33 yards, with 3:18 left in the game.
Houston won its preseason home opener at NRG Stadium 32-7 and will head to Denver for three joint practices and their third preseason game against the Broncos.