DETROIT – The Texans played almost 10 quarters of football in a five-day span. They emerged with two victories and a 10-1 record.
Less than 96 hours after beating the Jacksonville Jaguars in overtime at Reliant Stadium, the Texans outlasted the Detroit Lions in a Thanksgiving Day thriller at Ford Field. Kicker Shayne Graham made a 32-yard field goal with 2:25 remaining in overtime to win the game 34-31. The Texans became the first team in NFL history to win two overtime games in five days.
"It looked a lot like last week, but this group refuses to go down," Texans coach Gary Kubiak said. "I'm very proud of their effort. I don't know that I've ever been a part of playing that much football in such a short period of time, so tremendous job.
"This football team just believes, it keeps battling, and good things tend to happen to it."
Both teams turned the ball over once and missed field goals in overtime after the game had gone to sudden death. Graham missed wide left from 51 yards with 9:43 remaining in the extra period. Lions kicker Jason Hanson was no good off the right upright from 47 yards with 4:35 remaining. Two minutes later, Graham rebounded with the fifth game-winner of his career.
"When you have about 15 monkeys on your back and you get 'em all off at once, it's a pretty good feeling," said Graham, who missed a 47-yarder at the end of regulation against Jacksonville. "No matter what happened earlier in the overtime period or anything, all I wanted was another chance. It felt good to get it, and then it felt really good to convert it."
Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson had nine catches for 188 yards, outdueling Detroit's Calvin Johnson, who had eight catches for 140. Defensive end J.J. Watt had three sacks and two passes defensed. Two of his sacks came on third down on back-to-back drives in the fourth quarter, both times knocking the Lions out of field goal range.
The Texans sent the game to overtime with a 15-play, 97-yard scoring drive in the closing minutes. Matt Schaub connected with Johnson four times for 64 yards on the drive before Arian Foster finished it off with a one-yard touchdown run, tying the game at 31 with 1:55 remaining.
It was the second consecutive game in which the Texans scored a touchdown in the final two minutes to force overtime.
"We've been doing it all year," said Foster, who had 102 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries. "We believe. We keep fighting. We have great leadership, and when players keep showing resiliency, man, good things happen… There's something special about this team."
Running back Justin Forsett scored on a controversial 81-yard touchdown in the third quarter that brought the Texans within 24-21. Forsett's knee and elbow hit the ground after an eight-yard gain, but the whistle never blew and he kept running all the way to the end zone. Because Lions head coach Jim Schwartz illegally challenged the play, it was not reviewable and the points remained on the board.
"A rule's a rule," Kubiak said. "I know one thing, you've got to keep your flag tucked in your pocket. That's all I know."
Playing without Pro Bowl cornerback Johnathan Joseph, who was inactive with a hamstring injury, the Texans trailed 21-14 at halftime. Calvin Johnson had 103 receiving yards and Stafford had 246 passing yards in the first half, with touchdown passes to Johnson and wide receiver Mike Thomas. Foster and tight end Owen Daniels scored in the first half for the Texans. The Lions scored two rushing touchdowns in the game, the first two allowed by the Texans all season.
Just like on Sunday against Jacksonville, the Texans' defense struggled early but stepped up in crunch time. They allowed just 10 points on nine possessions after halftime. The Lions crossed midfield on each of their final six drives and came away with zero points.
"Ten quarters in five days is draining, physically and mentally, but our team persevered," Watt said. "There were a lot of obstacles, a lot of times teams when people could've counted us out, (when) people could've said, 'Hey, it's just not their day.' But we found a way to make it work… (I) couldn't be prouder of our team. Couldn't be more thankful to be on this squad."
On the first play of overtime, Stafford completed a 40-yard pass to Ryan Broyles to the Houston 40-yard line. The Lions then gained eight yards on a catch by tight end Brandon Pettigrew, which would have put Hanson comfortably in field goal range, but safety Danieal Manning pried the ball loose for a fumble that was recovered by linebacker Darryl Sharpton.
Graham missed his 51-yard attempt on the next drive, giving the Lions the ball at their own 41-yard line. Stafford completed a 14-yard pass to tight end Tony Scheffler two plays later to the Houston 45, but the Texans did not allow another yard from there before forcing a punt.
Five plays later, Schaub was picked off at the Houston 43 by cornerback Chris Houston, who returned the ball to the 41. Scheffler caught a 14-yard pass to the 28. From there, nose tackle Earl Mitchell tackled running back Joique Bell after a gain of two. Rookie linebacker Whitney Mercilus tackled Bell for a three-yard loss, pushing Hanson's field goal to a 47-yard attempt.
Hanson's miss kept the Texans alive, and they won the game six plays later. Schaub completed passes of 15 yards to fullback James Casey, 23 yards to Johnson and 11 yards to Casey, Schaub set up Graham for his game-winning field goal.
The Texans played without Joseph, nose tackle Shaun Cody, inside linebacker and special teams captain Tim Dobbins, running back Ben Tate and wide receiver DeVier Posey. They overcame injuries during the game to outside linebacker Brooks Reed, inside linebacker Bradie James, right tackle Derek Newton, right guard Antoine Caldwell and tight end Garrett Graham.
Watt said Kubiak gave everyone on the team a game ball in the postgame locker room.
"It took everybody," Watt said. "All the scout team guys preparing us in the short week, all the coaches, all the players. Every single person on this team contributed to these two victories."