On a day when the Houston Texans were celebrating Robert C. McNair with a Ring of Honor ceremony, the team also honored the late founder, chairman and CEO with a big 53-32 win over the Atlanta Falcons.
"It's been stated so many times about how much he's meant to the city, to all the people that work here, how much the McNair family has contributed to so many parts of this city, and culturally, educationally, medically, what they've done for this city," head coach Bill O'Brien said after the game. "So it was important to go out there and play well today, which I think these guys did."
After finding the end zone just once last week, Deshaun Watson and the Texans bounced back with a high-powered performance that included 592 yards of offense. Watson completed 28-of-33 for 426 yards passing, five touchdowns, no interceptions and a perfect passer rating of 158.3. He also rushed for 47 yards on four carries.
"It's something that we wanted, we took pride, we took personal," Watson said. "We knew what we had to do, especially offensively. We had to go out there and execute, we had to bring the energy, play fast, do what we do and make sure that every time we touch the ball, we try to end with points. And the defense did their part in handling their own. It was a great team win."
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In the win, Will Fuller V caught three touchdowns, while Darren Fells snared two scores. Carlos Hyde had a team-high 60 yards rushing and one touchdown. The Texans defense recorded a turnover for their 18th consecutive contest. Tashaun Gipson Sr. picked off Matt Ryan in the fourth quarter and returned the interception 79 yards for a touchdown to seal the game. J.J. Watt and D.J. Reader each had a sack in the win. Watt paid tribute to the Astros with a familiar celebration.
The Falcons took an early 7-0 lead after Matt Ryan's 14-yard touchdown pass to Mohamed Sanu in the first quarter, their biggest lead of the day.
Watson threw two touchdown passes to Fuller in the first half. Fuller caught his first score of the 2019 season on a 6-yard touchdown pass to cap an 11-play, 75-yard scoring drive. Watson connected with Fuller again on the next offensive series, when the fourth-year wideout caught a 33-yard touchdown pass.
Ka'imi Fairbairn, who missed an extra point earlier, successfully kicked a 50-yard field goal to give the Texans a 16-10 lead with 4:02 left in the second quarter.
On Atlanta's final possession of the first half, Ryan found the end zone again on a nine-yard pass to Devonta Freeman. The Texans headed into halftime trailing 17-16.
The Texans kicked their game into high gear after coming out of the locker room.
In the third quarter, Houston's defense kept the Falcons scoreless while the offense scored on every possession of the second half.
Hyde rushed for a one-yard touchdown to cap off a seven-play, 75-yard scoring drive to start the third quarter.
"The offensive line did a great job today, especially when the double teams allow me to come downhill and hit it for a hard five," Hyde said. "Broke some runs today. Duke (Johnson) broke some good runs today. Thing were definitely clicking today for us."
After a 26-yard field goal by Fairbairn, the Texans took a 26-17 lead. Watson threw his third touchdown pass of the day to Fells. The Falcons were unable to score on their next possession but a muffed punt return would hand the ball back to Atlanta with a short field. Ryan scrambled for a one-yard score and added a successful two-point conversion to move them within one score, trailing 33-25 with 11:24 left in the fourth quarter.
Watson threw two more touchdown passes in the fourth quarter, his second to Fells and a third to Fuller. Fuller's 44-yard touchdown was his third score of the day, a new career-best.
"I love it," DeAndre Hopkins said. "Will putting in work, putting work in all season. Coming off injuries, a guy like that to come out and have that kind of game, I'm a proud big brother."
The Falcons next drive was cut short when Gipson picked off Ryan's pass, intended for Austin Hooper, and returned it 79 yards for a touchdown.
"I think as a DB, we don't get the ball that often so when you get the ball you want to try to score as often as possible," Gipson said.
The Texans improved to 3-2 on the season and will travel to Kansas City to face the Chiefs next Sunday.