Fred Faour

Texans defense finally shows up, roughs up Cowboys in 19-16 win

Tyrann Mathieu and the defense came up big. Bob Levey/Getty Images

Two weeks ago, the Texans had a 2.8 percent chance of making the playoffs after starting 0-3.

Today, they wake up with a 2-3 record, only one game out of the AFC South lead. 

In a tough, bruising, hard-fought game, the Texans outlasted the Dallas Cowboys, winning 19-16 in overtime.

Last week, the offense we had been waiting on all year finally showed up. And this week, Deshaun Watson put up some sexy numbers - 33 of 44 for 375 yards and a touchdown and one interception. Watson also rushed 10 times for 40 yards, but was pounded by the Dallas defense and was visibly shaken several times.

DeAndre Hopkins made the play of the game, with a tremendous individual effort on a 49-yard catch in overtime that led to the game-winning field goal. The Texans offense was really good, other than in the red zone. 

But the stars of this game were on the defensive side of the ball. And this week, the defense we had been waiting to see all season showed up. 

The Texans defense had been terrible through four games. But Sunday night, they put together their best effort in months. They held Zeke Elliot to just 54 yards on 27 carries for an average of 2.7. He added seven catches for 30 yards, but the Texans limited one of the best offensive weapons in football.

They were also physical throughout. They only sacked Dak Prescott twice, but that was a credit to the quarterback's elusiveness. They constantly got pressure and forced contested throws. He managed just 208 yards passing and one TD.

The most impressive part of the performance was the much maligned secondary. They attacked routes. They covered well. Most importantly, they did something they had not done since Week 1 - pick off a pass. In fact, they got two. 

The stars were plenty on this night. J.J. Watt had another sack, his sixth of the season. Jadeveon Clowney split one with Bernardrick McKinney. Zach Cunningham played his best game, including a huge stop in overtime. Kareem Jackson had an interception and was terrific in run support. So, too, was Tyrann Matthieu. Even Jonathan Joseph had three passes defensed. Rookie safety Justin Reid made several plays, including an interception. 

As a team, they held Dallas to 4 of 14 on third down, an achilles heel all year for the Texans. 

To put it simply, a group that had been a joke for four games finally won a game for the Texans. They were tough, physical and made plays. And they had to, because Dallas' defense matched their effort, and almost their performance. 

The end result? That 2.8 percent is looking a lot more possible. And if this defense can show up the rest of the season, the Texans might still make some noise. 

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TEXANS HAVE ZERO DEPTH AT CORNER

Here's what Davante Adams' big day against the Texans really proved

Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images

Seven weeks into the season, Bradley Roby has been the sole bright spot playing for a secondary that has been subpar at best. He entered Week 7 against the Green Bay Packers trailing only Eric Murray for the most tackles as a defensive back, while owning the Houston Texans' only interception of the season.

During his media availability on Thursday, Roby spoke about having the Texans' confidence to trust him as the primary defender shadowing the opposing team's best receiver.

And with Davante Adams coming to NRG Stadium with Aaron Rodgers on Sunday, Roby had an opportunity to illustrate why Houston's coaching staff have so much faith in him.

Three plays into the game, Roby sustained a knee injury that sidelined him the rest of the afternoon. In his absence, the Texans felt his importance competing with a depleted secondary.

Adams would go on to have a career day against the Texans. He recorded a career-best 196 receiving yards on 13-of-18 targets and two touchdowns — as the Packers handed the Texans a 35-20 loss on Sunday.

Had the Fort Worth native avoided the injury, would it have resulted in a victory for the Texans? Perhaps not. It is always hard for a team to come away victorious after going scoreless during the first half, but Roby would have limited the destruction caused by Adams. Rogers completed four deep passes where he recorded 28 or more yards, with Adams being the recipient of three.

Not only did Houston have to deal with the effects of not having their best corner shadow one of the league's premier receivers, but the team was not prepared to battle without Roby, according to Michael Thomas following the loss.

"When you lose your starting corner like that, it's going to affect [the team]," Thomas said. "Anytime you have to make adjustments. If you're not prepared, and you don't have the right mindset, then you're probably not going to get the right results you want. Maybe we could have done it a little sooner, but you definitely miss a guy like Roby. You plan on having your number one guy go against their number one guy all the time."

Roby's premature exit left the Texans with a gaping void to slowdown Rodgers and the Packers without two of their projected starting corners. Gareon Conley — who revived his career during the second half of last season — has yet to play a single snap for Houston in 2020 as he continues to recover from offseason ankle surgery.

Their lackluster performance on Sunday showcased the lack of depth and talent the Texans have in the secondary. And with the trade deadline a week away, it may be in the Texans' best interest to invest in a young defensive back they can build around in the future — especially considering the timetable on Conley's return remains unknown.

Interim head coach Romeo Crennel said on Monday that the team is hoping Roby's injury is short-term and hopes to have their top corner make his return following the bye.

At 1-6 on the year, all the Texans have left to play for is pride as they close out the remaining nine games of the season, and the best way is to prevent another receiver from recording nearly 200 yards in a single game.

For this vulnerable secondary, it is a feat easier said than done. And with the talents of Jarvis Landry, T.Y. Hilton, and A.J. Brown remaining on the schedule, it is only best for Roby to make his return to the field sooner rather than later.

"I take pride in it. It's an opportunity that not a lot of guys get throughout the league, and I'm thankful for that. Just to be able to go against the best and try my best for the team and see how I match up. I'm very thankful for that." — Roby.

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