It wasn't a must-win game exactly, but the Houston Texans' playoff hopes took a body blow today after dropping a close game against the Buffalo Bills.
After allowing just 35 points the last four games, the defense ceded 30 to to the Bills, putting the game out of reach for an efficient but modest offense.
Brian Hoyer threw for 293 yards and three scores but couldn't convert key third downs late in the game. The Texans were held scoreless in the second half for all but one brilliant drive led by the team's star receiver.
After getting held to just six yards in three quarters, DeAndre Hopkins decided it was time to make his presence known. Down by 8 in the fourth quarter, Hoyer let Nuk carry the offense directly into the endzone, leading to a game-tying 2-point conversion. Receptions of 23, 29 and 19 yards gave the team a crucial momentum swing. The score was also his 10th, putting Hopkins in the Texans' record books for touchdown catches in a single season. (Yep, as good as Andre Johnson was for Houston, he never broke double digit touchdowns in one year.)
But that was the only sustained drive the Houston offense could muster in the second half. Rex Ryan's exotic blitzes put the pressure on Hoyer while keeping a spry running game in check.
After Hopkins' touchdown and a game-typing 2-point conversion, the defense finally buckled. A wide-open Charles Clay broke free for a 40-yard score late in the 4th quarter, giving the Bills the lead and a win.
It was a well-executed gameplan that stretched the Texans' defense in all directions.
LeSean McCoy and Tyrod Taylor stretched the defense horizontally, shredding the Texans on edge runs for 134 yards in the first half alone. The duo finished the game with 140 of the team's 187 rushing yards against some atrocious edge-setting by the Texans' linebackers (most notably John Simon).
Meanwhile, Sammy Watkins (three catches, 109 yards, 1 TD) stretched the defense vertically, catching deep bombs of 53 and 52 yards, the former setting up a Bills touchdown in the 2nd quarter; the latter setting up a Dan Carpenter missed field goal. Watkins also caught a three-yard touchdown early in the first quarter.
And finally Tyrod Taylor's scrambling ability stretched the defense in the fourth dimension. The elusive fifth-year quarterback bought himself time on many occasions, hitting receivers downfield, picking up yards with his feet, or averting disaster by throwing the ball away.
It wasn't meant to be. The game felt like the Bills should have won by more. Multiple lucky breaks and Bills penalties kept the Texans around until the Bills finally put them away.
The loss puts a wildcard berth a bit further out of reach (with no tiebreakers), but the division crown is well within play. Discuss the loss and the Texans' future down below.
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