The Houston Texans started Week 3 down bad.
Not even a month into the NFL season, the team has 12 players on injured reserve (the most in the league). Four offensive linemen missed the game due to injury: left tackle Laremy Tunsil, center Juice Scruggs, left guard Kenyon Green, and right tackle Tytus Howard. Also out were three defensive backs, including cornerback Derek Stingley, Jr. (Like Scruggs, he has a hamstring injury that landed him on IR.) Yet somehow, the Texans prevailed. They stunned the Jacksonville Jaguars, winning on the road in a historic game.
It took a while to get the offenses rolling. Houston went three-and-out to start the game; on 4th down, Jaguars kicker Brandon McManus missed a 48-yard field goal. The score remained tied at zero. But Houston responded by going 62 yards in just seven plays; quarterback C.J. Stroud threw a 46-yard pass to rookie wide receiver Tank Dell. In his first year out of the University of Houston, Dell made yet another unbelievable grab, taking the Texans to first and goal. Two plays later, Texans running back Dameon Pierce rushed in for the touchdown.
Neither Houston nor Jacksonville scored any points on their next drives. And things got worse for the Jaguars as the first quarter ended. McManus’ 51-yard field goal attempt was blocked by Texans linebacker Will Anderson. Linebacker Jake Hansen recovered, setting up the Texans for another scoring drive.
Stroud got to work immediately, finding receiver Robert Woods for a 17-yard gain. On 3rd down, he again connected with Dell for a first-down completion. Then, on first and 15, Stroud ran for 11 yards to the six-yard line. After a two-yard rush by Pierce, Stroud tossed to tight end Brevin Jordan for the touchdown.
Each team punted before the Jaguars’ last drive of the half. On 3rd and 10, Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence avoided pressure and completed a pass to receiver Jamal Agnew. But Agnew was hit immediately by Texans defender Eric Murray, who knocked the ball out. Houston linebacker Blake Cashman recovered.
It took nine plays and four timeouts, but Houston ended the half with another scoring drive. With only 11 seconds left, Stroud tossed to Nico Collins who broke through several tackles to pick up 26 yards after the catch. He pulled inside the 10-yard line. That set up a 28-yard field goal by Fairbairn, who drilled the kick just before time expired. The Texans led the Jaguars 17-0 at halftime.
Jacksonville continued to struggle early in the second half. They got help from running back Travis Etienne, and later Lawrence passed to receiver Calvin Ridley in the end zone. Newly arrived Texans cornerback Jimmie Ward broke up the pass, but refs flagged Ward for pass interference. That penalty occurred in the end zone, so Jacksonville got the ball at the one-yard line. From there, running back Tank Bigsby rolled in easily for the touchdown.
On 3rd and 6th, Lawrence attempted to run for a first down but was unable to do so. The Jaguars settled for a field goal. This time, McManus was good from 33 yards out. The Texans, up 17 to 10, led by just seven points. But not for long.
On the ensuing kickoff, fullback Andrew Beck bobbled the ball, dropped it, picked it back up, and ran. Beck broke five tackles, running across the field and down the sideline for an incredible 90-yard touchdown.
This play was one for the books. Beck, a 255-lb. fullback from Tampa, Florida, became the heaviest player in NFL history to return a kickoff for a touchdown. “It didn’t start off great, but we kind of rallied around it,” Beck said. “I’m just fortunate that I could help the team out and get the win.” His masterful play helped the Texans build a commanding 24-10 lead.
And they weren’t done yet. With 2:20 remaining in the third quarter, the Texans defense came up big against the Jaguars. Lawrence was intercepted at midfield by Blake Cashman. The Texans took over and Brevin Jordan dove forward for a first down towards the end of the third quarter.
Early in the 4th, Fairbairn drilled a 26-yard field goal to put the Texans ahead 27 to 10. As the final quarter ticked on, Lawrence completed passes to Agnew and to receiver Calvin Ridley. Then he threw to a wide-open Christian Kirk for a 26-yard touchdown. Stroud answered with a similar play, hurling the ball to a wide-open Tank Dell for a 68-yard score.
The Texans added to their lead late in the fourth with a 33-yard kick by Fairbairn. The Houston Texans notched their first win of the season, improving to 1-2. The makeshift offensive line actually protected the quarterback this time, after allowing an NFL-worst 11 sacks in the first two weeks. And Stroud completed 67% of his passes, throwing for 280 yards and two touchdowns. He is now the first quarterback in NFL history to have at least 900 passing yards, four pass touchdowns and zero interceptions in his first three career starts, per ESPN Stats.
And he scored his first career win in the NFL. It’s also the first win of the season for Houston and for head coach Demeco Ryans. “It was awesome to see: all three phases, working together, making plays,” Ryans said after the game. “I’m just proud of those guys for responding the right way.”