|Date of game: 9/28/2014
Recap: Houston vs. Buffalo
Houston, TX (SportsNetwork.com) - J.J. Watt came up with the play of the day, a tide-turning 80-yard interception return touchdown early in the third quarter that spurred the Houston Texans to a 23-17 win over the Buffalo Bills at NRG Stadium.
The Texans trailed 10-7 at halftime and were in danger of falling behind further after Buffalo linebacker Nigel Bradham intercepted Ryan Fitzpatrick deep in Houston territory on the opening play of the third quarter. The Bills got down to the Texans' 12 when Watt snuck into the flat and made a spectacular one-handed grab of E.J. Manuel's short pass attempt, then raced untouched all the way to the end zone for the momentum-shifting score.
"You don't get to be Defensive Player of the Year without having an impact on a lot of football games," Bills head coach Doug Marrone said of Watt. "Obviously, he had an impact in this game."
Later on, Darryl Morris picked off Manuel with just over a minute left to seal Houston's fourth 3-1 start in the past five seasons.
Randy Bullock helped keep the Bills at bay by booting three second-half field goals, including a career-long 55-yarder. DeAndre Hopkins hauled in a 35-yard touchdown pass earlier from Fitzpatrick, who shook off a pair of interceptions to put up 268 yards on a 25-of-37 completion rate.
Manuel threw a pair of touchdown passes, including an 80-yarder to Mike Williams in the fourth quarter, but made good on just 21-of-44 attempts for 225 yards.
Fred Jackson finished with six catches totaling 52 yards for Buffalo (2-2), dealt a second straight loss after a promising 2-0 beginning to its season.
"I think the biggest thing for our team and for myself is to learn from (this loss), accept it, be a man about it, don't shy away from it," said Manuel. "It is what it is."
The Bills appeared to have the game squarely in control when Bradham came down with Fitzpatrick's pass that was deflected by Kyle Williams at the line of scrimmage, setting Buffalo up in the red zone while leading 10-7.
Two C.J. Spiller rush attempts brought about third down at the Houston 12. Manuel had Jackson open in the right flat, but Watt diagnosed the play and brought in the pass with his left hand before having nothing but open space between him and the end zone.
"The roof almost came off on that one," said Texans head coach Bill O'Brien of Watt's play. "It was just a great play. It really turned the game, no question about it."
The startled Bills went three-and-out on their next possession, then Fitzpatrick directed a methodical 12-play, 42-yard drive that Bullock capped with a 41-yard field goal that put the Texans up 17-10 with 6:14 left in the third quarter.
Houston's inspired defense forced the Bills to punt on their subsequent three trips as well, the last placing the Texans in enemy territory following the field-position shift and putting Bullock in range to knock through his 55-yard try with room to spare.
Buffalo's sputtering offense than suddenly came back to life, as Mike Williams got past the Houston secondary to haul in Manuel's bomb down the left sideline on the very next play from scrimmage, with the 80-yard score putting Buffalo within 20-17 with 9:08 remaining.
The Texans again had an answer, however. Fitzpatrick's key 5-yard third-down scramble and a 10-yard strike to Hopkins on the following series led to Bullock's 50-yard field goal that made it a 6-point game with 4:49 left.
Buffalo couldn't move the ball on its next touch, but did get it back with 1:42 to play and put forth a threat.
Two straight Manuel completions got the Bills across the 50, but the young quarterback overshot Robert Woods on his final pass and Morris made a diving interception with 1:07 on the clock.
"We played great team defense today for the most part," O'Brien said afterward. "A lot of guys were making plays out there."
Both team traded punts throughout most of the opening quarter before Buffalo's offense got untracked by putting together a 13-play drive that culminated in the game's first score -- a 31-yard field goal from Dan Carpenter with 11:37 left in the second period.
A 22-yard run from Spiller and Manuel's 11-yard completion to Scott Chandler on third down highlighted the 13-play sequence.
Houston was able to cross midfield on the ensuing possession, but Andre Johnson had the ball dislodged by Brandon Spikes at the end of a reception and Da'Norris Searcy recovered the fumble to give Buffalo back the ball near midfield.
The Bills proceeded to march 49 yards in eight plays, taking a 10-0 lead on Sammy Watkins' 5-yard grab on a slant route with 5:54 remaining in the half.
Houston finally generated something positive just prior to the intermission. Fitzpatrick scrambled 11 yards on a 3rd-and-9 shortly after the two-minute warning, then delivered a perfect throw to a streaking Hopkins two plays later for a 35-yard touchdown that closed the gap.Game Notes
Texans running back Arian Foster returned to action after sitting out last
week's game against the New York Giants with a hamstring injury. He was held
to six rushing yards on eight carries but caught seven passes for 55 yards ...
Johnson's lost fumble was his first since Oct. 12, 2008 against Miami, ending
an 82-game streak without one ... Bradham hurt his knee when colliding with
teammate Spikes on his interception and did not return, with Kyle Williams
also exiting for Buffalo with a knee injury ... Texans center Chris Myers made
his 100th start as a member of the team ... Houston is the only team not to
allow a point in the first quarter this season.