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Texans look ahead to bigger goals after reaching 10 wins

December 16, 2018
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Houston Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins (10) makes a touchdown catch on a pass from quarterback Deshaun Watson, not pictured, as New York Jets cornerback Morris Claiborne (21) defends during the second half of an NFL football game, Saturday, Dec. 15, 2018, in East Rutherford, N.J. The Texans won 29-22. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)

HOUSTON (AP) — The Houston Texans moved closer to clinching the AFC South by bouncing back from last week’s loss with a win over the Jets.

Now they’ll try to get banged-up players DeAndre Hopkins and Lamar Miller healthy before visiting the Super Bowl champion Eagles next week. A win could leave open the possibility of getting a first-round playoff bye.

The Texans (10-4) have won nine of their last 10 games after opening the season 0-3 to give coach Bill O’Brien 10 regular-season wins for the first time in his five years with the team. It’s the first time the Texans have had 10 wins in the regular season since setting a franchise-record with 12 in 2012.

“It’s great. I think 10 wins is hard to do in this league,” O’Brien said. “I give our players and our coaching staff a ton of credit. Our players have worked very hard to get to this point in the season. There is a long way to go here.”

The Texans led by 13 at halftime before the Jets rallied to take a 22-19 lead with 5:00 left in the fourth quarter. Deshaun Watson then connected with DeAndre Hopkins on a 14-yard touchdown to put the Texans on top, and they added a field goal after that to secure the 29-22 victory.

Hopkins injured his ankle in the fourth quarter and had to be helped off the field by teammates. But he returned after that and the injury doesn’t appear serious.

Miller could be more of a concern after he hurt his ankle in the first quarter and returned for a series in the second before sitting out for the rest of the game. O’Brien said he doesn’t think the injury is “major,” but that he’d know more next week.

With Miller out on Saturday, Houston’s only other active running back was Alfred Blue. Blue, who has been used this season to spell Miller, was ineffective against the Jets, finishing with nine carries for 6 yards.

If Miller is limited next week, the Texans could look to D’Onta Foreman to pick up the slack. Foreman was put on the active roster from the physically unable to perform on Dec. 4, but has been inactive in the two games since.

Foreman has been out since Nov. 19, 2017 when he tore his Achilles tendon after running for 327 yards and two touchdowns in his rookie season. O’Brien said they put him on the active roster because they thought he’d be able to help the team this season. He’s been participating fully in practice, but it’s unclear if he’s ready to contribute in a game.

Another concern for the Texans this week is finding a way to better protect Watson. The second-year quarterback was taken down six times Saturday and has been sacked 52 times this season, most in the NFL.

“There is no doubt that there were too many sacks, absolutely no doubt about it,” O’Brien said. “But ... I don’t put all of that on the offensive line. Some of that is offensive line, some of it is route running, some of it is holding the ball too long, things like that. Some of it is play calling, and so hopefully we can get better.”

Despite the sacks Watson had another solid game, throwing for 294 yards and two touchdowns. It was the most yards he’s thrown for since finishing with 375 yards passing in a win over Dallas on Oct. 7.

His performance on Saturday made him the first player in NFL history to have at least 5,000 yards passing (5,291), 40 TD passes (43) and 700 yards (705) rushing in his first 21 games.

On a day the Texans had trouble running the ball, Watson reveled in being able to lead the team to the comeback win.

“I just like the ball in my hands,” he said. “Like they say, just give me an opportunity to make a play. I think I can make it. Be smart, try not take any unnecessary hits and protect myself. I feel like with the ball in my hands, I can give the team a lot of energy and this offense can go.”

Despite their impressive turnaround to reach double-digit wins so beginning the season 0-3, the Texans know they’ll have to maintain focus.

“That’s awesome, but our goals are still ahead of us,” Hopkins said. “We can’t sit here and celebrate 10 wins. We expect to win like this with the guys we have in this locker room.”

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