Texans turn back Cardinals
HOUSTON — Houston Texans defensive end Jadeveon Clowney had watched things snowball previously.
He was determined to avoid a similar result despite circumstances so eerily familiar that another defensive collapse would not have been much of a surprise for this hamstrung roster.
Clowney spearheaded a timely defensive stand and the Texans overcame two first-half turnovers in their 31-21 victory over the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday at NRG Stadium.
Clowney was a menace throughout, posting five tackles, including three for lost yardage, three hits on Cardinals quarterback Blaine Gabbert plus two sacks. But it was his fourth-down gap-stuffing on Cardinals running back Adrian Peterson midway through the fourth quarter that enabled the Texans (4-6) to finally seize control on the ensuing snap. Rookie running back D’Onta Foreman rumbled 34 yards for a touchdown and a two-score lead with 6:19 left to play.
In their 33-7 road loss to the Los Angeles Rams last week, the Texans crumbled following an interception by quarterback Tom Savage late in the first half. Savage committed two turnovers in the second quarter against the Cardinals, both of which Arizona converted into touchdowns. This time, however, Houston remained steadfast, toughening up in the second half and eventually turning the tide.
“We didn’t want what happened last game to happen this game,” Clowney said. “We came into halftime and said, ‘We’re not letting this game get away from us like we did the previous game.’ We said we were going to stick together and be physical like it was a 0-0 game, and we came out and did that and finished the game.”
The Cardinals (4-6) dropped consecutive games for the first time this season despite a decent showing from Gabbert, who completed 22-of-34 passes for 257 yards and three touchdowns. Gabbert did toss a pair of interceptions after the Foreman score stretched the deficit to 10.
“Blaine played his ass off,” Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians said. “He probably had over a 100 quarterback rating until the end of the game. We didn’t make any plays for him. We dropped way too many balls.”
The Cardinals benefited significantly from the first-half miscues by Savage, who ran his turnover count to nine (six fumbles plus three interceptions) in just four starts this season.
Cardinals strong safety Bubba Baker had a strip-sack of Savage midway through the second quarter and, two plays later, Gabbert tossed a 20-yard touchdown pass to Larry Fitzgerald.
Two possessions later, Savage had a deflected pass picked off by Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson and Gabbert followed with the first of his two touchdown strikes to tight end Ricky Seals-Jones. Arizona covered a total of 32 yards over its two scoring drives and led 14-10 at the intermission.
“It was the tale of two halves,” Gabbert said. “We started off strong, capitalized on some opportunities and put up some points in the first half. But in the second half, we just did not finish.”
The Texans recorded touchdowns on three of their opening five possessions in the second half. Savage connected with DeAndre Hopkins for a 28-yard score and a 17-14 lead with 11:02 left in the third quarter. After Gabbert and Seals-Jones responded to push Arizona back in front, Savage engineered a 12-play, 75-yard drive capped by a 3-yard Foreman touchdown run.
When Arizona attempted to reach the chains from its 35-yard line on fourth-and-1 down 24-21, Clowney and rookie linebacker Zach Cunningham led a gang of defenders through an open gap to stuff Peterson. Foreman followed with the knockout blow, but was lost to a torn Achilles on his scoring dash, representing another critical injury in a season full of them for the Texans.
“There’s nothing you can do about it,” Texans head coach Bill O’Brien said. “If you waste time being frustrated (it’s pointless). You have to figure out what the next move is. You have to really do a good job of figuring out who you have, how you’re going to use their skill set, where you’re going to put them. Each week is a little bit different. That’s for every team in the NFL, but especially those that are dealing with a bunch of injuries like we are.”
NOTES: Former Houston WR Andre Johnson was the inaugural inductee in the Texans’ Ring of Honor. Johnson signed a one-day contract with the team last Wednesday to officially retire as a member of the Texans, for whom he played 12 seasons and had 1,012 receptions for 13,597 yards and 64 touchdowns. ... With 91 receiving yards, Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald moved into fifth place on the NFL career list with 15,157, surpassing Tony Gonzalez (15,127). Isaac Bruce is fourth with 15,208 yards. ... Cardinals rookie TE Ricky Seals-Jones had his first career touchdown via an 11-yard reception with 1:53 left in the first half. ... With two sacks, Texans OLB/DE Jadeveon Clowney upped his season total to eight and surpassed his previous career high of six set last season. Clowney has recorded at least one sack in four consecutive games.