Losses by the Jaguars and Colts on Sunday leave the Texans just one game out of first place in the AFC South as they prepare for a road game at Philadelphia on Thursday night. And in more good news for the Texans, WR Andre Johnson was not suspended for punching Titans CB Cortland Finnegan in Houston's 20-0 win over Tennessee on Sunday. Instead, Johnson and Finnegan were each fined $25,000.
On the field, the Texans come off their finest defensive performance of the season. They allowed just 162 yards, the second-fewest in club history. They also notched their first shutout since 2004.
On offense, the Texans held the ball for 39:41 and converted 9-of-18 third downs. RB Arian Foster had an impressive game, rushing for 143 yards on 30 carries and catching nine passes for 75 yards. Johnson caught nine of the 11 passes thrown to him for 56 yards and a touchdown. QB Matt Schaub was efficient, completing 25-of-35 passes for 178 yards with two TDs and no interceptions.
All told, it has been a very good two days for Houston, which is right back in the thick of the AFC South race — and will have its best receiver in tow for its game vs. formidable Philadelphia.
The PFW spin
The Texans can't feel anything but lucky that Johnson will play Sunday; Johnson himself said after the game that the prospect of a suspension crossed his mind.
With him in the lineup, the Texans' offense is among the AFC's most formidable, and it's an attack the Eagles haven't seen in four years. The teams last met in 2006, with the Eagles rolling 24-10 in Texans head coach Gary Kubiak's Houston debut, but there is little resemblance between that Houston offense and the one Philadelphia has to stop Thursday. Johnson, who hauled in six passes for 101 yards in the '06 meeting, is the Texans' top target in the passing game now as he was then, but the Texans have a variety of capable targets at wideout and also use their tight ends and running backs well, too.
Foster, who was targeted 11 times Sunday, has shown significant improvement as a pass catcher. He's already one of the AFC's best runners. If a play is blocked well, Foster, who leads the NFL in rushing yards (1,147), can go the distance, but he's also capable of making his own luck because of his vision, power, balance and elusiveness.
Foster is having a special season. The Texans' defense has had an awful season, but it had a special game Sunday. CB Glover Quin intercepted Titans rookie QB Rusty Smith three times. Tennessee rushed for a mere 24 yards on 12 carries, with star RB Chris Johnson gaining a career-low five yards on seven carries.
Obviously, the Texans face a significantly better offense on Thursday, but at least Houston was able to shut down a vulnerable Tenneseee offense. In a pivotal game, the Texans executed at a high level in all phases, and they are in much better shape on Monday night than they were Sunday morning.