Texans Beat Falcons for Sixth Straight Win, 17-10

He was right.

Yates threw a touchdown pass in his first NFL start, Arian Foster rushed for 111 yards and Houston overcame another injury to Andre Johnson to beat Atlanta 17-10 on Sunday.

The Texans (9-3) have won a franchise-record six straight games, a remarkable feat considering they’re down to their third-string quarterback and have played many of their games without their star receiver.

The Falcons (7-5) sputtered offensively most of the game in losing for the second time in seven games. Houston’s top-ranked defense knocked down two passes by Matt Ryan in the end zone in the closing seconds.

Kubiak couldn’t bear to watch the final play, turning his back and walking down the sideline. When the ball hit the turf and the crowd cheered, general manager Rick Smith told Kubiak what happened and patted him on the back.

“It’s a great win,” Kubiak said, “because of everything this team has been through.”

Yates went 12-for-25 for 188 yards without an interception, an impressively poised performance after a dizzying week.

“I test my guys the night before every game,” Kubiak said, “and when I tested him, I was so impressed. I went in there and told the whole team, ‘I wish you could have been in there. He is ready to play.'”

The fifth-round pick was thrust into his pro debut last week in Jacksonville when Matt Leinart broke his collarbone. Leinart was starting in place of Matt Schaub, who broke a Lisfranc joint in his right foot in Houston’s previous game.

The 24-year-old Yates went 8-for-15 for 70 yards in his earlier-than-expected debut against the Jaguars. He was sacked three times by the Falcons, but never looked overwhelmed.

“I was extremely comfortable out there,” Yates said. “Coach Kubiak, throughout the week, we had a lot of talks and he instilled a lot of confidence in me.”

Offensive coordinator Rick Dennison and quarterbacks coach Greg Knapp worked day and night preparing Yates for the Falcons’ ninth-ranked defense. When Kubiak quizzed Yates at the end of the week, he knew the rookie was ready.

“The job they did with that kid in the quarterback room was tremendous,” Kubiak said. “It’s been a heck of a challenge. T.J. held up his end of the bargain well.”

Johnson looked like he’d be Yates’ go-to guy early, making leaping catches on the quarterback’s first two completions. The All-Pro receiver also atoned for an earlier drop by pulling in a perfect 50-yard pass from Yates to the Atlanta 5 in the second quarter.

Yates then snapped a quick pass to tight end Joel Dreessen for his first career TD, and chants of “T.J.! T.J.!” emerged from the capacity crowd.

“I was studying my butt off all week long,” Yates said, “and it paid off.”

Naturally, the Texans couldn’t make it through a game without more adversity.

Johnson left in the third quarter after hurting his left hamstring. He injured his right hamstring in Week 4, underwent minor surgery and sat out six games.

Kubiak said after the game that he was told the injury was not severe, but he couldn’t be certain until Johnson underwent tests on Monday.

“I don’t think you ever know about the hamstrings until the next day,” Kubiak said.

After Johnson went down, Foster ably took over the offensive load, carrying 10 times on Houston’s decisive drive. Foster scored on a 1-yard run with 6:05 left, and then it was up to the Texans’ defense to finish.

Atlanta got the ball back with 59 seconds left, and Ryan threw a deep pass to Julio Jones to the Texans 25. But Ryan overthrew Roddy White in one corner of the end zone and Kareem Jackson swatted away a pass to Jones in the other corner as time expired.

“I had the opportunity to make that play and I just had to come up with the catch at the end,” Jones said.

Ryan completed 20 of 46 passes for 267 yards with two touchdowns, but also threw two interceptions. The Texans have intercepted a pass in 11 consecutive games.

“We played in spurts,” Atlanta coach Mike Smith said. “We didn’t do the things we wanted to accomplish. We had way too many dropped footballs, way too many things that we normally don’t do.”

After Johnson went down, Foster kept Houston on track, converting a fourth-and-1 with a 7-yard run to the Atlanta 2. The Texans took more than 10 minutes off the clock with the decisive, 19-play drive, which tied a team record.

Notes: Atlanta allowed a 100-yard rusher for the first time in 15 games. … Gonzalez has a catch in 175 consecutive games, the league’s longest active streak. Gonzalez also reached 60 receptions for the 13th consecutive season, an NFL record. … The Texans had a positive turnover ratio (plus-1) for the eighth time in 12 games. … Houston has already matched its highest single-season win total (9-7 in 2009).

Bookmark and Share

Streaking Falcons Aiming for ‘Summa Cum Laude’

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga.. Fullback Ovie Mughelli says the Atlanta Falcons want to graduate from the regular season at the top of the NFC’s class.

“We’re trying to get summa cum laude and graduate from the regular season with high honors,” Mughelli said Thursday.

The Falcons (9-2) are on track for straight A’s. Their five-game winning streak is the team’s longest since its 1998 season. They will try to protect the NFC’s best record on Sunday at Tampa Bay (7-4).

The Falcons could lock up home-field advantage through the NFC playoffs by finishing 14-2 with five more wins. That’s a lofty goal, but the schedule is manageable.

Atlanta’s only other remaining test against a team with a winning record is a Dec. 27 home game against New Orleans (8-3), now one game behind the Falcons in the NFC South. The Falcons have two games remaining against Carolina (1-10) and a visit to Seattle (5-6).

The visit to Tampa Bay begins a stretch of three straight road games for the Falcons, including games at Carolina and Seattle.

If the Falcons can keep stretching their winning streak in the regular season and then take advantage of home-field advantage in the playoffs, their next road trip could be to Dallas for the Super Bowl.

Most Atlanta are following coach Mike Smith’s mandate of focusing on one game at a time, but tight end Tony Gonzalez acknowledged he has looked ahead to that possible trip to Dallas.

“I have ran that over in my mind,” Gonzalez said. “We’re trying to stay focused in the moment but it’s human nature, you start to think about what could be and there’s nothing wrong with that because you’ve set your goals to get there, if you set high goals.”

The Falcons are peaking on offense just in time for the December stretch. Their 10 turnovers are the fewest in the NFC, including no turnovers in the last four games — a franchise record.

The Falcons are protecting the ball during time-consuming drives. Their 24 drives lasting 5 minutes or longer are the most in the NFL.

Michael Turner ranks fifth in the league with 974 yards rushing, while Matt Ryan is having his best season with 19 touchdown passes and only five interceptions.

But Mughelli said the Falcons can play better on offense.

“The one thing we haven’t done is put teams away,” Mughelli said. “We’ve got to do that with bad teams, we’ve got to do it with good teams. We’ve got to do it anytime we have the opportunity, to put that nail in the coffin.

“In a couple of games as you look through the season, we haven’t done that and we’ve had to just hope and pray our defense holds onto our lead. We have to learn to get that killer instinct. We have it, we just need to work on it a little more and execute a little more to enforce it.”

The Falcons beat Arizona 41-7 in Week 2 and have only one other win by more than 10 points, a 34-17 win at St. Louis on Nov. 21.

The five-game winning streak also includes narrow wins over Cincinnati, Tampa Bay, Baltimore and .

Receiver Roddy White said the Falcons, who have losses at Pittsburgh and at Philadelphia, also have to disprove doubters who say they’re a top team only at the Georgia Dome.

“Everybody knows we’re tough at home but they question us on the road and things like that,” White said. “We just have to continue to work hard and get better each week.

“The expectation is to win, to win every game from here on out and put ourselves in a good position at the end of the season.”

Notes: Running back Jason Snelling (hamstring) was held out of practice for the second straight day. Smith said he hopes Snelling is ready for “limited snaps” in Friday’s practice. Snelling is second on the team with 300 yards rushing and two touchdowns and third with 35 catches for 239 yards and two touchdowns. … Another backup running back, Antone Smith, also was held out with a hamstring injury.

Bookmark and Share