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Sparkling Success: Texans' Upset Fueled By Clean Football

As David Culley predicted, Houston improved dramatically in penalties, turnovers and sacks allowed

Houston Texans' veteran quarterback Tyrod Taylor had the benefit of a clean pocket last Sunday against a usually formidable Tennessee Titans' pass rush.

Taylor wasn’t sacked during the Texans’ 22-13 upset victory on the road at rain-soaked Nissan Stadium. He was knocked down only once - by blitzing cornerback Elijah Molden. Despite the presence of Tennessee's Harold Landry (who entered the game with 10 sacks), defensive tackle Jeffery Simmons (who leads NFL interior defensive linemen with 7.5 sacks) and defensive end Denico Autry (five sacks), the Texans’ overhauled offensive line more than held up.

With Pro Bowl left tackle Laremy Tunsil, center Justin Britt and right tackle Marcus Cannon on injured reserve, the Texans’ starting offensive line is comprised of left tackle Geron Christian Sr, left guard Tytus Howard, the only player to start every game this season for the offensive line, rookie center Jimmy Morrissey, right guard Justin McCray and right tackle Charlie Heck.

The fact that Houston protected Taylor was a key to the upset, along with its decreased penalties and ability to finally protect the ball and not commit a turnover.

Taylor completed 14 of 24 passes for 107 yards and no touchdowns, rushing for two scores. The Texans, who cut veteran running back Phillip Lindsay on Tuesday, rushed for only 83 yards on 38 carries for a 2.2 average per run as Rex Burkhead led the team with 40 rushing yards.

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So how did a team on an eight-game losing streak pass for only 107 yards, run for just 83 and still upset the team with the best record in the AFC?

“One of the reasons our pass protection was pretty good, we had no sacks, was we only threw it (24) times, and we rushed the ball without Tyrod 31 times, which has a lot to do with that,” Texans coach David Culley said. “The rushing yardage and per carry wasn’t there, but the attempts were there, and that was important to be able to have those attempts. When you do that, it takes the pressure off those guys, and when we did throw, most of the time it was off a play-action. When Ty got a little pressure, he was able to get out and make some things happen on the run. That was all with his feet, and that was all because of us being able to run the ball, attempt to run the ball.”

David Johnson ran 13 times, but gained only 18 yards. Lindsay lost three yards on his final carry for the Texans.

“The offensive line did a tremendous job in those situations and with the weather, field conditions, that’s what it had to be,” Burkhead said. “They are very physical up front, making the job easier for me, David (Johnson) and Philip to get those yards when we needed it in short-yard situations.”

Taylor was sacked five times and intercepted three times during a road loss to the Miami Dolphins.

Added Taylor: “The guys up front did a great job handling their front seven. The receivers made plays on the back end when the option presented itself.”