The Houston Texans look like they can win the AFC South no matter who’s at quarterback. And the Atlanta Falcons look like they’re just about out of the NFC South race.
Down to third-string quarterback T.J. Yates, Houston had a heavy dose of Arian Foster and a great defensive effort and managed to pull off a big win over the Falcons.
Yates, a rookie fifth-round draft pick, has a long way to go before he’ll be a good starting quarterback in the NFL. But he avoided making any huge mistakes and did just enough not to lose the game. (Thanks in part to a defensive holding penalty that wiped out what at first looked like a game-winning pick-six for the Falcons in the fourth quarter.) And he made just enough good passes to keep the Falcons’ defense from loading up too much on Houston’s running game.
That running game is led by Foster, who carried the load for Houston with 33 rushes for 111 yards. Foster also scored the go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter, at the end of a sensational 19-play, 85-yard drive on which we saw just how effective and methodical the Texans’ offense can be.
The Falcons’ offense can be good, too, but it wasn’t today against the Texans’ defense. Matt Ryan threw two interceptions in the first quarter and never really settled down, and Michael Turner had just 44 rushing yards.
Atlanta will need more offense soon if it’s going to make the playoffs. The good news for the Falcons is that their top rival for a wild card spot, the Bears, also lost today. The bad news is that if they want any realistic hope of winning their division, they’ll need to cheer for the Lions to upset the Saints tonight. A New Orleans victory would make the NFC South all but out of reach. Just like the AFC South — a division that the Texans have pretty much wrapped up.