Houston coach Gary Kubiak brought in Wade Phillips to rebuild the Texans’ defense. The group showed progress in the preseason opener against the New York Jets. The Texans had seven sacks and running back Chris Ogbonnaya scored two touchdowns in Houston’s 20-16 win over the Jets on Monday night.
Phillips has had only a few weeks to teach the Texans how to play a 3-4 scheme, a change from the 4-3 they played last season. Kubiak liked what he saw, though the Jets outgained Houston 310-221. “It was exciting to find a way to win the game there at the end, because we played really, really exceptionally on the defensive side of the ball throughout the game,” Kubiak said.
The starters for both sides only played the first quarter.
The Jets’ Mark Sanchez looked sharp, completing 6 of 7 passes, two to Santonio Holmes. Sanchez’s usual backup, Mark Brunell, did not play because of a finger injury, leaving the rest of the game to seventh-round draft pick Greg McElroy, the former Alabama star.
The Jets’ first-string offense produced four first downs and 73 yards, but only three points.
“We would’ve liked to score a touchdown on that first drive, but we didn’t,” Sanchez said. “I was proud of the first group moving the ball the way we did. Now, we just need to finish in the red zone.”
Matt Schaub, meanwhile, looked shaky for the Texans. He went 2 for 5 for 20 yards and was sacked once before Matt Leinart replaced him. Ogbonnaya accounted for 104 total yards – 37 on the ground and 67 receiving. He was just about the last running back standing for Houston after Derrick Ward left in the first half with a head injury. Arian Foster, the 2010 league rushing champ, and backups Steve Slaton and Ben Tate were sidelined with hamstring injuries.
“Hats off to Ogbonnaya, the young man’s had a great camp for two weeks,” Kubiak said. “Really, he was all we had. He played the whole game. He’s been a real warrior for us.”
Houston trailed 16-13 in the final quarter when Derrick Townsel returned a punt to the New York 37. Two plays later, rookie T.J. Yates completed a 28-yard pass to rookie Lestar Jean to the 1. Ogbonnaya dived into the end zone on the first play following the two-minute warning.
The Jets had a chance to win it in the final minute, but undrafted free agent Michael Campbell dropped a 32-yard pass from McElroy in the end zone.
“Obviously, I hate losing, our team hates losing,” Jets coach Rex Ryan said. “I don’t care if it’s preseason or not, we know in the big picture, you forget about what your record is. But still, at the time, I hate losing.”
Leinart, who turned down offers from other teams to return to Houston and back up Schaub, also looked solid, except for an interception that led to the Jets’ lone touchdown. Leinart went 8 for 14 for 78 yards in about two quarters.
Sanchez completed his first four throws, and the Jets drove inside the Houston 15. Linebacker Xavier Adibi sacked Sanchez on third down, forcing New York to settle for Nick Folk’s 33-yard field goal.
Leinart replaced Schaub at the start of the second quarter, and immediately completed a pass to James Casey for a 9-yard gain. On third down, Leinart rolled left and threw a short pass to Ogbonnaya, who picked up 29 yards to the Jets 31.
The drive stalled, and Neil Rackers’ 49-yard field goal tied it with 12:13 left in the first half. McElroy replaced Sanchez on New York’s first drive of the second quarter.
Linebacker Jesse Nading sacked McElroy, forced a fumble and defensive end Tim Jamison recovered at the Jets 14. Ogbonnaya converted a fourth-and-1, and Ryan stomped up the sideline and angrily called a timeout and ripped off his headset before Houston could snap it again.
“Too many guys out there, and we had to burn a timeout,” Ryan said. Leinart then rolled left again and flicked an easy pass to Ogbonnaya for a touchdown. Rackers kicked a 47-yard field goal with 57 seconds left before the break to put the Texans ahead 13-3.
Nick Novak kicked a 35-yard field goal in the third quarter, and Leinart’s first pass of the second half was tipped at the line by Kendrick Ellis and intercepted by Josh Mauga.
Bilal Powell gained 19 yards on a short pass, and McElroy found Patrick Turner for the tying touchdown. Folk kicked a 40-yard field goal to give New York a 16-13 lead.