By Lucas McMillan
The eyes of the NFL were on the Houston Texans and Chicago Bears on Sunday night. Both teams were 7-1, and it wasn’t a stretch to assume that the winner of the game was the league’s best team. Houston won, not in dominating fashion, but in a 13-7 defensive slugfest.
It was a rainy night in Chi-Town, and Bears quarterback Jay Cutler got knocked out early with a concussion in brutal match of two of the best defenses in the league.
“I think we showed them we can win any game, any situation, any time, any place, tough weather conditions, tough place on the road, a very good football team,” Watt said. “We won, so say what you want.”
It was not a pretty win, but it was an important one for the Texans, who proved that they can win even when their prolific offense fails. They were limited to 215 total yards compared to the Bears’ 249, and their best offensive weapons, running back Arian Foster and wide receiver Andre Johnson, were severely limited. Foster rushed for 102 yards on 29 attempts, averaging a meager 3.5 yards per attempt, while Johnson caught only four balls for 35 yards, an 8.8 yard per reception average.
“It’s huge for us, we were 7-1 going in, to come out 8-1 in a hostile place, given the weather and the team we were playing, that’s a tough group to go against,” said Matt Schaub after the game.
The Texans have been suffocating teams all year with their stingy defense, led by second-year defensive lineman J.J. Watt, a legitimate contender for the NFL Defensive Player of the Year award. They are ranked third in the league in pass defense, allowing only 196 yards through the air per game, and third in run defense, allowing 85.6 rushing yards per game.
In year’s past, the Texans have been largely built on the passing game (Matt Schaub led the NFL in passing in 2009), but over the past several seasons head coach Gary Kubiak has fully implemented his zone blocking scheme into the offense, allowing for Arian Foster to shoulder the scoring load.
They have arguably turned into one of the best ground and pound teams in NFL history, controlling the clock with the run, stifling teams on defense and occasionally burning them deep on an expertly executed play action pass.
Their defense has been quietly assembled, though it now stands as one of the best units in the league, despite losing former first-overall pick Mario Williams to free agency and Pro Bowl linebacker Brian Cushing to injury.
Their success starts up front with Watt, a force of nature on the defensive line who has 10.5 sacks and 10 passes batted down this season. He is rare in his ability to get serious pressure on the quarterback from an interior position on the line, freeing up the rest of Houston’s defense to wreak havoc around him.
He is a strong favorite for Defensive Player of the Year, though there were two other players in Sunday’s game, Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings, who could challenge him for the award.
The Texans showed on Sunday that they can win in several different ways. They’re the most multi-faceted and dynamic team in the AFC, and have to be considered the favorite to represent the conference in the Super Bowl. If they keep locking down on D like they did against the Bears, they could win the whole thing.
Lucas McMillan is a writer for FootballSchedule.me. To checkout the week-by-week Texans schedule as well as the latest NFL and college football news, visit Football Schedule. Follow Football Schedule on Facebook and Twitter @FBSchedule.