Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick was horrific in the Texans' 32-0 loss at Arizona on Aug. 9, but he and plenty of his teammates bounced back in a big way even as defensive lineman J.J. Watt, linebacker Brian Cushing, running back Arian Foster, receiver Andre Johnson, left tackle Duane Brown and center Chris Myers got the night off.
Here are some other thoughts on the Texans' second preseason game of the year:
No. 1 overall pick Jadeveon Clowney had a remarkable sequence of back-to-back plays in the first quarter. First, he flew past guard Justin Blalock to level running back Antone Smith just a beat after Smith took a handoff from Matt Ryan. It was reminiscent of Clowney's hit for South Carolina against Michigan's Vincent Smith, though this Smith held on to the ball. On the very next play, Clowney raced past left tackle Sam Baker and quickly sacked Ryan. While Clowney's explosiveness was impressive, the plays were just as remarkable for Atlanta's nonchalance in attempting to block him. On both plays, Atlanta made weak efforts to get in his way. If opponents "block" him like that going forward, they will get skill people hurt.
Fitzpatrick left the game for rookie Tom Savage in the second quarter. But coach Bill O'Brien reinserted his starting quarterback with 1:32 remaining in the first half to allow him to engineer Houston's two-minute offense. Fitzpatrick led the team on a second touchdown drive, and finished 9-of-12 for 97 yards with an 8-yard touchdown pass to DeVier Posey and two scrambles for 25 more yards, compiling a 126.0 passer rating. Savage also returned for a second stint after he left the game for Case Keenum.
Safety D.J. Swearinger put a big hit on Julio Jones, and was compelled to stand over him afterward. The second-year safety also jumped tight end Levine Toilolo to break up a pass he nearly picked. But Swearinger's celebration with corner Josh Victorian earned them an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.
Special teams produced several highlights: A solid kickoff return from Keshawn Martin to open the game, a punt deflected by Anthony Denham that was returned for a touchdown by Jonathan Grimes and a Matt Bryant field goal attempt blocked by Jawanza Starling. Coverage teams were sound all around. But rookie kicker Chris Boswell pushed two 33-yard extra points wide right, denting his attempt to unseat Randy Bullock. Boswell did hit a 33-yard field goal near the end of the game.
The Falcons' one scoring drive was strongly aided by Texans penalties. Victorian was flagged for illegal contact and two more defensive backs, Eddie Pleasant and Brandon Harris, were called for holds in addition to the unsportsmanlike conduct call against Swearinger and Victorian. In all, Houston committed 15 accepted penalties worth 117 yards and six first downs.
Seventh-round rookie corner Andre Hal had a 64-yard interception return of former Texans quarterback T.J. Yates for a touchdown and linebacker Max Bullough also contributed with a late pick against Yates.