How the Texans got buried to end the second quarter


PITTSBURGH -- When did the 21-point deluge at the end of the first half start?

Depends whom you ask, but the result was three touchdowns in just over a minute and a half, which sparked the Pittsburgh Steelers to a 30-23 victory over the Houston Texans.

Some thought it started with the short pass Ben Roethlisberger threw to Le'Veon Bell, which went for 43 yards on third-and-10 with 5:42 remaining in the second quarter.

"That sort of sparked it," Houston safety D.J. Swearinger said. "They ran a little play to the running back. We just didn't capitalize."

You could say it started with the two-play, 19-second drive -- a 28-yard pass and a 35-yard pass -- that led to Pittsburgh's first touchdown.

"Anytime you give up a score that quickly, the offense is going to take that momentum and run with it," linebacker Mike Mohamed said. "We didn't do a good job of staying the course. It was just one thing after another, play after play."

Danieal Manning thought it started on the ensuing kickoff, when he bobbled the ball and landed on it deep in his own territory.

"I just muffed the ball," Manning said. "Trying to return and run before I caught the ball. Every time you have the opportunity, you're going to want to make a play. But you can't run without the ball. You just can't do it."

In the span of 92 seconds, the Texans allowed three touchdowns, two of which were fueled by turnovers inside their own 10-yard line. It was the first time since 2012 (when the Texans did it to the Dolphins) that a team has scored three touchdowns in the final two minutes of the first half. Prior to 2012, it hadn't happened since 2002.

The first touchdown -- Roethlisberger's 35-yard pass to Martavis Bryant, on which Bryant beat fellow rookie Andre Hal -- was on the defense. Kareem Jackson reminded Hal afterward that he needed to let that one go.

Then, the Texans' offense imploded.

"Just self-inflicted wounds," running back Arian Foster said. "We give the ball up twice in our own territory. Anytime you do that, teams are going to capitalize. [We] gotta be better."

After Manning's fumble pinned them deep, the Texans opted to pass the ball to Foster and gained only 1 yard. Next, they handed it to him, and after a lengthy review, the officials determined he had fumbled.

"I dropped it," Foster said when asked what happened.

Gaining confidence, the Steelers ran a play in which Roethlisberger flipped the ball back to receiver Antonio Brown, who threw a 3-yard touchdown pass to Lance Moore.

With that pass, a 13-point lead had turned into a four-point deficit. But the bad stretch wasn't over yet, though the Texans believed they were going to recover some momentum and head into halftime with some positivity.

"We were very confident going into that drive [at the end of the first half]," left tackle Duane Brown said.

But like everything else in this horrific stretch, the pass play the Texans called at their own 20-yard line with 1:08 left didn't work.

"We had the turnover on the possession before and went out there really just trying to get three points out of that drive," quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick said. "We had a decent play with Arian matched up, and it's not a good feeling to see the ball get tipped like that."

After the game, Fitzpatrick talked about the pass that hit Steelers defensive end Brett Keisel, caromed off another player and bounced back to Keisel for an interception, one he returned 16 yards. With the ball at the Houston 8-yard line, the Steelers took two plays to score this time, as Bell caught a 2-yard touchdown pass from Roethlisberger.

"Do stuff like that, [and] you don't win," receiver Andre Johnson said. "That's pretty much it."

Fitzpatrick called it miserable.

Jackson called it frustrating.

Swearinger chose a more active word.

"Crushed," he said.

It was just too much.

"We couldn't come back from it," Texans coach Bill O'Brien said. "Just too many turnovers. We had a hard time overcoming all those things."