After Andre Johnson injured his previously healthy hamstring going for a bomb from rookie Houston QB T.J. Yates, the Texans marched down the field on a 19-play, 85-yard drive that took over 10:00 off the clock and gave them the go-ahead touchdown.
The key play of the drive was a 4th-and-1 conversion at the Atlanta 10-yard line by Houston RB Arian Foster.
Foster and Ben Tate had a huge day on the ground against the NFL's second-rated rush defense, combining for 152 yards and 1 TD on 42 carries, despite the Falcons repeatedly stacking the box in an attempt to make Yates, the Texans third-string QB, beat them through the air.
Yates had a solid game in his first career start, completing 12-25 passes for 188 yards and 1 TD while using his athleticism to buy time in the pocket.
The only mistake he made, a pick-six in the fourth quarter, was called back because of a penalty on Atlanta in the secondary.
The penalty was one of a series of costly mental errors that the now 7-5 Falcons will rue if they miss the playoffs. Matt Ryan threw two interceptions in the first quarter, while Atlanta had another defensive touchdown called back after both teams assumed a Yates fumble was actually an incompletion and began wandering on to the field.
But the costliest mistake of all was on yet another 4th-and-1 late in the game, as Ryan completed a pass to TE Tony Gonzalez for a first down only to have it taken back because of a delay of game penalty. The Falcons came up short on 4th-and-6 with less than 3:00 left and then again on a last-second heave into the end-zone by Ryan.
Houston is now 9-3 with a commanding two-game lead in the AFC North, but any celebration was subdued by Johnson's latest hamstring injury, as he had just returned after missing six games with an injury in his other hamstring.
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