The Houston Texans have won six straight games for the first time since 2012, leaving their terrible start behind them and putting them firmly in control of the AFC South as they head into their week off.
Despite the dramatic turnaround, coach Bill O'Brien and the Texans (6-3) know that they haven't accomplished anything yet.
"We've done a great job of coming back from where we were," O'Brien said. "But we've got a long way to go."
Houston's latest win came in dramatic fashion on Sunday in Denver when the Broncos missed a field goal as time expired to allow the Texans to hold on for the 19-17 victory to keep their winning streak intact. Now they have two weeks to prepare before a trip to visit the Redskins on Nov. 18.
Four of the team's wins during this streak have come by a touchdown or less, giving the Texans confidence in their ability to win close games.
"Our first two wins were overtime wins," J.J. Watt said. "When you have to go through those, you learn to never give up hope. You just keep growing one day at a time, one game at a time. It will come."
He agrees with his coach that the Texans can get a lot better and believes this team filled with hard workers will make that happen.
"It will continue to come," Watt said. "We still have a lot of things to work on. You continue to find a way to win while you work on those things. It is a lot better to work on them while you are winning than losing."
The Texans had a shakeup on offense last week when receiver Will Fuller was lost for the season with a torn knee ligament and they traded with Denver for star receiver Demaryius Thomas to take his place. Thomas had three receptions for 61 yards in his Houston debut, but had a false start, lined up in the wrong spot and looked lost on a drive in the fourth quarter, showing he has plenty of work to do to get up to speed before facing Washington.
O'Brien said his struggles were understandable considering he only had three days of practice to try and learn what he needed to know before Sunday's game.
"(We're) just continuing to try to coach him up on what we're doing offensively," O'Brien said. "Now, we can kind of take a step back and really go back into what we call the basic information, teach him the formations, teach him the routes, the protections, how the protections fit with the routes that he's running and things like that and the technique of the route."
While Thomas gets acclimated in Houston, the Texans have been impressed with the development of big rookie tight end Jordan Thomas. The 6-foot-5, 280-pound Thomas, who was a sixth-round pick in this year's draft, has recently emerged as a great goal-line target. He's grabbed three short touchdowns in the past two games, adding another dimension to Houston's red zone offense, which struggled earlier this season.
"He was a wide receiver and then as he got bigger, (former Mississippi State coach) Danny Mullen moved him closer to the ball and he became a tight end," O'Brien said. "Now, he's had to learn how to block against some of these defensive ends and outside backers and he's gotten better and better at that."
Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles injured his non-throwing shoulder against Philadelphia in London last week but is expected to play Nov. 11 at Indianapolis.
Nonetheless, the Jaguars (3-5) signed free agent Landry Jones to take some repetitions during the team's bye week. Jacksonville worked Jones out before the loss to the Eagles.
Jones fills an open roster spot created when the team traded defensive end Dante Fowler to the Los Angeles Rams on Tuesday.
A fourth-round draft pick by Pittsburgh in 2013, Jones has appeared in 18 games and is 3-2 as a starter. He has completed 64 percent of his passes for 1,310 yards, with eight touchdowns and seven interceptions.
Bortles hasn't missed a start since taking over the job early in the 2014 season. He played through a right wrist injury last season.
Kevin Byard secured the interception that sparked the sluggish Tennessee Titans and turned toward midfield.
The flashback for the Dallas Cowboys was just as disheartening as the original.
Byard mimicked Terrell Owens' mocking celebration on the star logo at the 50-yard line from 18 years ago, Marcus Mariota accounted for three touchdowns and the Titans spoiled Amari Cooper's Dallas debut with a 28-14 victory on Monday night.
The end-zone pick of Dak Prescott came after Mariota fumbled on the first two Tennessee possessions. Just as T.O. did at old Texas Stadium 18 years ago, Byard ran to midfield, under the huge videoboard at spacious AT&T Stadium, and spread his arms.
Owens did it twice in a blowout San Francisco win over a bad Dallas team that time. This win by the Titans (4-4) ended their three-game losing streak while handing the Cowboys (3-5) their first loss in four home games and making their road to the playoffs a difficult one.
"It was huge," Mariota said of Byard, while adding that he didn't see the celebration. "The defense has done an unbelievable job throughout the year in building us up. They found ways to give us plays, to get turnovers."
The Cowboys looked like the team headed for a blowout win, but led just 7-0 after Mariota's early miscues because of Brett Maher's missed 38-yard field goal on the opening possession and Prescott's ill-advised throw into double coverage.
Given another chance when what would have been a third straight fumble to start the game was overturned by a review that showed Luke Stocker didn't have the ball long enough on a catch, Mariota led an 80-yard drive capped by Derrick Henry's 1-yard plunge for a 7-7 tie.
Mariota converted two third-and-9s with passes and a shorter third down with a run on his first TD drive, setting the stage for the Titans to convert 11 of 14 third downs.
Mariota broke a 14-14 tie in the third quarter when he pulled the ball out of Lewis' gut at the last second and delivered a 7-yard shovel pass to Jonnu Smith to put the Titans ahead for good. Mariota's 9-yard scoring run all but sealed things with 4:38 to go.
Mariota was 21 of 29 for 240 yards without an interception and had 32 yards rushing. Lewis had 62 yards rushing and 60 receiving coming off a career-high 155 scrimmage yards in his last game.
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