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Texans limp into break with gritty win over Lions

The Texans grinded out another ugly win on Sunday, holding off the Detroit Lions 20-13. Like all five of their victories, it was not pretty. They were outgained by the Lions 289-269. They lost the turnover battle. They did not do anything particularly well, other than run the football in the fourth quarter.  Even with all that, they won yet another game.

On the surface, it is not easy to see how.

Brock Osweiler was not good. He was 20 of 29 for 186 yards, one touchdown and a costly first-half interception. He was sacked three times. By the end of the game, they were down to two healthy wide receivers. He did manage two touchdown drives, which wound up being enough to win the game.

Xavier Sua-Filo was beaten badly in the passing game on several occasions, and had a costly penalty in the fourth quarter that likely cost the Texans a touchdown and forced them to settle for a field goal. But it did not matter.

Defensively, they got only one sack and forced no turnovers. The kick coverage teams were spotty yet again. But both units did enough to hold the Lions to just 13 points. Enough to win.

And yes, the Texans won, so it is hard to find any negatives in that. The end result is the team heads into its off week in sole possession of first place in the AFC South at the halfway point of the season.

There were some positives besides the running game being strong in the fourth quarter. The tight ends actually produced. C.J. Fiedorowicz had five catches for 43 yards and a touchdown, and Ryan Griffin had three for 34. Add in a pair from Stephen Anderson and tight ends accounted for 10 of the team’s 20 receptions. The Texans played extremely conservatively in the second half protecting the lead, and it was the smart way to play. It worked.

The Texans are now 5-3. They are a game ahead of the Titans, who have some tough games coming up. More importantly, they are two games ahead of the Colts, who lost to the Chiefs on Sunday.

Through eight games, the Texans are winless on the road and unbeaten at home. They get a week off before traveling to Jacksonville on Nov. 13. The second half of the schedule looks interesting. After Jacksonville, they have four tough games — The Raiders in Mexico City, San Diego at home and challenging road games at Green Bay and Indy before a manageable finish that includes home games against the Jags, Bengals and a finishing trip at Tennessee.

It’s hard to tell what they really are. Their wins — other than against the awful Bears — are not bad. The Chiefs, Lions and Titans are all at least .500. The Colts are not good right now, but it’s still a solid win. The losses have all come against superior opponents on the road. The frustrating thing is the Texans simply were not competitive in any of those games, so it is difficult to know how they will do on the road against lesser opponents.

Offensively, they rate near the bottom of the league in everything. Their multi-million dollar quarterback has been below average and has thrown as many interceptions as he has touchdowns. The play calling continues to be inconsistent and ridiculously conservative.

Defensively, they struggle to stop the run. They rarely force turnovers. Yet here they are at 5-3, three games better than the halfway point in 2015.

They are also beaten up. Derek Newton and J.J. Watt will not be back this season. The secondary has taken some hits. Vince Wilfork left Sunday and did not return. So it is hard to say what they will be moving forward.

What they are now is a first-place team. No matter how it looked.

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