Banged up Texans clinch AFC South title with 23-20 victory over Tampa Bay

Blake Schuster
Yahoo Sports Contributor

When it comes time for Texans coach Bill O’Brien to hand out the game ball on Saturday, he may want to walk across the Raymond James Stadium and award it to Jameis Winston.

It seems only right since it was Winston who helped keep a banged-up Texans team alive long enough for Houston to secure a 23-20 victory over the Buccaneers to lock up the AFC South title for the second consecutive season.

With fourth-and-1 just inside Bucs territory and the division title on the line, Texans head coach Bill O’Brien decided to bring out his punt team instead of staying aggressive and keeping the ball away from Tampa.

Instead, the Bucs got 2:15 to march 90 yards for a chance to tie or take the lead. Winston did neither, but he provided a microcosm of his career in three plays: A twenty-yard dart, a sack and finally an interception — his fourth of the day. The Bucs’ quarterback would finish with 335 yards and a touchdown as well, but they hardly mattered as much as his mistakes did, starting with interceptions on Tampa’s first two drives.

It was a bail out of sorts for O’Brien, who now has the option to rest his top guys in Week 17 after a near-disastrous run of injuries on Saturday.

That starts with quarterback Deshaun Watson — who at one point on Saturday entered the medical tent as backup A.J. McCarron began getting loose. It’s clear Watson (19-of-32 passing, 184 yards, one interception) was uncomfortable for much of the second half. The two-time Pro Bowler was missing throws he otherwise completes blindfolded, and maybe even more worrisome, seemed hesitant to tuck the ball and take off on the run.

Watson has MVP potential and can lead this team on a playoff march. Can he do that without being 100 percent? More importantly, could he do that with even fewer weapons than he has now?

Saturday saw the Texans list wide out Keke Coutee as a healthy scratch and then lose Will Fuller mid-game to injury before Kenny Stills hobbled off the field and into the medical tent himself. Not long after that, offensive lineman Laremy Tunsil left the field in pain as well.

In his postgame news conference O’Brien didn’t seem too focused on that, telling the media that the Texans will “play to win” next week against the Titans when asked if he’s considering resting his players.

That would seem to depend on just how severe the aches and pains on the Houston sideline are, but it’s noteworthy nonetheless.

With the division title in hand, the Texans are heading home to asses the damage — with the benefit of a bit more time to do something about it.

Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson runs with the ball during the first half against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Dec. 21, 2019 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. (Will Vragovic/Getty Images)

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Blake Schuster is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at blakeschuster@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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