Here are four takeaways from the Redskins’ 23-21 loss to the Texans on Sunday at FedEx Field.
It’s Colt McCoy’s team now: Midway through the third quarter, with the Redskins trailing 17-7, Alex Smith’s day went from bad to much, much worse. On third-and-nine from the Houston 27-yard line, Smith was dragged down in the backfield by Texans defensive back Kareem Jackson. As J.J. Watt helped finish the sack, Smith’s right ankle was caught in the turf and his lower leg bent in a way that legs aren’t supposed to bend. Smith, who threw a pair of first-half interceptions, including one that was returned 101 yards for a touchdown, was eventually carted off the field, 33 years to the day since Lawrence Taylor broke Joe Theismann’s leg on “Monday Night Football.” Coach Jay Gruden said after the game that Smith broke the tibia and fibula in his right leg and underwent immediate surgery. Colt McCoy came on in relief and threw a touchdown pass to Jordan Reed on his first drive. McCoy, who knows Gruden’s offense better than anyone, had a chance to be the hero when he took the field with 52 seconds to play. At that point Washington trailed 23-21 and was out of timeouts, needing about 30 yards to move into field goal range. The Redskins got 20 yards on their final drive, and Dustin Hopkins’s 63-yard field goal attempt with eight seconds remaining fell short.
Penalties were a major factor: The Redskins were flagged six times for 43 yards, none bigger than a defensive holding penalty on Josh Norman late in the fourth quarter. On third-and-five from the Washington 37-yard line after the two-minute warning, Jonathan Allen and Matt Ioannidis combined to bring down Deshaun Watson short of the sticks, but officials ruled that Norman had grabbed DeAndre Hopkins while Watson was still scrambling behind the line of scrimmage. Replays showed it was a questionable call on Norman at best. The penalty gave the Texans a first down, forcing the Redskins to burn their final two timeouts and allowing Houston to run the clock down to 56 seconds before attempting a long field goal. Ka’imi Fairbairn’s 45-yard attempt was no good, but the penalty still proved costly for Washington, which essentially ran out of time on its potential game-winning drive.
Finally, a lead change: Adrian Peterson’s seven-yard touchdown run with 11:57 to play gave Washington a 21-20 lead and moved Peterson ahead of Redskins legend John Riggins and into sole possession of sixth-place on the NFL’s all-time rushing touchdowns list. The 105th rushing score of Peterson’s career also gave the Redskins their first lead change of the season, something they hadn’t experienced since Week 16 of last year. Less than five minutes later, Fairbairn gave the Texans the lead right back with a 54-yard field goal. Houston held on to became the second team in NFL history, the the first since the 1925 New York Giants, to win seven straight after starting the season 0-3. The Redskins missed an opportunity to improve to 7-3 for the first time in 22 years.
Rushing defense and pass rush struggles: Watson completed 16 of 24 passes for 208 yards and a touchdown, but the Texans quarterback also threw a pair of interceptions, his first since Week 6. Overall, Washington’s defense looked better than it did last week when it allowed 501 total yards to the Buccaneers. While Greg Manusky’s unit limited Houston to four conversions on 11 third downs, the Redskins had no answer for the Texans’ running game. Lamar Miller had 20 carries for 86 yards, while Alfred Blue added another 46 yards on eight carries. The Redskins sacked Watson three times, but they couldn’t get to him early in Houston’s final drive, when he picked up a crucial third-and-seven with a short pass over the middle to Miller.
Game updates and analysis
Final: Texans 23, Redskins 21
Dustin Hopkins’ 63-yard field goal attempt in the final seconds landed in the end zone, short of the crossbar, allowing Houston to escape with its seventh consecutive win in a wild game at FedEx Field. Colt McCoy completed 6 of 12 passes for 54 yards and a touchdown in relief of Alex Smith, who left the game in the third quarter with what appeared to be a season-ending leg injury. Washington falls to 6-4.
Dustin Hopkins’ 63-yard field goal falls short: Rather than attempt a Hail Mary or attempt to pick up a few extra yards with eight seconds remaining and no timeouts left, Redskins Coach Jay Gruden sent Dustin Hopkins on to attempt a career-long 63-yard field goal. Hopkins’ kick was straight, but fell about five yards short. (Texans 23, Redskins 21, 0:03 4th Quarter)
The Redskins have life: A questionable holding call on Josh Norman gave the Texans a critical first down on the first play after the two-minute warning, but the Redskins’ defense eventually forced a 45-yard field goal attempt by Ka’imi Fairbairn with 56 seconds left. Fairbairn missed badly to the right, giving Washington the ball with no timeouts and less than a minute to play. (Texans 23, Redskins 21, 0:52 4th Quarter)
At the two-minute warning, the Texans are driving: Houston is on the move again after converting a third-and-long with a 13-yard pass play to Lamar Miller. The Redskins elected to preserve their two remaining timeouts on the Texans’ next two plays. Coming out of the two-minute warning, Houston faces third-and-five from the Washington 37-yard line. The Redskins need a stop. (Texans 23, Redskins 21, 2:00 4th Quarter)
Jadeveon Clowney spoils Redskins’ latest drive: On third-and-10 from the Washington 36-yard line, Jadevon Clowney burst through the line and sacked Colt McCoy for a loss of nine, forcing a Redskins punt with five minutes remaining in the game. It’ll be on the Redskins’ defense to stop the Texans and give the ball back to McCoy with a chance to win the game. (Texans 23, Redskins 21, 4:38 4th Quarter)
Texans re-take the lead: After not being involved in a lead change for nine games and three quarters, the Redskins have seen two changes in five minutes. Ka’imi Fairbairn’s 54-yard field goal capped an eight-play, 37-yard drive to give Houston a two-point lead. (Texans 23, Redskins 21, 7:30 4th Quarter)
Redskins take the lead on Adrian Peterson touchdown run: It happened. The Redskins experienced a lead change. It’s Washington’s first lead change since Week 16 of last season and it came on a seven-yard touchdown run by Adrian Peterson early in the fourth quarter. Peterson moved into sole possession of sixth-place on the NFL’s all-time rushing touchdown list with the 105th of his career. (Redskins 21, Texans 20 11:57 4th Quarter)
Texans get three back: A big play to Keke Coutee fueled a scoring drive for the Texans to regain some of the ground lost to the Redskins’ second TD of the game. (Texans 20, Redskins 14, 3rd Quarter)
After a cruel blow, interception provides a spark: Preston Smith picked off a pass from Deshaun Watson deep inside Texans’ territory on the ensuing possession, giving Colt McCoy, on in relief of the injured Alex Smith, prime field position to make his season debut. McCoy promptly put six points on the board and gave Washington some hope, finding Jordan Reed on a touchdown pass. (Texans 17, Redskins 14, 4:47 3rd Quarter)
Alex Smith carted off: After sustaining what appeared to be a gruesome leg injury, the Redskins quarterback was carted off the field and the early reports are not encouraging.
Halftime: Texans 17, Redskins 7
Alex Smith’s first-half numbers are even uglier than the score would indicate. Smith is 10 for 24 for 112 yards and two interceptions, including one that was returned 101 yards for a touchdown. Adrian Peterson has the Redskins’ only touchdown, but he’s struggled to find running lanes against Houston’s defensive front and has only 27 yards on 10 carries. One of the bright spots for Washington was rookie wide receiver Trey Quinn, who has a team-high three catches for 38 yards in his first game since injuring his ankle in Week 1. Houston will receive the ball to start the second half.
Houston misses field goal: The Texans failed to turn Alex Smith’s second interception into points. Preston Smith sacked Deshaun Watson for a loss of 12 yards and first down. Three plays later Ka’imi Fairbairn hooked his 44-yard field goal attempt wide left. (Texans 17, Redskins 7, 0:36 2nd Quarter)
Alex Smith throws another interception: Alex Smith entered Sunday with three interceptions in his first nine games. He’s now thrown two picks in his last three attempts after Texans linebacker Brennan Scarlett stepped in front of a short pass intended for Kapri Bibbs and returned it to the Washington 22-yard line. The Texans have excellent field goal position and all three timeouts. (Texans 10, Redskins 7, 1:19 2nd Quarter)
Texans take 17-7 lead on 101-yard interception return: A defensive holding penalty on Texans safety Kareem Jackson set the Redskins up with a first-and-goal from the Houston 7-yard line and a golden opportunity to record their first lead change of the season. Instead, Alex Smith threw a backbreaking interception in the end zone that Houston rookie safety Justin Reid returned for a touchdown. Smith and tight end Jordan Reed didn’t appear to be on the same page on the play, as Reed ran a stop route and turned inside. Smith’s pass went outside, resulting in an easy pick and a 10-point deficit. Reid’s interception return was the longest against Washington in franchise history. (Texans 17, Redskins 7, 2:23 2nd Quarter)
Texans dealing with their own injuries along the offensive line: Houston guards Zach Fulton and Senio Kelemete are both questionable to return after leaving Sunday’s game in the first half with injuries. According to CBS’s Melanie Collins, the Texans are down to five healthy offensive linemen. (Texans 10, Redskins 7, 9:12 2nd Quarter)
Redskins can’t capitalize on turnover: Mason Foster made a diving interception of a Deshaun Watson pass that was deflected by fellow linebacker Josh Harvey-Clemons, giving Washington excellent field position at the Houston 45-yard line. Three plays later, Tyrann Mathieu made up for his costly defensive holding penalty earlier in the game by sacking Alex Smith for a loss of seven and forcing another Tress Way punt. (Texans 10, Redskins 7, 12:54 2nd Quarter)
Adrian Peterson cuts into Texans’ lead: Adrian Peterson capped Washington’s 10-play, 75-yard drive with a three-yard touchdown run, tying former Redskins great John Riggins for sixth on the NFL’s all-time rushing TD list with No. 104. (Texans 10, Redskins 7, 14:12 2nd Quarter)
Redskins are on the move: A defensive holding penalty on Tyann Mathieu negated a strip-sack by J.J. Watt on third down, giving Washington a fresh set of downs. Two plays later, rookie Trey Quinn. (Texans 10, Redskins 0, End of 1st Quarter)
DeAndre Hopkins extends Texans’ lead with touchdown catch: Washington’s defense didn’t offer much resistance on the Texans’ second possession, and this time, Houston found the end zone. DeAndre Hopkins beat Josh Norman for 16-yard touchdown catch along the left sideline to cap a six-play, 69-yard touchdown drive. Hopkins now has a touchdown catch in five straight games. Meanwhile, Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson is 7 for 8 for 98 yards, and Lamar Miller and Alfred Blue have combined for 34 yards on seven carries. (Texans 10, Redskins 0, 3:15 1st Quarter)
Redskins’ second drive stalls: The Redskins managed a first down on their second drive of the game when Alex Smith found Michael Floyd for an 18-yard gain, but Texans safety Andre Hal dislodged the ball from Vernon Davis’s grasp for what should’ve been another catch to move the sticks. Smith is 1 for 5 to start the game, while Adrian Peterson has been limited to 10 yards on four carries. (Texans 3, Redskins 0, 6:28 1st Quarter)
Texans take early 3-0 lead: The Redskins defense picked up where it left off last Sunday in Tampa Bay, by bending, but not (completely) breaking. Houston marched 68 yards on 10 plays, including a 28-yard completion to tight end Jordan Akins on third-and-one, but Washington buckled down in the red zone. After Deshaun Watson overthrew DeAndre Hopkins, who was blanketed by Josh Norman, in the end zone on third down, the Texans settled for a 23-yard field goal by Ka’imi Fairbairn. This is the point in the live updates post where we remind you that the Redskins have yet to experience a lead change this season. Washington is 0-3 when the opponent scores first. (Texans 3, Redskins 0, 9:32 1st Quarter)
Redskins go three-and-out: The Texans won the toss and elected to defer, giving the Redskins the ball first. Washington’s first drive went nowhere, with Alex Smith sandwiching a pair of incompletions around a one-yard run by Adrian Peterson. (Redskins 0, Texans 0, 14:10 1st Quarter)
As expected, left tackle Trent Williams will miss his third consecutive game after undergoing thumb surgery. Rookie wide receiver Trey Quinn is active for the first time since being placed on injured reserve with an ankle injury he suffered in Week 1.
Texans defensive end and good human J.J. Watt played catch with some young fans in the FedEx Field stands during warmups.
It’s Redskins alumni homecoming weekend, so Washington will be wearing throwback uniforms.
Washington Redskins (6-3) vs. Houston Texans (6-3)
Kickoff: 1 p.m., FedEx Field
TV: CBS | Radio: 630, 980 AM; 92.7, 94.3, 105.9 FM
Line: Texans by 3
The red-hot Texans, winners of six straight, are well rested and relatively healthy coming off a bye. The same can’t be said for the Redskins, who strengthened their lead atop the NFC East with a win at Tampa Bay last week despite a rash of injuries. Washington’s makeshift offensive line held its own against the Buccaneers, but Houston’s defensive front, which features Jadeveon Clowney and J.J. Watt, presents a much tougher challenge. All-pro left tackle Trent Williams was upgraded from out to questionable on Friday, but it would be a surprise if Williams returned before next week’s game against the Cowboys.
The Redskins defense allowed 501 yards of total offense last Sunday, but only gave up three points, thanks in large part to four Tampa Bay turnovers. Washington probably can’t count on the Texans being so generous. Quarterback Deshaun Watson has thrown seven interceptions all season, and zero in his last three games. DeAndre Hopkins and recently acquired fellow wide receiver Demariyus Thomas will provide a stiff test for the Redskins’ secondary, including safety D.J. Swearinger, who continues to carry a grudge against Texans Coach Bill O’Brien stemming from their time together in Houston in 2015.