In the NFL, being the better team can get boring.
Despite a strong statistical day from the big three of Matt Schaub (19-of-27, 268 yards, two touchdowns), Arian Foster (24-for-111, one TD) and Andre Johnson (8-for-118), the Texans struggled to shake the pesky Bills, thanks to a poor showing on third downs, where they converted just four of 11 attempts.
The lack of in-drive consistency kept Houston from gaining momentum against an otherwise porous Bills defense. Though they had just one three-and-out while the game was in question, the managed just three touchdowns for their efforts.
The vaunted Texans' defense, on the other hand, more than did their part. The Bills normally possess a big-play run game, but C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson totaled just 60 yards on 12 carries, though Spiller tossed in 63 receiving yards to go with his rushing effort.
After a classic bootleg, play-action throw-back bomb from Schaub to Owen Daniels staked Houston to a 7-0 lead, Buffalo fought their way back into the game with sustained drives.
Both teams traded missed field goals (the Texans' attempt was blocked), before Buffalo closed the first half with a 6-0 run on the strength of two Ryan Lindell kicks.
They started the third quarter with the ball but went three-and-out as the Houston defense held its ground.
A long punt return by Keshawn Martin set Houston up in plus territory, and they eventually cashed in thanks to a long reception by Johnson and hard running by Foster.
The Bills answered with a field goal and a stop on defense to take over with 4:32 to play in the third quarter, trailing just 14-9.
Again, the Texans held fast. They opened the fourth quarter determined to put the pesky Bills away, and Schaub made sure of it with four first-down throws in route to a five-yard toss to Garrett Graham for the final Houston score, pushing the lead up to 11 points.
Whitney Mercilus eventually forced a Ryan Fitzpatrick fumble in the final minutes to snuff out any lingering hope the Bills still harbored.
While there was nothing scintillating about the game, the win was a credit to a mature Texans team that took care of business. The Bills game was a classic "trap" game wedged between a matchup with the Ravens, then the bye and before a nationally televised game against the 7-1 Chicago Bears.
Houston did what good teams do. They dispatched the Bills. The final product might not be anything celebrate, but the resulting 7-1 record looks nice and glossy atop the AFC playoff standings.
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