First quarter: Lost in space
Houston’s Owen Daniels is one of the steadiest quality tight ends in the NFL.
Daniels averaged 50 catches over his first six seasons and made the Pro Bowl in 2009. He stayed on pace for another big season by catching a 39-yard pass for a touchdown with 36 seconds left in the first quarter. Daniels entered the game ranked sixth among NFL tight ends in catches with 33, and the TD was his fifth of the year.
Bills rookie linebacker Nigel Bradham lost track of Daniels down the right sideline. The Texans faked a sweep run to Arian Foster to the right. Daniels lined up on the left, flowed across the field to the right and cut up the right sideline.
Daniels gets media attention off the field by being a regular Skype guest of the Weather Channel. Daniels was an atmospheric and oceanic sciences major at the University of Wisconsin and has a working knowledge of meteorology.
Pressure: The Bills blitzed three times on Houston’s second drive and got a sack (by Kyle Moore), an incompletion and a holding penalty out of the plays.
Second quarter: Right as Rian
The Bills trailed by only 7-6 at halftime but should have held a 9-7 lead.
Rian Lindell booted field goals of 22 and 38 yards but missed badly wide right from 37 yards with 10:31 left in the second quarter. Lindell entered the game 5 of 5 on field-goal attempts, and the Bills had attempted the fewest field goals in the NFL.
It was Lindell’s first miss inside of 40 yards – not counting blocked kicks – since the middle of the 2010 season. Over the past five seasons before Sunday, Lindell was 64 of 65 from inside 40 yards (not counting one blocked kick).
Key plays: Bills defensive tackle Alex Carrington got his second blocked field goal in three games when he swatted a 46-yard attempt by Houston’s Shayne Graham with 6:22 left in the half. ... Fred Jackson showed good vision on a 13-yard run early in the quarter to get the Bills’ first field-goal drive started. ... A 13-yard screen pass to Dorin Dickerson was a nifty play on the second field-goal drive.
Second-guess: Houston back Arian Foster rushed for 62 yards on seven carries in the half, an 8.9-yard average. Why not give him the ball more?
Third quarter: Crash and burn
Bills cornerback Aaron Williams had a tough matchup against the Houston Texans and it turned out badly for him early in the third quarter.
The Texans sent All-Pro receiver Andre Johnson to Williams’ side of the field most of the game. On a third-and-5 play from the Buffalo 38, the Bills sent five rushers at quarterback Matt Schaub. Williams tried to get a jam on Johnson at the line of scrimmage but didn’t make good contact. Johnson broke free down the right sideline and caught a 34-yard pass to the Buffalo 5. Williams suffered a knee injury on the play and left the game for good. Two plays later, Arian Foster plunged over the goal line from the 3 to put the Texans ahead, 14-6.
Key plays: The Bills got a 39-yard field goal from Rian Lindell with 7:41 left.
Second guess: The Bills came out to open the second half and ran three straight empty-backfield plays that resulted in incomplete passes. So much for balance. … Punter Shawn Powell had a mediocre hang time (4.3 seconds) and didn’t get help from his outside coverage men on a punt that was returned 26 yards by Keshawn Martin to the Buffalo 39 early in the quarter.
Fourth quarter: Possessed
The Houston Texans showed in the fourth quarter why they are so good at closing out victories.
Clinging to a five-point lead entering the final 15 minutes, the Texans held the ball for 11:29 in the fourth quarter to snuff out any chance the Bills had at victory.
Houston entered the game leading the league in time of possession, holding the ball an average of 35:23 a game. The fourth-quarter ball-hogging against the Bills gave the Texans an edge of 34:03 to 25:57.
The Texans had only 78 rushing yards after three quarters but tacked on another 40 on 18 carries to finish with 118 yards for the game.
Key plays: A 5-yard touchdown pass from Matt Schaub to Garrett Graham with 11:25 left gave Houston a 21-9 lead. The Bills went three plays and out on the ensuing series.
Happy days: Houston coach Gary Kubiak on being 7-1: “It’s been a good first half, and we’re going to have to be a good road team in the second half of the season.”
Second-guess: The Bills called 46 pass plays and 13 runs. Not enough balance, regardless of Houston’s defensive tactics.