Packers 29, Texans 24
HOUSTON, TX. -
The undefeated Texans and Packers faced off on Sunday night, both reeling from significant injuries revealed only days before. The Texans lost star starting linebacker Brian Cushing for the season from a knee injury, and the Packers lost starting halfback Cedric Benson to a Lisfranc injury to his foot. Neither player is expected to return this season, possibly changing the fortunes of both teams.
For the Packers, the loss of Benson thrust Alex Green and James Starks into the running back position against the stout Texans defense -- a defense without their leader at middle linebacker. Without Cushing in the lineup, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers looked to take advantage, even without hobbled wide receiver Greg Jennings.
It didn't take Rodgers long. On the first play from the line of scrimmage, Rodgers reared back and fired a deep strike to Jordy Nelson down the left sideline, and Nelson took it the rest of the way for a 74-yard touchdown pass only 11 seconds into the game.
On their second drive of the game, the Packers looked to be slowed after a sack by Texans budding star defensive lineman J.J. Watt. But Rodgers, unbowed, struck again when he hit rookie receiver Jarrett Boykin over the middle and Boykin slipped between defenders Bradie James and Glover Quin, Jr. for a 50-yard touchdown pass and an early 14-0 lead.
Rodgers was deadly accurate, hitting on his first nine pass attempts before an incompletion to Jordy Nelson in the end zone, but the Packers' Mason Crosby converted a 27-yard field goal to extend their lead to 17 points midway through the second quarter.
The Texans looked to be slipping into an insurmountable hole, but on the ensuing kickoff, Justin Forsett took the ball back 99 yards for the Texans' first score, cutting the Packers' lead to 10.
Crosby connected for the Packers again, this time on a 26-yard field goal that extended the Packers' lead to 20-to-7 at the two-minute warning. After another inept series by the Texans, Crosby nailed another field goal as time expired, giving the Packers a dominating, 23-7 halftime lead.
The halftime stats were nothing less than shocking. The Packers held a four-to-one time of possession advantage and Aaron Rodgers had thrown for 255 yards at the half, while the Texans had less than 50 yards of total offense.
But as the second half began, Texans coach Gary Kubiak's adjustments made an immediate difference. Quarterback Matt Schaub led a balanced, clock-chewing, 87-yard drive for an Arian Foster touchdown that took 11 plays, leaving the winded Packers gasping for oxygen and cutting their lead to nine.
Rodgers led the Packers to another field goal, but Schaub and Foster led the Texans to another touchdown, connecting on a screen pass that went for 32 yards and the score, cutting the Packers' lead to only five early in the fourth quarter.
With six minutes to go, and the Texans with the ball at the 50-yard line, it appeared that momentum had changed hands. Then, Andre Johnson caught a pass at the Packers' 25-yard line, but was hit hard and fumbled. Jarrett Bush picked up the ball and ran it back for a touchdown, clinching the game for the Packers. Or he would have, if Kubiak's savvy challenge hadn't proved that Johnson was down by contact before the ball came loose. The Texans retained the ball and kicked a 37-yard field goal to make it a two-point game with just under five minutes left to play.
Rodgers drove the Packers down the field, but the Texans' defense held firm, forcing the Packers to line up for a very long, 57-yard field goal attempt. Crosby, perhaps the strongest kicker in the NFL, was up to the task, driving the ball through the uprights to give the Packers a 29-24 lead with only a minute and a half remaining to play.
The Texans fought their way down the field to the Packers' 40-yard line, but as time expired, Schaub's last-second pass to Johnson in the end zone fell incomplete. Houston's perfect start had come to an end as the Packers held on for victory to even their record at .500, but even as disappointed fans streamed out of Reliant Stadium, their hopes for the playoffs remained undimmed.
For the Packers, their playoff push had just begun, and in rousing fashion.
The Madden 13 Futurecast is simulated using 11-minute quarters with a 20-second accelerated clock and modified sliders that result in final game statistics within standard NFL norms. Every effort has been made to adjust for current depth charts and injury statuses, taken directly from the teams themselves.