By Terrance Turner
Auig. 28, 2021
Tonight, in their final preseason game, the Houston Texans faced the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. They were facing the reigning Super Bowl champions; the Buccaneers won the Lombardi in February, the first team ever to win a Super Bowl in its home stadium. And the Bucs brought back all 22 players that started in the Super Bowl. (They’re the first team to do that since 1977.) The Texans faced a stiff challenge from the Bucs, and their victory was a long shot against a Tom Brady-led offense. Despite a stalwart Texans offense, the Bucs held on to outlast the Texans, 23-16.
Texans kicker Ka’imi Fairbairn was unable to play tonight. (Texans coach David Culley said that Fairbairn had pulled a muscle.) So it was Houston safety Justin Reid who did tonight’s kickoff to open the game. Reid had been openly lobbying for a chance to kick an extra point attempt throughout training camp. Tonight, Reid finally got a chance to kick, launching a booming 64-yard kick to the Tampa Bay one-yard line:
Houston and Tampa both went three-and-out on their opening drives. The Texans defense contained Tampa early in the quarter, but the Bucs put together a 91-yard scoring drive. Tom Brady went 7-for-7 on that drive. Bucs wide receivers Chris Godwin, Mike Evans and Antonio Brown each caught a pair of passes from Brady. Brady found Bucs receiver Chris Godwin for the touchdown. But the extra point was blocked and no good. It was 6-0, with 13 minutes and 18 seconds left in the first quarter.
The Texans went on a drive of their own, highlighted by receiver David Johnson’s 21-yd run. Houston proceeded to the red zone but struggled against the dogged Buccaneers defense. Because Fairbairn was absent, there were no field goal attempts or extra-point kicks. So Houston went for it on fourth down but failed. It was 6-0 as the quarter ended.
Tampa Bay took over as the second quarter began. It took them all of three and a half minutes to score, courtesy of running back Ronald Jones. Brady handed him the ball, and a wide open Ronald Jones ran to the outside, dashing down the sideline to score. This time, the extra point kick was good. The Buccaneers led 13-0.
Texans QB Tyrod Taylor got sacked. Khalil Davis had the recovery. Tampa Bay got the ball, and Brady’s night was done. Blaine Gabbert came in at quarterback. Gabbert was promptly sacked by Charles Omenihu and got intercepted on the next play by Texans safety Terrence Brooks. Houston regained possession. But the Texans ended up punting.
After the Bucs got possession, Gabbert lost the ball and had to fall on it in the end zone. Houston Chronicle sportswriter John McClain noted: “An aborted snap that Gabbert couldn’t handle forced him to fall on the ball in the end zone, just inside the goal line. Tackle DeMarcus Walker touched him down for a safety, leaving the Texans with a 13-2 deficit.”
The Bucs increased that deficit on their drive. They weren’t able to reach the end zone, due to the stout Texans defense. But Tampa Bay went 24 yards in 53 seconds before halftime as rookie kicker Jose Borregales nailed a 36-yard field goal. That gave the Bucs a 16-2 lead at halftime.
The Texans got the ball back in the third quarter. Running back Scottie Phillips ran 34 yards, and a big catch by Josh Moore took the Texans to the 9-yard line. Running back Rex Burkhead fought his way down to the 1. But the Bucs stopped Houston from scoring. Their fourth-down defense forced the Texans to turn it over on downs.
Kyle Trask came in as quarterback for the Bucs. But he fumbled the handoff, and the Texans recovered. Houston quarterback Davis Mills connected with Nico Collins — a rookie-to-rookie connection for the touchdown. Then Mills found Keke Coutee for the two-point conversion. It was 16-10.
On the Bucs’ drive, Trask bought time and heaved a pass to wide reciever Jaelon Darden. Then he threw a touchdown to tight end Codey McElroy (a 28-year-old first-year player!). The extra-point kick was successful, making it 13-10. The Texans would score again, but Tampa Bay held on to win, 23-16.