GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The division lead that the Houston Texans spent the first 12 weeks of the season building is gone.
The Texans got a solid effort from their defense, which was playing without defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, who did not travel to Green Bay because of a wrist/elbow injury. With three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt on injured reserve, Clowney has been one of the Texans' best defensive players this season. The unit held Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the offense to seven points and 111 passing yards through three quarters.
But after an injury to cornerback Johnathan Joseph, cornerback Charles James slipped on Rodgers' 32-yard touchdown pass to receiver Jordy Nelson and the Packers took the lead for good. The Packers followed with a 3-yard touchdown run by fullback Aaron Ripkowski for their final score. Rodgers finished 20-of-30 for 209 yards and two touchdowns.
“Our guys played hard. They always play hard. It just wasn’t enough,” head coach Bill O’Brien said. “We’re not finishing drives. We’re not finishing games. Very hard-fought game, great job by them.”
And even though the defense kept the Texans in the game, the offense could only cover up for an ineffective Brock Osweiler for so long.
Osweiler was 21-of-34 for 213 yards and two touchdowns, including a 44-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins with just under two minutes left in the game. Running back Lamar Miller struggled in the snow, finishing with 22 yards on 14 carries. Fellow backs Alfred Blue and Jonathan Grimes had some success, combining for 10 carries for 81 yards. But that was not enough to get the offense going, which has still scored more than two touchdowns only once this season.
Although Osweiler found Hopkins for the long touchdown pass, they were not able to connect for most of the game. Hopkins finished with two catches for 55 yards on seven targets. He also had two drops, including one in the third quarter with the Texans on the Packers' 36-yard line. On second-and-5, Osweiler's pass bounced off Hopkins' hands on what would have been a first-down catch.
After the Texans couldn't convert a third down and were forced to punt, Green Bay drove 98 yards for the go-ahead touchdown.
"It's very frustrating," Osweiler said. "Obviously my job as the quarterback of this team is to lead this offense, to protect the football and to score points. ... Today we weren't able to do that."
The Texans are now 6-6 and tied with the Tennessee Titans atop the division, only a half-game ahead of the Indianapolis Colts, who play the New York Jets on Monday night. Next week Houston will travel to Indianapolis in a huge division game as they attempt to hold on to win the AFC South for the second consecutive year.
“We played OK at times, but obviously not good enough to win," O'Brien said. "So now we’re headed into … these are the games where we have to figure it out. If we don’t, we’re not going to be where we want to be. If we do, we’ll have a shot.”