The Houston Texans had a chance to remain undefeated and show just how good they could be in front of a national television audience for the second time in a week.
Instead, Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers stole the spotlight.
The reigning MVP set a career high and tied a franchise record with six touchdown passes and the Packers played their best game of their so far inconsistent season, beating Houston 42-24 on Sunday night.
“Tonight wasn’t our night. We didn’t have a good showing,” defensive end J.J. Watt said of the Texans, who beat the Jets 23-17 on Monday night. “We are going to come back to practice this week, fix our mistakes, get it all corrected, and we will be just fine next week.”
Jordy Nelson caught three touchdown passes and James Jones had two, including a beautiful, diving one-hander in the fourth quarter for the Packers (3-3). Tom Crabtree had the other, a 48-yarder that Rodgers threw just before taking a hit from Texans’ outside linebacker Brooks Reed.
Rodgers completed 24 of 37 passes for 338 yards. He tied Matt Flynn’s game record for TD passes, set in last year’s regular-season finale against Detroit with Rodgers resting on the sideline in advance of the playoffs.
Arian Foster scored two touchdowns, but ran for only 29 yards for the Texans (5-1).
The loss leaves the Atlanta Falcons (6-0) as the only unbeaten team in the NFL.
Houston had the league’s third-ranked defense and badly missed star linebacker Brian Cushing, who was placed on injured reserve after tearing a knee ligament in the game against the Jets.
“There are no excuses here,” Texans coach Gary Kubiak said. “We got beat across the board. They got after us early.”
Houston is off to its best start in franchise history, while Rodgers and the Packers had been strangely erratic. But the Texans looked like the team out of sorts from the start on Sunday night.
Rookie DeVier Posey lined up offside on a Green Bay punt, resulting in a Packers’ first down. Rodgers then lofted a perfect pass to Nelson over the shoulder of cornerback Johnathan Joseph for a 41-yard touchdown, stunning the noisy crowd.
Houston’s offensive line also looked shaky. The Packers sacked Matt Schaub on each of Houston’s first two series, forcing quick punts. Schaub was only sacked three times in the first five games.
“It’s very disappointing to go out in front of our home crowd on Sunday night and have it turn out the way it did,” Schaub said. “We didn’t play up to our standard, up to our level of expectations that we have around here across the board, that’s everybody.”
Watt sacked Rodgers, and fired up the fans by mimicking Rodgers’ “championship belt” pose after the play. Watt, who finished with two sacks, came into the game with 7 1-2 sacks, just behind Green Bay’s Clay Matthews, who led the league with eight.
That didn’t faze Rodgers, who eluded a rush from Connor Barwin and completed a 24-yard pass to Randall Cobb, who had seven catches for 102 yards. Jones made a diving, fingertip catch in the end zone just before the end of the first quarter for a 14-0 lead.
Foster finished a 5-minute drive with a short touchdown run, but the Packers had a quick answer. Rodgers found Nelson with a 21-yard touchdown to cap a smooth drive that took less than 4 minutes.
Rodgers completed 15 of 21 passes for 187 yards and was only sacked once in the first half. He connected with six receivers, and didn’t miss Greg Jennings, who sat out again with a groin injury.
Not that they needed it, but the Texans helped Rodgers with some untimely penalties.
A holding call wiped out an 11-yard touchdown run by Rodgers. But Barwin stepped on another player’s back trying to block Mason Crosby’s field-goal attempt, an unsportsmanlike conduct call resulting in a first down.
Safety Danieal Manning was called for a personal foul after a whistle on a third-down play, and Rodgers threw another TD pass for a 28-10 lead.
Rookie receiver Keshawn Martin made two first-down catches late in the third quarter and Foster scored again. Cobb returned the ensuing kickoff to the Packers’ 43, and Rodgers went back to work. On third down, he scrambled to his right and threw to Crabtree, who was wide open and waltzed into the end zone.
Sam Shields intercepted Schaub and fans started filing for the exits, with more than 14 minutes remaining. Shields left the game later with a shin injury.
Bryan Braman blocked Tim Masthay’s punt and Posey recovered in the end zone with 5:30 left.
NOTES: Texans WR Andre Johnson caught eight passes for 75 yards, going over 10,000 yards receiving in his career. … The Texans made a field goal for the 16th consecutive game, a franchise record. … The announced attendance was 71,702, a record for a regular-season game at Reliant Stadium.
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