Justin Reid returned an interception 101 yards to help the Houston Texans overcome a mistake-prone Deshaun Watson and beat the Washington Redskins 23-21 on Sunday for their seventh consecutive victory.
Washington's loss came at a significant price when quarterback Alex Smith suffered a gruesome ankle injury on a sack in the third quarter.
Smith's right ankle turned the wrong way as he was sacked by Kareem Jackson and J.J. Watt on a play eerily similar to Joe Theismann's broken leg that came exactly 33 years ago to the day.
Colt McCoy replaced Smith and threw for a touchdown pass and led a long scoring drive for Washington (6-4), which likely will have to rely on the journeyman quarterback the rest of the way.
Adrian Peterson's touchdown that put the Redskins up 21-20 early in the fourth quarter was the first lead change in a game involving the Redskins all season.
Watson threw for a touchdown and had two interceptions, completing 16 of 24 passes and taking three sacks. Houston (7-3) turned the ball over three times, but kept its winning streak going after Redskins kicker Dustin Hopkins missed a 63-yard field-goal attempt with 3 seconds left.
PETERSON'S UP AND DOWN DAY
Peterson ran for two touchdowns to continue climbing the NFL rushing chart, but was bottled up on a lot of his other carries. Peterson's 3- and 7-yard TD runs gave him 105 in his career and moved him past former Redskins star John Riggins into sole possession of sixth all time, one behind Jim Brown for fifth.
Peterson finished with 51 yards on 16 carries.
A week after Redskins cornerback Josh Norman criticized fans for not having players' backs at home and said the team plays better on the road, FedEx Field had plenty of good seats still available. Most of the lower bowl of the stadium was full, but the middle and upper decks were fairly empty well into the game.
In his second game with the Texans, Demaryius Thomas was a non-factor. Watson only threw his way twice -- once on a play wiped out by a penalty -- and the former Broncos receiver did not have a catch.
Thomas stayed in Houston during the bye week in Houston to study the playbook and watch film after making a handful of newcomer mistakes in his debut. Thomas had three catches for 61 yards in that game, but disappeared from the offense Sunday.
Washington receiver Trey Quinn made a major impact in his return after missing more than two months with a high-ankle sprain. Quinn, who was "Mr. Irrelevant" caught four passes for 49 yards starting in place of injured wideout Jamison Crowder.
Reid's big play was the second-longest interception return TD in NFL history, trailing only Pete Barnum's 103 yards in 1926.
Texans: RG Zach Fulton left with a shoulder injury on the first drive, and LG Senio Kelemete left with an ankle injury in the second quarter. ... CB Aaron Colvin missed his seventh game in a row with an ankle injury.
Redskins: DL Jonathan Allen was evaluated for a concussion but returned. ... S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix was pulled off the field before a third-down play in the fourth quarter, but returned for the next Houston possession. .. Crowder missed his sixth consecutive game with an ankle injury, RB Chris Thompson his third consecutive game with injured ribs and LT Trent Williams his third consecutive game after surgery for a dislocated right thumb.
Texans: Host the division rival Tennessee Titans on Monday, Nov. 26.
Redskins: Visit the Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving Day.
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"Winning helps," Houston coach Bill O'Brien said. "Everybody has confidence in their ability to go out there and play well, but I also think our team understands that this is a very humbling league. This is a league, it's a short walk. It's a short walk from where you are right now to where you were when you were 0-3."
It's a very short walk for the Redskins from their best to their worst. A three-game October winning streak and last week's victory at Tampa Bay didn't show their best.
So there's reason why, despite leading the division by two games, Washington isn't getting the same buzz as other playoff contenders. Players are just fine with that.
"Nobody's really looking at the Redskins or anything," middle linebacker Zach Brown said. "For us, we're just going to keep trying to stack up the wins and see where we can take it. For us, we just need an invite to the dance because you never know what might happen."
Peterson figures it's too early to think playoffs, but said: "You can definitely have it in the back of your mind and understand how important each and every game is."
Coming off their bye week, the Texans fully understand the value of every game to their chances of winning a third division title in four seasons.
"We have to win against the Redskins to even keep conversations like that alive," defensive end J.J. Watt said. "If you start to look that far ahead and you start to think about things like that, that's when you get blindsided."
Some things to watch when the Texans visit the Redskins:
WHAT A COMEBACK
Watt and Peterson are top candidates for the NFL's Comeback Player of the Year award after turning in strong performances in their return from two straight seasons that were cut short by injuries.
Watt played just eight games in the previous two seasons because of back surgeries and a broken leg. Peterson missed 19 games in the 2016 and 2017 seasons combined because of knee surgery and a neck injury.
Watt is tied for third in the NFL with nine sacks and tied for first by forcing four fumbles. He also has 16 quarterback hits, 11 tackles for losses and has swatted down two passes.
Peterson is tied for fifth in the league with 672 yards rushing and has scored four touchdowns.
Watt raved about Peterson's comeback.
"He's obviously one of the great running backs of the game," Watt said. "What he's been able to do in his career, but then to be able to come back the way he has and have the type of season he's having - obviously, I know how difficult it is from firsthand experience to come back from injuries, so I'm extremely impressed by what he's been able to do. I have a ton of respect for his game. It's always a good challenge to play against him and I enjoy the competition."
SWEARINGER REVENGE GAME
Redskins safety D.J. Swearinger, who was drafted by the Texans in the second round in 2013 and cut after the 2014 season, has not been shy to rip O'Brien. He posted on Instagram this week about "unprofessional actions" by O'Brien that led to his release, which his former coach responded to by saying he didn't know what Swearinger was talking about.
"D.J. made a lot of plays for us here," O'Brien said. "He's a very instinctive, tough, competitive player. He's obviously gone on to Arizona and now in Washington and I think he's a captain there and he's (second in) the league in interceptions, doing a great job, has got excellent ball skills, good tackler, tough, competitive guy."
Only the Giants' Eli Manning and Cowboys' Dak Prescott have been sacked more this season than Watson. The Texans quarterback said he tries to get back as close to the line of scrimmage as possible so as not to lose yardage on his 30 sacks.
Brown has noticed on film that defenses can force sacks on Watson when they lock down on coverage because the young QB holds on to the ball so long trying to make something happen.
"I think he's just trying to make plays," Brown said. "He's still young. Eventually he'll get that clock ticking in his head."