EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - Deshaun Watson threw a 14-yard touchdown pass to DeAndre Hopkins with 2:15 left, lifting the Houston Texans to a 29-22 comeback victory over Sam Darnold and the New York Jets on Saturday night.
After Darnold and the Jets took their first lead of the game on Elijah McGuire's 2-yard touchdown run, Watson and the Texans (10-4) answered right back.
A holding call on cornerback Morris Claiborne on third down prolonged the drive, and Watson completed passes of 20 and 3 yards to Demaryius Thomas and 7 yards to Hopkins to get to New York's 14. Watson then found Hopkins streaking down the left sideline and launched a pass that the receiver somehow came down with despite being tightly covered by Claiborne.
Hopkins appeared to injure a leg on the play, and Watson and Alfred Blue helped him to the sideline as the Texans celebrated. The receiver was OK, though, and finished with 10 catches for 170 yards and two TDs.
Ka'imi Fairbairn's 40-yard field goal -- his fifth kick of the game -- made it 29-22 with 54 seconds left.
Darnold and the Jets (4-10) had one more opportunity to try to tie --or win-- but Houston held on.
The loss ruined what was a terrific night for Darnold, who made plays with his arm and legs all game. The No. 3 overall pick was 24 of 38 for 253 yards and touchdown passes to Robby Anderson and Andre Roberts. He set up an impressive 15-play, 73-yard go-ahead drive late during which he converted three third-down plays and a fourth-down opportunity.
On third-and-10 from the 19, Darnold took off for 14 yards -- and a holding call on Aaron Colvin put the ball on the 2. After Darnold was stopped for no gain on a quarterback draw, he handed the ball to McGuire who pushed up the middle -- surrounded by a surging mass of blockers who helped shove him all the way into the end zone for the score.
It set off a wild celebration by the Jets. But Watson and the Texans -- whose nine-game winning streak was snapped by Indianapolis last Sunday -- weren't going to go down for the second straight game.
Watson finished 22 of 28 for 294 yards and the two scores to Hopkins.
Fairbairn gave the Texans a 3-0 lead with a 41-yard field goal with 9:23 left in the opening quarter -- after the Jets appeared to catch a bit of a break. On third-and-7 from the 9, Henry Anderson grabbed hold of Watson, who somehow slipped out of the defensive end's grasp and had some room to run. But the officials called the play over because they ruled Watson's forward progress had been stopped, and Anderson was credited with a 13-yard sack and forcing Houston to settle for the field goal.
Jason Myers tied it at 3 for the Jets with a 26-yard field goal with 2:01 remaining in the first quarter. Houston regained the lead on Fairbairn's 32-yarder early in the second quarter.
The Texans got the ball back a few minutes later when J.J. Watt forced the ball out of McGuire's hands and Angelo Blackson recovered it. Two plays later, Watson launched a deep pass for Hopkins, who got past Darryl Roberts -- who was turned around on the play -- and adjusted to the ball in the end zone for a touchdown that made it 13-3 midway through the second quarter.
Fairbairn's 53-yarder with 4:35 left made it 16-3 for the Texans.
Darnold gave the Jets some life just before halftime with a terrific drive during which he made plays with his legs -- a 10-yard run on third-and-3 -- and arm -- passes of 16 yards to Chris Herndon and 26 to Robby Anderson. On first-and-goal from the 5, Darnold scrambled a bit before stepping up in the pocket and zipping a pass to Anderson for a touchdown to make it a 16-9 game.
But, Myers then missed his second extra point of the season -- and 14th of his career.
Darnold picked up where he left off in the first half, leading the Jets on another touchdown drive, driving New York down the field and capping another impressive possession with a 13-yard toss to Andre Roberts. Darnold kept the drive alive on third-and-10 from the Jets 40 with a laser-like throw to Robby Anderson for 20 yards.
Myers followed by missing his second straight extra point as Houston remained ahead 16-15. Fairbairn's 49-yarder increased the Texans' lead to 19-15 with 12:33 left.
Houston running back Lamar Miller left with an ankle injury in the second quarter and didn't return. He was initially hurt early in the first quarter Saturday when he went down after a 1-yard run. He tried to get up and walk it off before going back down to the turf and being attended to by trainers. He returned on Houston's next possession, but left again early in the second quarter. He had 8 yards on three carries against the Jets. ... Jets starting right tackle Brandon Shell was carted off the field early in the third quarter with a knee injury. He was blocking during a passing play when left guard Spencer Long rolled into his left leg. ... Texans nose tackle Brandon Dunn also left with an ankle injury and didn't return. ... Jets wide receiver Rishard Matthews left with a hamstring injury.
GETTING TO THE QB
Henry Anderson had three of the Jets' six sacks of Watson. It marked the first time New York had six or more since it had seven against Buffalo on Nov. 2, 2017.
Texans: at Philadelphia on Dec. 23.
Jets: home vs. Green Bay on Dec. 23.
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Houston could clinch the AFC South title with a win and then a loss or tie by both Indianapolis and Tennessee on Sunday, or with a tie and losses by both the Colts and Titans. The Texans could also seal a playoff berth with a combination of other scenarios involving several other teams.
Either way, they know they can set themselves up nicely with a victory at MetLife Stadium.
"With three games left throughout the regular season, I think you home in and focus in," cornerback Johnathan Joseph said, "especially on one game at a time, 12 quarters of football, however it has to be."
Meanwhile, the Jets are just focused on the finish line - and perhaps the end of coach Todd Bowles' tenure.
New York snapped a six-game skid last Sunday with a 27-23 win at Buffalo, but it would appear Bowles will not be back next season after four years without a trip to the playoffs. General manager Mike Maccagnan is not a certainty to return, either, with some misses in the draft and free agency during his tenure.
"It's the same thing every week: We want to win every game, regardless of whether we're going to the playoffs or not," Bowles said. "We want to get every game and get better as a team. That's all we're trying to accomplish."
Here are some things to know about the Texans-Jets matchup:
It's expected to rain for much of the day, with showers at kickoff. That will be something different for the Texans, whose home stadium - NRG Stadium - features a retractable roof.
"You've just got to go out there and try to grip the ball as best you can," said Watson, playing at MetLife for the first time. "You focus on your footwork a little bit more, be cautious with that and understand that the receivers might - depending on the turf or the grass, wherever we're playing - (focus on) their footwork. ... You've got to just go play ball."
Darnold returned from a strained foot that sidelined him for three games and went 24 of 30 passing (80.0 percent) in the win against the Bills. It marked the fifth time in team history a player had a completion percentage of 80 or better and the first since Chad Pennington did it twice in 2007.
He also showed off some cool nerves by leading his first fourth-quarter comeback.
"I think every experience for him, he's so into it," offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates said. "He doesn't get real high, doesn't get real low, he just takes every moment as a learning moment, both good and bad. So, I think it's just another moment that he's going to take for the rest of his career, for the rest of his life and use it as a teaching experience."
Darnold will be without two key playmakers on offense with top running back Isaiah Crowell (toe) and wide receiver Quincy Enunwa (ankle) both ruled out with injuries.
Elijah McGuire and rookie Trenton Cannon will see increased opportunities in the backfield, while Rishard Matthews and Deontay Burnett could be called on to replace Enunwa.
Houston's J.J. Watt has bounced back this year to have another strong season after playing just eight games over the previous two years because of a back surgery and a broken leg.
The defensive end leads the team with 12 1/2 sacks, 22 quarterback hits, 15 tackles for losses and a career-high five forced fumbles. His 88 1/2 career sacks are the second most through a player's first 101 games, trailing only the 106 that Reggie White had.
"The last two years were extremely difficult," he said. "But, to be here, to be playing meaningful football in December, playing in big games in winter time and me being out there on the field participating in those games, is awesome. This is just, it feels good to be back in that situation, to be back on the field, to be getting the sacks, to be playing good football, to be with the guys."
TAKING CARE OF THE BALL
The Texans did not turn the ball over last week, marking the sixth time this season that they've had zero turnovers in a game.
It's the second-best streak in a season in franchise history. A big reason: Watson has thrown just two interceptions in the last seven games after being picked off seven times in the first six games.
Copyright 2018 by KPRC Click2Houston. The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.