Texans 27, Rams 20
ST. LOUIS (AP)—A calmer Mario Williams was a lot more disruptive in his second pro game than the amped-up one was in his first.
Williams, who made a negligible impact last week, showed signs of justifying Houston’s decision to take him at No. 1 over Reggie Bush in a 27-20 Texans win over St. Louis on Saturday night. He drew the Rams into a pair of penalties, batted down a pass to force a punt and tackled running back Tony Fisher for a 3-yard loss.
Last week, Williams said he was too excited.
“I just came out and was really thinking about taking my time and not being too caught up in just being on the field,” Williams said. “I just took my time and let it happen, just had fun.
“I had a lot more fun today than I did last week.”
Coach Gary Kubiak said Williams “played like a rookie” in the preseason opener.
He saw a different player against the Rams.
“Without looking at the film I could feel his pressure out there,” Kubiak said. “That’s what you have to have. You have to take steps each week.”
Vernand Morency, who did not play in the preseason opener due to a hip injury and coach Gary Kubiak’s decision to look at other backs, had touchdown runs of 4 and 43 yards and totaled 95 yards on 11 carries. Phillip Buchanon also had a big game for the Texans (2-0), with punt returns of 32 and 33 yards and a fumble recovery on the first play of the second half that gave Houston the ball at the St. Louis 17, leading to Kris Brown field goal for a 13-3 lead.
A pass interference call in the end zone on Buchanon, however, led to a 1-yard run by Fred Russell late in the third quarter that cut the Texans’ lead to 20-17.
The Texans completed a preseason sweep of Missouri’s NFL teams after beating the Chiefs 24-14 last week, also getting a 44-yard touchdown pass from backup quarterback Sage Rosenfels to Derrick Lewis in the fourth quarter.
The Rams (1-1) scored a pair of touchdowns in the third quarter, a 4-yard touchdown pass from Gus Frerotte to Shaun McDonald and a 1-yard run by Fred Russell. St. Louis had first-and-goal at the 2 at the 2-minute warning but the Texans’ defense held.
Coach Scott Linehan said he would have gone for a 2-point conversion and the win if the Rams had scored.
“The bottom line is the keys to winning weren’t there,” Linehan said. “I don’t think we played as smart and as tuned-in as we did a week ago.”
Last week, Williams was on the field for only 11 plays and was credited with one assist. This time he lined up at both end positions and saw some action at tackle.
Williams was part of a defensive line rotation that played the first half, along with quarterback David Carr and the rest of the Texans’ first-stringers. Most Rams starters were out of the game by early in the second, with the starters producing three points in three possessions.
“We’ve got some things we’ve still got to iron out with our offense,” Carr said. “It was good to see that, so I don’t mind playing the whole half.”
The Rams’ No. 1 offense has not scored a touchdown in five preseason possessions.
The Texans’ first touchdown, Morency’s 4-yard run midway through the second quarter, came against the Rams’ second-stringers. So did Kris Brown’s 48-yard field goal with one second left in a half, four plays after Remy Hamilton’s 51-yard attempt was blocked by Dexter McCleon.
Carr was 10-for-17 for 99 yards, while Rams starter Marc Bulger was 7-for-13 for 86 yards.
The Rams’ special teams, last in the NFL last season, struggled for the second straight game. Matt Turk had two 50-yard punts and a 59-yarder, but one of the 50-yarders was returned 33 yards by Buchanon to help set up Houston’s first touchdown.
Buchanon’s 32-yard return came one play after an ineligible downfield call on Brandon Green negated a Turk punt that would have pinned the Texans at the 3.
“That’s huge field position, and this is a field position game,” Linehan said. “That’s as bad as a turnover.”
Last week, the Rams were victimized by an Indianapolis onside kick on the opening play, and also gave up a 63-yard kickoff return to set up the Colts’ first 10 points in St. Louis’ opening 19-17 victory.
The Rams held out offensive tackle Orlando Pace, who sprained his right knee and ankle on Monday. Defensive end Leonard Little (quad) also was held out. The Texans held out guard Steve McKinney (knee).
St. Louis was held to 61 yards on 27 carries after totaling 202 yards rushing last week against the Colts. The Texans took away the run with lots of eight-man fronts.
“I believe we’re coming along,” center Andy McCollum said. “We’ve got the guys who are going to take it upon themselves to fix the mistakes they’ve made.”