Rookie T.J. Yates threw a touchdown pass in his first NFL start, Arian Foster rushed for 111 yards and Houston overcame another injury to Andre Johnson to beat Atlanta 17-10 on Sunday.
The Texans (9-3) have won a franchise-record six straight games, a remarkable feat considering they're down to their third-string quarterback and have played the bulk of their streak without their star receiver.
Johnson left in the third quarter after hurting his left hamstring. He injured his right hamstring in Week 4, underwent minor surgery and sat out six games.
Coach Gary Kubiak said after the game that he was told the injury was not severe, but he couldn't be certain until Johnson underwent tests on Monday.
The Falcons (7-5) sputtered offensively much of the day and lost for just the second time in seven games. Houston's top-ranked defense knocked down two Matt Ryan passes in the end zone in the closing seconds.
Yates went 12-for-25 for 188 yards without an interception, an impressively poised performance after a whirlwind week. The fifth-round pick was thrust into action last week in Jacksonville when Matt Leinart broke his collarbone. Leinart was starting in place of Matt Schaub, who broke a Lisfranc joint in his right foot in Houston's previous game.
After Johnson went down, Foster ably took over the offensive load, carrying 10 times on Houston's decisive drive. Foster scored with 6:05 left, and then it was up to the Texans' defense to finish.
Atlanta got the ball back with 59 seconds left, and Ryan threw a deep pass to Julio Jones to the Texans 25. But Ryan overthrew Roddy White in one corner of the end zone and Kareem Jackson swatted away a pass to Jones in the other corner as time expired.
Kubiak couldn't bear to watch the final play, turning his back and walking down the sideline. When the ball hit the turf and the crowd erupted, general manager Rick Smith told Kubiak what happened and patted him on the back.
Ryan completed 20 of 46 passes for 267 yards, but also threw two interceptions. The Texans have intercepted a pass in 11 consecutive games.
Johnson looked like he'd be Yates' go-to guy early, making leaping catches on the quarterback's first two completions. Johnson atoned for an earlier drop by pulling in a perfect 50-yard pass from Yates to the Atlanta 5 in the second quarter. Yates then snapped a quick pass to Joel Dreessen for his first career TD, and chants of "T.J.! T.J.! T.J.!" emerged from the capacity crowd.
Ryan completed three passes to Tony Gonzalez to get the Falcons moving.
Linebacker Brian Cushing slipped trying to tackle Gonzalez and briefly left the game. While Atlanta drove for Matt Bryant's 19-yard field goal, athletic trainers examined Cushing's knee.
Yates took a hard hit from John Abraham early in the third quarter, and the way Houston's luck has been going, it would've been no surprise to see him stay down. But Yates was OK, and Cushing returned in the third quarter.
Neil Rackers came up short on a 54-yard field-goal try, and Ryan kick-started Atlanta's best drive of the game with an 18-yard pass to Gonzalez. Jones made an over-the-shoulder catch to the Houston 4, and Ryan found White wide open for the tying score with 1:46 left in the third quarter.
Johnson then simply fell down chasing a deep pass from Yates, a moment eerily similar to when he hurt his right hamstring without getting touched against Pittsburgh in Week 4. He threw off his helmet in frustration as he hobbled to the bench to meet with trainers, then walked off the field with his head down.
Foster kept Houston on track, converting a fourth-and-1 with a 7-yard run to the Atlanta 2. The Texans took more than 10 minutes off the clock with the 19-play drive, which tied a team record.