HOUSTON (AP) — Washington was done in by big plays and errors Sunday against the Houston Texans.
Ryan Fitzpatrick threw a touchdown pass, rookie Alfred Blue blocked a punt and returned it for a touchdown and J.J. Watt lived up to his massive new contract to help the Texans to a 17-6 win over Washington.
Robert Griffin III threw for 267 yards, but Washington’s offense was stymied by two second-half fumbles.
“We were executing really well, but then we just had those lapses that cost us the game,” Griffin said. “I’ve got to play better.”
The victory is Houston’s first since last Sept. 15 and snaps a 14-game skid.
The Texans led 7-6 after a 76-yard touchdown reception by DeAndre Hopkins in the second quarter. Blue blocked Washington’s punt on the next drive, scooped it up and returned it five yards for a touchdown to push the lead to 14-6.
A 42-yard field goal by Randy Bullock in the fourth quarter was the only score of the second half in a game that featured the NFL head coaching debut for both Washington’s Jay Gruden and Houston’s Bill O’Brien.
“There’s a couple of plays you just scratch your head at,” Gruden said. “Especially that blocked punt. I’m not even sure they were trying to block it.”
Watt had two tackles for losses including a sack, blocked an extra point, recovered a fumble and swatted down a pass in his first game since signing a six-year, $100 million contract on Monday. He also was credited with five hurries of Griffin.
“J.J. is a great player, and I credit our offensive line doing a good job battling with him the entire game,” Griffin said. “He’s a phenomenal player. they’re going to make those kinds of plays every now and then. You just have to limit those.”
First overall pick Jadeveon Clowney had a tackle for a loss in the first half before leaving with a knee injury. It wasn’t clear how Clowney was injured, but it happened late in the second quarter. O’Brien said it looks like Clowney will “be OK.”
Both teams got off to a slow start offensively, gaining just one first down apiece and punting a combined seven times in the first quarter.
Washington took the lead when Darrel Young scored on a 1-yard run about six minutes before halftime, but Watt blocked the extra point attempt to make it 6-0. That score was set up by a 21-yard run by Alfred Morris.
It didn’t take the Texans long to erase the deficit when Fitzpatrick found Hopkins wide open before he juked Bacarri Rambo to finish the 76-yard score. Rambo is filling in for Brandon Meriweather, who was suspended for the first two games for a helmet-to-helmet hit.
Washington fumbled on consecutive plays in the third quarter. The first one came when Griffin bobbled a handoff to Morris, who dropped it before Watt pounced on it for the seventh recovery of his career.
The next error came when Griffin found Niles Paul, who had gotten in front of the defense, for a 48-yard pass. But D.J. Swearinger stripped the ball and Kendrick Lewis recovered it at the 9-yard line. A thunderstorm started brewing outside as that play unfolded and a loud clap of thunder boomed through the stadium as Lewis jumped on the ball.
The Texans didn’t take advantage of either of the fumbles. They punted after the first one and Arian Foster lost a fumble to end a long drive by Houston following the second one.
Washington was driving late when Watt knocked down a pass by Griffin on third down. They went for it on fourth down, but couldn’t convert and the Texans ran out the clock.
Foster ran for 103 yards in his first action since offseason back surgery and Andre Johnson had 93 yards receiving.
Fitzpatrick had 206 yards passing in his first game with the Texans, who traded away last year’s opening day starter Matt Schaub to Oakland in the offseason.
DeSean Jackson had eight catches for 62 yards in his debut with Washington and Alfred Morris ran for 91 yards.
Washington had an embarrassing miscue late in the first quarter when Andre Roberts fielded a punt and had a lane, but was knocked out of bounds by teammate Young.