EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — Shayne Graham’s 42-yard field goal for Houston was followed by New York’s Joe McKnight’s 100-yard kickoff return touchdown, and then Graham’s 22-yard field goal as the Texans led the Jets 23-14 through three quarters Monday night.
McKnight electrified the crowd just 13 seconds after Graham capped a 14-play, 70-yard drive that took up more than half of the third quarter. He sped up the middle, cut left and shrugged off an attempted tackle by DeVier Posey inside the Houston 15.
It was McKnight’s second career TD on a kickoff return; he led the NFL in average kickoff runback last season.
The Jets then tried an onside kick, but Houston recovered at the New York 46. A 30-yard gain on a screen pass to James Casey set up Graham’s third field goal of the game.
Arian Foster rushed for 132 yards and a touchdown through three quarters.
Foster virtually walked untouched into the end zone on his 13-yard touchdown to break a 7-7 tie in the second period. He gained 42 yards on three straight carries on the 67-yard drive. New York ranks next-to-last at stopping the run, a huge failure for a Rex Ryan defense – and a huge opportunity for Foster.
The Jets threatened late in the first half, but Mark Sanchez’s pass was tipped by end J.J. Watt and went behind receiver Jeremy Kerley to Brice McCain, who ran back the interception 86 yards before Kerley caught him at the New York 9. Graham made a 27-yard field goal as the half ended.
Texans star linebacker Brian Cushing left in the second quarter with a left knee injury and his return was questionable. Jets starting center Nick Mangold hurt his right ankle in the third period, but returned for the final play of the quarter.
Tim Tebow made an early impact on offense and special teams for the Jets. He threw a pinpoint deep pass to newcomer Jason Hill, but the receiver dropped it in the opening period. And on the first play of the second quarter, he gained 3 yards on a fake punt to pick up a first down.
Otherwise, the backup quarterback did little. At least the starter, heavily criticized Sanchez, hit Jeff Cumberland with a perfect 27-yard touchdown pass in the opening quarter to tie it at 7.
The Jets, who have won all five meetings with the Texans, were coming off a 34-0 home loss to the 49ers in which their offense, defense and special teams were pitiful. But an interception by Antonio Cromartie set up their touchdown and gave their fans something to enjoy.
Unable to deal with that prosperity, the Jets yielded a 46-yard run by Foster on the next play from scrimmage. But that led nowhere, and the quarter ended tied.
Houston wasted no time showing why it is the AFC’s lone undefeated team, driving 85 yards on eight plays, with Matt Schaub going 4 for 5. Owen Daniels, who earlier gained 14 yards on a screen pass, got wide open behind the secondary on his 34-yard touchdown as New York’s safeties both bit on play-action.
New York then went three-and-out, an all-too-common series for the Jets thus far this year; they rank 28th in offense, while going 2-2. But the Texans also couldn’t go anywhere on their next series.
Ryan promised his defense would be sturdier than in last week’s rout at the hands of San Francisco, and after Houston’s first scoring drive, it was. Cromartie stepped in front of Andre Johnson and picked off Schaub’s pass on the Texans’ third possession, then gave the ball to his wife in the stands.
Four plays later, the Jets had tied it, their first points in two weeks.
The short-handed Jets were without their top defensive player, Darrelle Revis (left knee), and key receivers Santonio Holmes (left foot, on injured reserve) and tight end Dustin Keller (hamstring). They also were minus starting nose tackle Sione Pouha (back).
Houston was also missing a key player, backup running back Ben Tate.
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