Despite having more than 20 players on their reserve/COVID-19 list, the Houston Texans pulled off one of the bigger upsets of the 2021 season on Sunday. A 3-11 outfit going into the Week 16 game, the Texans won a 41-29 decision over a Chargers team that entered the day as the No. 6 seed in the AFC playoff picture.
Houston pulled off the upset by forcing the Chargers -- who had their own COVID woes, with Austin Ekeler, Mike Williams and Joey Bosa out, along with several others -- to settle for field goals on their first two scoring drives. The Texans' defense also came up with three turnovers that resulted in 17 points. The second turnover, an interception by Texans safety Jonathan Owens, ignited a 94-yard drive that was punctuated by Davis Mills' 41-yard touchdown pass to Chris Conley that gave Houston a 17-12 halftime lead.
Mills continued his recent run of impressive play, finishing 21 of 27 on the day for 254 yards, 2 TDs and 0 INTs.
The Texans extended their lead to 12 points in the second half before the Chargers made it a one-score game on Justin Jackson's touchdown catch with 5:52 left. Jackson, filling in for Ekeler, had a huge day with 162 combined rushing and passing yards with two TDs. According to SportsLine data analyst Stephen Oh, the loss dropped the Chargers' playoff chances from 63.2% to 30.3%.
Houston responded with a 72-yard drive that was capped off by Mills' 13-yard scoring strike to Nico Collins with 2:32 left. Houston put the game away moments later when cornerback Tavierre Thomas picked off Justin Herbert and raced 48 yards for a touchdown.
The Chargers' defense had no answer for veteran fullback Rex Burkhead, who rumbled for 149 yards and two touchdowns on 22 carries. The Texans were extremely efficient on third down, as they went 9 of 13 on third down while controlling the ball for nearly 35 minutes.
With the loss, Los Angeles fell to 8-7 with two games left in the regular season, and has now gone 4-6 in its last 10 following a 4-1 start. And while the win hurt the Texans' cause in the race to acquire the No. 1 overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, they showed considerable resolve on Sunday behind first year head coach David Culley, winning their second in a row after beating the Jaguars last week.