HOUSTON -- For most of the afternoon the going had been tough for Houston Texans running backs Lamar Miller and Alfred Blue, but with the outcome in the balance and with their game plan undermined by injuries, Miller and Blue proved relentless.
Bolstered by a surprisingly effective rushing attack, the Houston Texans pounded out a 20-13 victory over the red-hot Detroit Lions on Sunday at NRG Stadium.
Miller and Blue combined for 47 yards on a nine-play scoring drive that enabled the Texans (5-3) to build a 20-10 lead with 4:09 remaining in the game via a Nick Novak 36-yard field goal. After the Lions (4-4) matched that tally with a Matt Prater 34-yarder, Miller pounded his way for 25 yards and a pair of first downs to whittle away the clock following an unsuccessful onside kick attempt by Detroit.
The Texans executed on the ground despite the loss of receivers Jaelen Strong and Will Fuller to injury, a turn of events that severely limited their options on offense.
"It was real good," Miller said of salting away the victory on the ground. "I knew if we got one first down the game could be over so that gave me that motivation to get another first down and get the victory."
Miller and Blue totaled a modest 97 yards on 26 carries but that proved enough to help Houston snap the Lions' three-game winning streak. Texans quarterback Brock Osweiler tossed his ninth interception but also passed for 186 yards and a score to offset Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford, who passed for 240 yards and a score.
Lions running back Theo Riddick totaled 133 yards on 19 touches with a 1-yard touchdown reception. But after falling behind by two scores in the second quarter, the Lions pulled no closer than one touchdown following halftime, stymied by the Texans' ground attack after rallying to victory in each of the previous three weeks.
"They weren't going to throw the ball in that situation, so that's why you take a shot at it and see if you can get it back," Lions coach Jim Caldwell said of the unsuccessful onside kick. "And then, if you stop the run, you still have a chance. We just didn't get it done and didn't perform down the stretch."
The Lions faced the deficit largely due to miscues, with six first-half penalties either negating big gains on special teams or stalling progress offensively. That rhythm never materialized, with Detroit pushing into the red zone just twice while mustering 289 total yards despite the return of Riddick and tight end Eric Ebron.
"We shot ourselves in the foot a couple of times with some untimely penalties and that really hurt us," Stafford said. "We moved it well in the first and second quarter, but I've got to find ways to get us more big plays."
The Texans, meanwhile, performed with timely precision, converting 5 of 9 third downs prior to the intermission, including four on their opening touchdown drive.
Osweiler completed third-down passes of 10, 23, 12 and 6 yards, the latter to tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz for a touchdown with 12:56 left in the first half. Houston followed that 12-play march with a 10-play scoring drive on its ensuing possession, with Miller bulling his way into the end zone for 1-yard touchdown and a 14-0 lead the Texans did not relinquish en route to remaining unbeaten at home (5-0) this season.
"We executed well. We hit a couple third downs that we converted," Osweiler said. "There's been times throughout the season where we've gotten to third down and we haven't been able to get a new set of downs or first downs.
"It just boiled down early to executing well and converting on third down. Anytime you can convert on third down and get three more downs, you're going to put yourself in a good position."
NOTES: The Lions welcomed back RB Theo Riddick (ankle) and TE Eric Ebron (knee/ankle), who had been sidelined for three and two weeks respectively. However, DT Haloti Ngata (shoulder) missed a third consecutive game with CB Darius Slay (hamstring) also inactive following his injury last week against the Redskins. ... Texans TE C.J. Fiedorowicz recorded his fifth career touchdown in the second quarter but was later evaluated for a concussion after taking a blow to the head from Lions SS Tavon Wilson. Fiedorowicz returned later in the half. ... Lions LB Josh Bynes was in the starting lineup five days after signing with the team. He replaced the injured DeAndre Levy.