Bruce Ellington made the best possible first impression.
The fourth-year wide receiver, playing in his first game with the Texans, finished with four receptions for 93 yards in Houston’s 27-23 win against the New England Patriots Saturday night at NRG Stadium.
Ellington, a fourth-round draft pick by the 49ers in 2014, was released by San Fransisco early last week and was claimed by the Jets, but was again released when he failed a physical. He signed with Houston last Friday.
“I just studied the playbook and got in with cash for extra work,” Ellington said. “It’s been a blessing to come out here and be a part of this team. You have to make plays to make the team, so it was huge.”
Denzel Rice picked off his first pass of the preseason midway through the fourth quarter to set up a four-yard touchdown by rookie D’Onta Foreman for the game-winning touchdown. It was the first touchdown of his NFL career.
Tom Savage started the game and finished 8-of-9 passing for 89 yards and one score. Deshaun Watson finished out the first half and played most of the second quarter, completing three of his 10 passes for 102 yards and rushing for 10 yards and one touchdown.
“I did a decent job doing what I need to do to try and move the ball,” Watson said. “There are always things to get better at.”
Houston was outstanding as drives went on, holding the Patriots to just seven conversions on their 15 third down attempts. A pair of rookie linebackers led the defense Dylan Cole had a team-best 10 tackles and Zach Cunningham finished with seven tackles for the second straight game.
Jaelen Strong made the most of his starting spot with DeAndre Hopkins watching from the sideline and capped an 11-play, 58-yard drive with a 2-yard touchdown from Savage late in the first quarter.
The Patriots answered right back when Tom Brady exploited a wide open hole in the Texans’ secondary, finding running back Rex Burkhead for the 22-yard score. The teams traded field goals on the final three possessions of the game and New England took a 13-10 lead into the break.
Watson looked shaky in the first half. But his final pass of the game was a short one to D’Onta Foreman that went for 63 yards and got the Texans down to the four-yard line. Two plays later, Watson called his own number and scored on a two-yard option up the middle.
“(Coach O’Brien) made the play call and I just kinda made it work,” he said. “Everybody did their jobs.”
New England regained the lead after a 10-play, 83-yard drive that took nearly five minutes off the clock to start the fourth quarter. Jimmy Garoppolo hit D.J. Foster with a short pass up the middle that went for a 25-yard score.
Houston when three and out on the next drive, but got the ball back quickly thanks to the interception by Rice. Forman rumbled in from four yards out to give Houston a lead they wouldn’t give up.
Houston’s third preseason game is next Saturday at 7 p.m. on the road against the Saints and wrap up the preseason with a Thursday night game against the Cowboys on Aug. 31. The Texans open the regular season at home on Sept. 10 against the Jaguars.
“It was good to get back in front of the home crowd,” J.J. Watt said. “It was good to be back in front of our home fans. I’m just getting the toes wet a little bit and we’re just showing a glimpse of what’s possible. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”