Texans fall apart in 2nd half of 25-22 loss to New England

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HOUSTON (AP) — The Houston Texans looked to be on the way to their first win since the opener after building a nice lead with a solid first half Sunday against the New England Patriots.

Instead, a second half filled with mistakes, penalties and a bizarre punt for no yards led to a fourth straight loss.

Rookie Mac Jones threw a touchdown pass to tie it before Nick Folk’s 21-yard field goal with 15 seconds left lifted the Patriots to the 25-22 win.

This loss comes after an embarrassing 40-0 rout at Buffalo that was the most lopsided defeat in franchise history. But this one feels even worse than that debacle because the Texans know this was a winnable game.

“Man, this one hurts a lot,” running back David Johnson said. “We let one slide. We let one get away from us. We definitely had the win. We didn’t do enough at the end.”

The game was tied at 22 before New England (2-3) used a 15-play, 85-yard drive capped by Folk’s fourth field goal of the game to take the lead. The drive was kept alive when Maliek Collins was flagged for roughing the passer on third-and-18 early in the possession.

Houston rookie Davis Mills threw an incompletion after Folk’s field goal before Brandin Cooks fumbled after a catch to seal New England’s victory.

Jones tied it when he connected with Hunter Henry on a 13-yard touchdown with about nine minutes remaining.

Mills threw for a career-high 312 yards with three touchdowns to bounce back from last week’s terrible performance where he tied a franchise record with four interceptions.

“Davis protected the football,” coach David Culley said. “He was very good in the pocket and ran our offense very well. We knew going into the game, the most important thing to do was be able to protect the football and he did that.”

But he was unable to move the ball late as the Texans (1-4) lost again.

“You don’t want to lose football games ever, so it’s a harsh feeling,” Mills said. “But the guys rallied together. We (played) how we wanted to a lot during that game, and we can learn from that and find ways to win.”

Mills threw a 37-yard touchdown pass to Chris Conley on a flea flicker early in the third to extend Houston’s lead to 22-9.

Things started to fall apart soon after that.

The Texans made an embarrassing mistake later in the third when Cameron Johnston’s punt bounced off the back of teammate Terrence Brooks for zero yards, giving the Patriots the ball at the Houston 36. New England took advantage of the mistake when Folk made a 52-yard field goal that cut the lead to 22-12.

“There was a possibility that if they gave us the right look we were going to fake it,” Culley said of the gaffe.

Folk added a 32-yard field goal later in the third to get the Patriots within 22-15 and the Texans missed a 56-yard field-goal attempt early in the fourth quarter.

Mills looked good early, throwing touchdown passes of 11 and 67 yards to help Houston to a 15-9 halftime lead. His work Sunday was encouraging for a team left to start the third-round pick with Deshaun Watson out amid a trade request and legal problems and Tyrod Taylor on injured reserve.

Mills hopes that they can carry over the good things they did Sunday into next week's game.

“I think just going out there and feeling the feeling of making plays and being right there close to winning games at the end is (good)," he said. “There’s really a feeling of us learning how to win games and finish. I think we’re close. We just didn’t do enough today."

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More AP NFL coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

Kristie Rieken, The Associated Press

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