Texans clinch NFL playoff spot by beating Buccaneers

Washington (AFP) –


Houston's defensive unit forced five turnovers and thwarted Tampa Bay's comeback bid Saturday in a 23-20 NFL victory that booked the Texans a fourth playoff berth in five seasons.

Deshaun Watson threw for 184 yards and ran for 37 more while Ka'imi Fairbairn kicked three field goals and Bradley Roby returned an interception for a touchdown as the Texans improved to 10-5.

Houston clinched a fourth AFC South division crown in five seasons with the club's fourth victory in five games, a run that included a win over the reigning Super Bowl champion New England Patriots.

New England can clinch the AFC East division crown with a home victory later over Buffalo in a matchup of playoff-bound clubs while the Los Angeles Rams (8-6) try to sustain their playoff hopes at San Francisco (11-3).

The Texans began the scoring in the game's opening seconds at Tampa on Roby's 27-yard touchdown pickoff.

Fairbairn and the Buccaneers' Matt Gay exchanged field goals before Carlos Hyde's 1-yard touchdown run lifted Houston to a 17-3 advantage.

Tampa Bay scored twice in the final 1:57 of the second quarter to pull level at 17-17 at half-time thanks to a Ronald Jones 4-yard touchdown run and Jameis Winston's 8-yard touchdown pass to Justin Watson.

Fairbairn hit a 25-yard field goal in the third quarter but Gay matched him from 41 yards to equalize for the Bucs before Fairbairn hit the decider from 37 yards in the fourth quarter.

The Bucs turned over the ball on downs and on an interception by Houston's Jahleel Addae then got the ball with time for only two desperate plays deep in their own territory before the final seconds ticked away.

Houston joined New England, Buffalo, Baltimore and Kansas City in sealing American Conference playoff bids with Pittsburgh and Tennessee, both 8-6, leading the fight for the remaining spot.

San Francisco, Seattle, New Orleans and Green Bay have sealed National Conference playoff berths with Minnesota leading the Rams for a wildcard spot and either Dallas or Philadelphia set to win the NFC East division for another berth.