HOUSTON – Ryan Fitzpatrick had one of the best games of his career in Houston's win this weekend after two weeks on the bench.
Now coach Bill O'Brien wants to see if the quarterback and his team can build on the victory on Sunday against the Jaguars.
"The trick is can we do it again," O'Brien said.
Fitzpatrick threw a career-high and franchise-record six touchdown passes to help Houston score the most points in team history in a 45-21 win over the Titans. The veteran returned to the lineup after being benched in favor of Ryan Mallett, who suffered a season-ending chest injury a week before.
"Maybe it helped Fitz to take a step back," O'Brien said. "You never want to see anybody get hurt like Mallett did, but maybe it helped Fitz to see how the offense was operated and he went in there and did a good job."
Fitzpatrick had his first 300-yard passing game of the year with a season-high 358 yards passing on Sunday. His six touchdowns against Tennessee tied the number he threw in his previous five games combined. The team went 1-4 in those games and he had three interceptions to open the door for Mallett to take over.
He agreed with his coach that his time out of the lineup helped him handle running O'Brien's complicated offense much better.
"I think that being able to look at it at a different perspective, take a step back, and see it from a different view, I do think it helped a little bit," Fitzpatrick said. "I think that and me going back and evaluating myself I think those were two factors that helped me out."
A seventh-round pick out of Harvard, the 32-year-old Fitzpatrick has alternated between starting and being a backup often during a 10-year NFL career spent with five different teams. He said another key to his successful return was not getting down when he lost the starting job.
"To be a successful quarterback in this league, it's all about self-confidence," he said. "Never losing that belief in yourself and that's something that I will never lose."
Fitzpatrick was sacked nine times combined in the two games before his benching and admitted that he was holding the ball too long at times. He wasn't taken down once on Sunday behind a line that O'Brien said has been playing well in the last three games.
"Part of it is the fact that their quarterbacks are seeing things a little bit better in the games that we've won, getting rid of the ball faster," O'Brien said. "But it's also a part of it is the offensive line is playing better."
Fitzpatrick's big game was helped by a career-day by receiver DeAndre Hopkins. A first-round pick in 2013, Hopkins had a career-high 238 yards receiving with two touchdowns on Sunday to give him more than 1,000 yards receiving this season.
The 22-year-old Hopkins is beginning to establish himself as the top receiver for this team as Andre Johnson's production has started to taper off in his 12th NFL season. O'Brien believes Hopkins has improved this season because of hard work and increased maturity.
"He has gone out there and made himself a better player because of his own work ethic," O'Brien said. "He is the last one off the field many times ... he is out there trying to perfect the top of his routes and doing little things every single day, really that we are out there, to try to make himself better."
NOTES: O'Brien said that cornerback Kareem Jackson, who has missed the last three games with a knee injury, could return this week. ... O'Brien isn't sure if outside linebacker Jadeveon Clowney will be able to play on Sunday after missing his seventh game this season because of a knee injury. But he came to the defense of the top overall pick who has been the subject of intense criticism for missing so much time since being drafted because of several injuries. "I want to be real clear about this with him as it relates to us here and the Houston Texans," O'Brien said. "We think very highly of him. We know that he is going to be a really good player. He has been unlucky ... he is a good kid. He is a good teammate and he is working hard to get back on the field."
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