Rex Burkhead ran for a career-high 149 yards and two touchdowns, and the Houston Texans took advantage of three turnovers to beat the Los Angeles Chargers 41-29 on Sunday with both teams missing more than a dozen players because COVID-19 protocols.
The Chargers' playoff chances took a serious blow with the loss to the lowly, if recently improved, Texans. Outside linebacker Joey Bosa, running back Austin Ekeler, receiver Mike Williams and center Corey Linsley were among the major contributors on the COVID-19 list for LA (8-7), which entered in second place in the AFC West.
Houston (4-11) had 16 players miss the game on the COVID-19 list — including top receiver Brandin Cooks, center Justin Britt, defensive end Jonathan Greenard and kicker Ka’imi Fairbairn — but managed to win consecutive games for the first time this season. The Texans beat Jacksonville last week.
Burkhead had TD runs of 25 yards and 1 yard as the Texans, who entered the game ranked last in the NFL in yards rushing, ran for a season-high 189 yards. Rookie Davis Mills threw for 254 yards and two touchdowns.
The Chargers' Justin Herbert threw for 336 yards with garbage-time touchdown and two interceptions. Justin Jackson ran for 64 yards and two touchdowns and had 98 yards receiving filling in for Ekeler, but his fourth-quarter fumble led to a Houston field goal that hurt LA's comeback bid.
On the Chargers' next possession, Jackson scored on a 9-yard run and Herbert connected with Jared Cook on the 2-point conversion to get the Chargers within 27-23.
But Mills hit Nico Collins for a 13-yard touchdown with less than three minutes left to extend Houston's lead to 34-23. Tavierre Thomas effectively ended it when he intercepted Herbert and returned it 48 yards for a touchdown with just under two minutes to go.
Burkhead’s second TD, a 1-yard run early in the fourth quarter, made it 24-15.
Three plays later, DeMarcus Walker stripped the ball from Jackson and the ball was recovered by Jonathan Owens, who also created another turnover late in the second quarter that helped Houston take the lead for good.
Owens picked off Herbert at the goal line with about four minutes left in the first half. Owens' girlfriend, Olympic gold medal-winning gymnast Simone Biles, attended the game was seen on the in-stadium video board clapping and cheering after the interception.
The Texans cashed in on the miscue with a 94-yard drive capped by Mills' 41-yard touchdown pass to Chris Conley, giving them a 17-12 lead at halftime.
Dominik Eberle, who was signed this week with Fairbairn on the COVID-19 list, made his first NFL field goal on the first attempt of his career — a 51-yarder that cut LA's lead to 12-10 in the second quarter. He finished 2 for 3 on field-goal attempts.
Dustin Hopkins connected on field goals of 50, 46 and 35 yards for the Chargers.
Los Angeles LB Drue Tranquill left in the third quarter with a leg injury. ... Houston WR Phillip Dorsett injured his foot in the fourth quarter and didn't return.
Chargers: Host Denver next Sunday.
Texans: Visit San Francisco next Sunday.