The Houston Texans created turnovers and played solid defense to beat the Chicago Bears at their own game.
The big question now for coach Lovie Smith and the Bears is how long will they be without quarterback Jay Cutler.
Arian Foster finished with 102 yards rushing and a touchdown catch, and the Texans intercepted Cutler twice before knocking him out of the game with a concussion on their way to a 13-6 victory on Sunday night.
That injury was the biggest development on a night when the Texans prevailed in a showdown between two of the NFL’s best teams.
Cutler took a helmet-to-helmet hit late in the second quarter from Tim Dobbins, and coach Lovie Smith said, started experiencing symptoms at halftime.
“He took a lot of hits, more than he needed to take,” Smith said.
Will Cutler be available next Monday night at San Francisco?
“We’re hopeful, but you can’t go that far,” Smith said. “We just know he had symptoms, which started clearing up after the half. When a guy doesn’t finish the game, you’ve just got to go with that right now.”
It was a better night for the Texans.
“I think we showed them we can win any game, any situation, any time, any place, tough weather conditions, tough place on the road, a very good football team,” defensive lineman J.J. Watt said. “We won, so say what you want.”
The Texans (8-1) had four takeaways against a team that came in with a plus-16 turnover differential, and Dobbins delivered the biggest blow when he drove his helmet into Cutler late in the second quarter.
Foster was the only reliable offensive option on either side, particularly in the first half when he ran for 85 yards and made a sprawling catch for a 2-yard touchdown to put Houston ahead 10-3.
Otherwise, neither team got much going on a soggy night. The Texans were outgained 249-215, but they did just enough to come away with the win. Now they’re tied with Atlanta for the league’s best record after the Falcons were upset by New Orleans.
“It’s huge for us, we were 7-1 going in, to come out 8-1 in a hostile place, given the weather and the team we were playing, that’s a tough group to go against,” said Matt Schaub, who threw for just 95 yards and was picked off twice by Tim Jennings.
Andre Johnson, Schaub’s top target, had just four catches for 35 yards with Charles Tillman on him. Former Bear Danieal Manning helped set the tone, forcing a fumble by Kellen Davis on Chicago’s first play from scrimmage and picking off Cutler later in the first quarter.
Cutler completed just 7 of 14 passes for 40 yards with two interceptions in the first half and was seen in street clothes after the game being driving off on a cart by team officials. Jason Campbell threw for 94 yards in the second half.
“You never want to lose anybody, especially our starting quarterback,” receiver Brandon Marshall said. “He is our leader, he is the heart and soul of our offense so we definitely want him to have a quick, speedy recovery.
“In the meantime, Campbell is more than capable. There was no heads hanged down when Jay was down. There was no complaining. We understand we have a starting quarterback in the backup so we’re fortunate to have him. There will be no drop off in our offense.”
Marshall had 107 yards receiving, but also dropped a pass in the end zone. Matt Forte never got going, running for 39 yards for Chicago (7-2).
But the biggest sequence came when Cutler got hurt.
The Texans were leading 10-3 on a lunging 2-yard touchdown catch by Foster. A scrambling Cutler took that helmet-to-helmet hit from Dobbins after throwing a pass on third down at midfield late in the first half.
There were offsetting penalties on the play. Cutler got called for an illegal forward pass because he was beyond the line of scrimmage and then got drilled by Dobbins, who was called for unnecessary roughness.
Cutler stayed in and the drive ended with his second interception. Kareem Jackson picked off a pass intended for Marshall in double coverage at the Houston 27.
“It’s tough,” Campbell said. “That what defenses try to do.”
Was it a cheap shot?
“He caught him right under the chin,” Campbell said.
Smith wouldn’t say if the concussion occurred on that play, adding, “He took a lot of hits, more than he needed to take.”
He also said Cutler wanted to keep playing but added, “The decision was made for him.”
Cutler was in for the final drive of the half, but Campbell started the third quarter, sending a big chill through Soldier Field.
After all, the Bears crumbled last season after Cutler injured his thumb, spoiling a 7-3 start. They went into a tailspin with Caleb Hanie and finished 8-8, costing general manager Jerry Angelo his job.
With Campbell now in the mix, the Bears believe they could at least survive, and that theory could be put to the test in a big way with a game at San Francisco next Monday night.
“If I have to play, of course, during the week I will get those practice reps and get the guys used to (me),” Campbell said. “And they will get used to me as a quarterback, until Jay is ready. That’s something that we have all week to get ready for. We don’t have to work that out during the middle of the game.”
Notes: Bears DE Shea McClellin left with a concussion in the opening minutes. … Texans TE Owen Daniels was out because of a back injury. He was limited in practice on Friday after sitting out the previous two days.