HOUSTON -- No matter how many obstacles the Houston Texans face, they keep finding ways to overcome them.
On Sunday rookie quarterback T.J. Yates led them to their franchise-record sixth straight win with a 17-10 victory over the Atlanta Falcons.
Yates threw a touchdown pass in his first NFL start, Arian Foster rushed for 111 yards and Houston (9-3) kept rolling despite another injury to Andre Johnson.
"It’s a great win because of everything this team has been through," coach Gary Kubiak said. "We found a way to win."
The Texans’ success is remarkable considering they’re down to their third-string quarterback and have played many of their games without their star receiver.
The Falcons (7-5) sputtered offensively most of the game in losing for the second time in seven games. Houston’s top-ranked defense knocked down two passes by Matt Ryan in the end zone in the closing seconds.
"(The win) is big because it proves a lot because of the adversity we went through," linebacker Brian Cushing said. "Coming in here with your No. 3 quarterback against a defense like that and playing an offense like that, I think it really says a lot about our team."
Yates went 12 for 25 for 188 yards without an interception, an impressively poised performance after a dizzying week.
The fifth-round pick was thrust into his pro debut last week in Jacksonville when Matt Leinart broke his collarbone. Leinart was starting in place of Matt Schaub, who broke his right foot in Houston’s previous game.
The 24-year-old Yates went 8 for 15 for 70 yards in his earlier-than-expected debut against the Jaguars. He was sacked three times by the Falcons, but never looked overwhelmed.
Yates took a hard hit from John Abraham early in the third quarter, but Abraham was disappointed that they weren’t able to disrupt him more.
"It was our fault for not getting him down," Abraham said. "We got a few good pressures on him. But there’s a difference between making him move and making him take hits and getting him on the ground. We didn’t get him on the ground that much. He did a good job."
Johnson looked like he’d be Yates’ go-to guy early, making leaping catches on the quarterback’s first two completions. The All-Pro receiver also atoned for an earlier drop by pulling in a perfect 50-yard pass from Yates to the Atlanta 5 in the second quarter.
Yates then snapped a quick pass to tight end Joel Dreessen for his first career TD, and chants of "T.J.! T.J.!" emerged from the capacity crowd.
"I was studying my butt off all week long," Yates said, "and it paid off."
Naturally, the Texans couldn’t make it through a game without more adversity.
Johnson left in the third quarter after hurting his left hamstring. He injured his right hamstring in Week 4, had minor surgery and sat out six games.
Kubiak said after the game that he was told the injury was not severe, but he couldn’t be certain until Johnson has tests on Monday.
"I know it’s not as bad as the last injury I had, but I’m definitely worried about it," Johnson said. "It just didn’t feel right."
After Johnson went down, Foster took over the offensive load, carrying 10 times on Houston’s decisive drive. Foster scored on a 1-yard run with 6:05 left, and then it was up to the Texans’ defense to finish.
Atlanta got the ball back with 59 seconds left, and Ryan threw a deep pass to Julio Jones to the Texans 25. But Ryan overthrew Roddy White in one corner of the end zone and Kareem Jackson swatted away a pass to Jones in the other corner as time expired.
"I had the opportunity to make that play and I just had to come up with the catch at the end," Jones said.
Ryan completed 20 of 46 passes for 267 yards with two touchdowns, but also threw two interceptions. The Texans have intercepted a pass in 11 consecutive games.
"We played in spurts," Atlanta coach Mike Smith said. "We didn’t do the things we wanted to accomplish. We had way too many dropped footballs, way too many things that we normally don’t do."
After Johnson went down, Foster kept Houston on track, converting a fourth-and-1 with a 7-yard run to the Atlanta 2. The Texans took more than 10 minutes off the clock with the decisive, 19-play drive, which tied a team record.
Notes: Sunday was the ninth game this season in which the Texans have held an opponent under 20 points. ... Tony Gonzalez has a catch in 175 consecutive games, the league’s longest active streak. The tight end also reached 60 receptions for the 13th consecutive season, an NFL record. ... The Texans had a positive turnover ratio (plus-1) for the eighth time in 12 games. ... Houston has already matched its highest single-season win total (9-7 in 2009).