One of Houston Texans’ head coach Bill O’Brien’s favorite talking points regards winning all three phases of the game — offense, defense and special teams.

On Sunday, the Texans had to settle for excellent performances from only two of the three to carry them to a 20-13 win over the Buffalo Bills at NRG Stadium. The third straight win for the Texans brings them to 3-3 overall and puts them squarely back in the mix in the AFC South standings after all three of their division foes lost Sunday.

“Usually, you’re trying to win all three phases, and if you can win two out of three phases, then you have a good chance of winning the game,” O’Brien said. “Obviously, defensively, on special teams, we won those phases.”

By the late stages of the fourth quarter, the Texans’ defense had held the Bills’ offense to just over 200 yards, and on special teams, the Texans had recovered a muffed punt and had blocked a punt in the game. Defensive end J.J. Watt even got his league-leading seventh sack of the still young season.

“I’m just trying to get better and better,” Watt said. “Everybody told me I was washed up. Some people didn’t think I could get seven sacks for the season. So, I’m just trying to keep doing what I’m doing.”

But, it still took a 27-yard Ka’imi Fairbairn field goal to tie the game at 13-13 with 1:34 left in the game due to an offense that struggled to consistently move the ball (were held to 216 yards in the game), struggled to protect already banged-up quarterback Deshaun Watson (sacked seven times) and struggled to hold onto the ball (three forced fumbles with one lost, two interceptions).

“I think that was a really important win right there,” O’Brien said. “But, I also know that we’re not going to be able to be where we want to be unless we figure this thing out on offense.”

To put the Texans over the top, it took the defense once again stepping up, as cornerback Johnathan Joseph got the go-ahead score on a pick-6 and cornerback Kareem Jackson sealing the game with another interception.

“It’s a great feeling to win the game for your team, but just to be out there with all guys pulling for one another, every guy on defense today — every guy on this team made plays that contributed to this win,” Joseph said.

So here the Texans are — back in an old familiar place with the defense putting the team on its collective back, even with their long sought after franchise quarterback in tow. Even though they find themselves back in division title contention, until the Texans can consistently win that pesky third phase known as offense, they’ll continue to be more pretender than true contender.

James LaCombe: 409-683-5242, james.lacombe@galvnews.com or on Twitter @JamesAtGalvNews

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