1 Bucs defense feeling Blue: Despite a patchwork offensive line and star Arian Foster being out with injury, the Texans were confident they could run on the Bucs defense.
Backup Alfred Blue, thrust into a featured role, showed that confidence with a huge game, rushing 31 times for 139 yards and a key 20-yard touchdown to clinch the game in the fourth quarter.
Only twice in the past 10 years has an opposing player rushed so many times against the Bucs — a pair of non-stars in Atlanta's Michael Turner (2008) and St. Louis' Zac Stacy (2013).
The same back rushed for 6 yards on five carries last week and had totaled 140 yards in his previous seven games combined. But it's not entirely unprecedented for him — last year, he went off for 36 carries for 156 yards in a win against the Browns.
"You can't allow the team to run the football that way," Bucs coach Lovie Smith said. "A lot of missed tackles and situations where we should be fairly strong against the run. That's what was most disappointing."
2 Third-down woes start much earlier: Yes, the Bucs went 1-for-12 on third down, but five of the first six required 10 or more yards for a first down.
The Texans, on the other hand, needed 1 yard, 3 yards and 3 yards on their first three conversions, making them much harder plays for the Bucs to defend.
When the Bucs did get Houston into third and long, they helped them with penalties. The Texans' eight third-down conversions officially don't count a defensive holding call that negated a third-and-14 incompletion, or a pass interference call that negated a third-and-10 miss.
3 Two different third-down passers: Don't blame the chain gang for all the Bucs' third-down woes, though — rookie QB Jameis Winston was just 2-for-12 for 31 yards throwing on third down, including 0-for-7 when he threw to Mike Evans, with an interception as well.
Houston's Ryan Mallett, older but with just one more career start than Winston, stepped up on third down Sunday. When the Bucs defense needed to be off the field most in the second half, he converted three third downs requiring 7 yards or more. His final third-down passing numbers? 9-for-13 for 66 yards, with seven third-down conversions.
4 Every little thing counts: The play may have ended up getting overturned on replay anyway, but the single greatest missed opportunity Sunday came in the third quarter, when the Bucs' Danny Lansanah forced a fumble on a punt return inside the Texans 10-yard line.
Josh Martin, a special-teams player signed by the Bucs this week, had the best shot to simply fall on the ball, setting the offense up inside the 5-yard line. Instead, Houston got the ball and was able to punt it away and escape unharmed.
5 Losing overshadows everything: Winston has more NFL losses in three weeks than he had in two seasons at FSU. Rookie LB Kwon Alexander got his first interception, taking advantage of a Lansanah deflection and setting up the Bucs' lone touchdown, but he couldn't celebrate the feat.
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"I'm not ever worried about that," said Alexander, whose 10 tackles were behind only Lavonte David's 14 for the team lead. "I'm upset about the loss. I'm just going to move on."
Contact Greg Auman at firstname.lastname@example.org and at (813) 310-2690. Follow @gregauman.