Who The Hell Is TJ Yates? (And Why The Texans Love Him)

After last week’s win, Coach Gary Kubiak summed up his Texans like this: “Three weeks, three different quarterbacks. But the same team.”

The first QB is a household name in fantasy circles, even if he pretty much fails as a celebrity. The second QB is a household name in a number of cheerleader paternity suits and hot tub party planners’ little black books, but pretty much fails as a quarterback. And the third guy… well, who the hell is he?

Well for starters, TJ Yates led the biggest drive in Texans history on Sunday, one that put them in the end zone, and into the postseason. His 6-yard touchdown pass with 2 seconds left for a 20-19 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals sent the expansion franchise into the playoffs for the first time.

Yates, a 2011 fifth-round draft pick out of North Carolina, got his chance when Matt Schaub and Matt Leinart suffered season-ending injuries in consecutive weeks. Making only his second start, Yates led the Texans on their biggest comeback of the season.

It was a 13-play, 80-yard drive that ended with a game-winning touchdown pass to Kevin Walter with 0:02 remaining against the Bengals on Sunday. Over 70 percent of Yates’ attempts went to targets within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage during the game including 8 of his 12 attempts on the Texans’ final drive. As far as dinking and dunking goes, though, it was a masterpiece. 

With their seventh straight win and a Tennessee Titans loss, the Texans (10-3) have clinched the AFC South title. Since their inaugural season in 2002, the Texans have been little more than a tease. They’d come close to reaching the playoffs, only to fade and fumble in the big games. With each passing year being dubbed, this is the year, they couldn’t quite get that breakthrough win.

Yates, the unlikely rookie took them over the hump.

With everything on the line for both teams, the Bengals (7-6) couldn’t stop him, heck they couldn’t even contain him. His 17 yard scramble on 3rd & 15 might have been the biggest play of the game. The Texans have kept winning while losing quarterbacks.  The back-up’s back-up came through when it mattered most. Before the season if you had told Texans fans they would hear the line “Yates to Kevin Walters for the touchdown”, more than likely the reaction would have been one of disappointment, or disbelief.

Not on This Given Sunday. Yates and a solid defense pulled them through, going for 26 of 44 for 300 yards with two touchdowns, one interception and five sacks.

Houston’s defense has been the toughest in the AFC, even with the loss to Mario Williams, and came through after the Texans fell behind 16-3 at halftime. Andy Dalton was sacked and fumbled, setting up Yates’ 6-yard touchdown pass that got the Texans some momentum early in the third quarter.

The Texans rallied on the road from a 9-point deficit at the end of three quarters to win. It’s the 2nd time in the Texans 10-season history that they rallied to win on the road in a game in which they trailed by at least nine points after three quarters. The only previous instance took place against the Redskins, a rally from a 10-point deficit after three quarters, last season.

The Texans’ improbable 20-19 come-from-behind victory over the Bengals is a tribute to the coaching of Gary Kubiak and the unbelievable composure shown by Yates, their rookie quarterback.

With less than twelve minutes to go in the fourth quarter and the Texans down by nine, Yates, again in only his second NFL start, was given the daunting task of creating two scoring drives to win the game.  Showing poise beyond his years and experience, Yates proved up to the task, leading 13-play drives — an 80-yard field goal drive and an 80-yard, game-winning touchdown drive.

In the fourth quarter, Yates, facing intense pressure by a desperate Bengals team fighting for their own playoff lives, completed 12 of 21 for 117 yards and a touchdown pass. And simply put led the biggest drive in Texans history.

So who is TJ Yates? We’re just starting to find out.