It was a day of two “firsts” for Zach Cunningham.
In the Texans 29-13 win over Cleveland, Cunningham picked off a pass for the first time in his NFL career. It was also his first touchdown as a pro.
But more importantly, Cunningham’s timing was outstanding in the eyes of head coach Bill O’Brien.
With the Texans up 10-0 in the middle of the second quarter, the second-year linebacker intercepted a Baker Mayfield pass at the Cleveland 37-yard line, and weaved his way up the left side of the field. He dove at the end of the play and extended the ball over the pylon for a score, and gave the Texans a 17-point advantage.
“To me, that was one of the bigger plays in the game, early on,” O’Brien said. “His ability to get it into the end zone, the way that he did, was really a great play. He’s really an excellent athlete and that helped us. It was 10-nothing at that point, and that made it 17-nothing. That was a big play in the game.”
Cunningham said scoring after he snared the pass “was definitely my mindset”, and he enjoyed discussing what happened after the victory.
“Obviously I made an amazing catch,” Cunningham joked. “That was my first pick, my first touchdown in the NFL, so it definitely felt great for me.”
He also had two tackles and two passes defensed in the win. Being back on the field with his teammates after missing a pair of games because of injury was meaningful for Cunningham.
“It definitely felt great for me just to get back out there and play with the guys,” Cunningham said. “To be able to do what I can to help the team. It felt great for me.”
His teammates were impressed by the degree of difficulty, too.
“It was a great play by Zach,” Jackson said. “Considering Zach was out until last week, for him to come in and make that type of play, a one-handed interception, and to be able to take it back for a touchdown, that was huge. It definitely gave the stadium a lot of energy.”
Cunningham and the Texans defense came up with four takeaways on the afternoon.