A win at Kansas City earlier this year was nice, but the Texans say it has little bearing on this Sunday's Divisional Round playoff game at Arrowhead Stadium.
When the first quarter ended that October afternoon against the Chiefs, the Texans were trailing 17-3. They put three touchdowns on the board in the second quarter, gave Kansas City the lead again in the third, and then went on to dominate the fourth quarter. In that final period, the Chiefs had the ball for just 1:25. The Texans' defense forced a pair of 3-and-outs, and the offense put together a touchdown drive that lasted 8:32, and a suffocating 9-play drive that burned the final 5:03 off the clock. Houston won, 31-24, and pushed their record at the time to 4-2.
"I do think that both teams are different," Texans head coach Bill O'Brien said. "I do think that over the course of a season, based on a lot of things, whether it's injuries or scheme or whatever, that things can change, but you definitely have to go back and look at that as a reference point."
Running back Duke Johnson, who scored the first touchdown that day on an 11-yard catch from Deshaun Watson, believes much has changed over the last three months.
"Nothing we did the first game matters," Johnson said. "It's the same team, but that game was early in the year. This is a different game, different mindset, different team."
The Texans were without receiver Kenny Stills, cornerback Johnathan Joseph and special teamer Taiwan Jones that day. Cornerback Bradley Roby and right tackle Tytus Howard were each lost to injury. Corners Gareon Conley and Vernon Hargreaves, III were playing then for Oakland and Tampa Bay, respectively. Stills explained what he saw watching from the sideline that afternoon, and what needs to go differently this Sunday.
"We started out slow, and the guys had to make a comeback in order to get the victory," Stills said. "We're just thinking about starting fast, eliminating penalties and turnovers and playing a clean football game."
The Chiefs, meanwhile, were without receiver Sammy Watkins, defensive lineman Chris Jones and right tackle Eric Fisher. They also didn't have pass rusher Terrell Suggs, who they added off waivers in late December.
Kickoff is set for 2:05 p.m. CT on Sunday.