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McClain: My 10 most memorable prime time games in Texans' history

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John McClain, a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the Texas Sports Hall of Fame, is in his 48th year of covering the NFL in Houston, including 45 seasons at the Houston Chronicle.

With the NFL schedule being released on Wednesday, Houston fans are eager to find out how many nationally televised games the Texans will have, especially those that'll be played in prime time.

Nothing stimulates the fanbase in regular season like a prime time game at home. The day-long anticipation elevates the interest level and creates even more excitement as the clock ticks down to kickoff.

Fans are stoked about the Texans' season and the possibility of repeating as AFC South champions. Will the Texans be a Super Bowl contender capable of dethroning the Chiefs, who are going for a record third consecutive Lombardi Trophy? Will the Texans be good enough to get more than one playoff game at NRG Stadium for the first time in franchise history? Will the Texans become the first team to reach the AFC Championship Game since the 1979 Oilers?

It's going to be a long time before those questions can be answered, but there's nothing wrong with hopping on the hype train while we wait for Wednesday to see when the Texans will play whom.

The Texans have a tough but attractive schedule with a lot of games that are deserving of a national audience. Will the Texans play a prime-time game at home against the Bills, Ravens, Dolphins, Lions or an AFC South opponent? Will they go on the road to get national recognition against the Cowboys, Chiefs, Jets, Packers or a division foe?

While considering the enticing possibilities, I've put together 10 memorable prime time games the Texans have played in regular season. I've listed them in chronological order. Please check them out and let me know if you agree or disagree with my selections. Meanwhile, if you're like me, you can't wait for the schedule to be released!

Sept. 8, 2002, Texans 19, Cowboys 10, NRG Stadium, ESPN

Until the Texans play an AFC Championship Game in prime time that launches them to their first Super Bowl, nothing will equal the first game in franchise history before a crowd of 69,604. The Cowboys were favored by almost 20 points, but the Texans pulled off a shocking upset. As the final seconds ticked down, owner and founder Bob McNair stood on the sideline while fans chanted, "Thank you, Bob! Thank you, Bob!" for bringing the NFL back to Houston.

Oct. 8, 2012, Texans 23, Jets 17, MetLife Stadium, ESPN

There's always something extra special about playing a prime time game in the New York metropolitan area – the nation's sports mecca. The Texans were 4-0 and the Jets 2-2 under Rex Ryan. The Texans were playing like a legitimate Super Bowl contender in their 10thseason – their seventh under Gary Kubiak. Almost 80,000 fans watched Arian Foster rush for 152 yards and a touchdown to help the Texans control the ball for 35:16.

Nov. 11, 2012, Texans 13, Bears 6, Soldier Field, NBC

Both teams were 7-1. Wind and rain turned this game into a defensive struggle that resembled old-fashioned football reminiscent of the NFC Central – known as the Black and Blue Division. The Texans forced four turnovers and limited the Bears to 249 yards. Matt Schaub tossed a 2-yard touchdown pass to Arian Foster, who rushed for 102 yards on 29 carries. Shayne Graham kicked three short field goals. This was such a physical game in nasty conditions the Texans took immense satisfaction from the victory and celebrated like they'd won a playoff game.

Sept. 9, 2013, Texans 31, Chargers 28, Qualcomm Stadium, ESPN

One season after they finished with a franchise-best 12-4 record and were eliminated in the divisional round at New England, the Texans were considered a Super Bowl contender. They began the season at the Chargers and fell behind 28-7 late in the third quarter, thanks to four touchdown passes by Philip Rivers. Then Matt Schaub ignited one of the greatest comebacks in team history. He threw a 7-yard touchdown pass to Garrett Graham to make it 28-14 going into the fourth quarter. Schaub's 9-yard scoring pass to Owen Daniels made it 28-21. Brian Cushing's 18-yard pick-6 tied the score. Randy Bullock won it with a 41-yard field goal with no time remaining. Schaub finished with 345 yards and three touchdowns. Andre Johnson caught 12 passes for 146 yards. The Texans began what would be Gary Kubiak's eighth and final season 2-0 but didn't win another game.

Oct. 16, 2016, Texans 26, Colts 23, OT, NRG Stadium, NBC

The Texans fell behind 13-0 in the first quarter and trailed 23-9 in the fourth quarter. Brock Osweiler threw two touchdown passes to make it 23-23 late in the game. The Texans won on Nick Novak's field goal in overtime. Osweiler finished with 269 yards passing, and Lamar Miller ran for 149 yards and a touchdown to give the Texans a 4-2 record in Bill O'Brien's third season.

Sept. 14, 2017, Texans 13, Bengals 9, Paul Brown Stadium, NFLN

After winning their second division title and first playoff game under Bill O'Brien in 2016, the Texans began the season by getting crushed at home by Jacksonville. O'Brien benched Tom Savage at halftime of the opening loss and replaced him with rookie Deshaun Watson. In his first start, Watson ran for a 49-yard touchdown, and the Texans played outstanding defense to escape with the victory over the Bengals. Watson was installed as the starting quarterback, a job he excelled at before suffering a season-ending knee injury in practice.

Oct. 10, 2018, Texans 19, Cowboys 16, OT, NRG Stadium, NBC

The Texans limited Dak Prescott to 208 yards passing and Zeke Elliott to 54 yards rushing. Brett Maher's 48-yard field goal forced overtime. The Texans won when Ka'imi Fairbairn kicked a 36-yard field goal with 1:50 left in overtime. The Texans were 2-3 after an 0-3 start. They wouldn't lose again until they were 9-3 on their way to an 11-5 record, their best under Bill O'Brien.

Oct. 25, 2018, Texans 42, Dolphins 23, NRG Stadium, Fox/NFLN/Amazon

This game started well for former Texans QB Brock Osweiler but certainly didn't end well. The Dolphins jumped to a 7-0 lead, but the Texans led 28-20 in the fourth quarter. DeAndre Hopkins and Jordan Thomas caught two touchdown passes each. Will Fuller caught one. Lamar Miller ran for 133 yards and a touchdown.

Dec. 1, 2019, Texans 28, Patriots 22, NRG Stadium, NBC

The Patriots came to town with a 10-1 record. The Texans were 7-4. DeAndre Hopkins threw a TD in the fourth quarter to give the Texans a 28-9 lead. The defense had to withstand a furious rally by Brady, who threw two touchdown passes in the fourth quarter. Even those big throws only raised Brady's rating on the day to 85.9.

Jan. 6, 2024, Texans 23, Colts 19, Lucas Oil Stadium, ESPN/ABC

In the last game of Head Coach DeMeco Ryans' first regular season, the Texans needed to defeat the Colts to win their first AFC South title since 2019. The game was tied 17-17 in the fourth quarter. Devin Singletary's 3-yard touchdown gave the Texans a 23-17 lead after Ka'imi Fairbairn's extra point failed. The Colts took a safety to try to get the ball back to pull out the victory, all to no avail. C.J. Stroud threw two touchdown passes and compiled a 134.1 rating. Nico Collins caught nine passes for 195 yards and a touchdown. The Colts kept it close because the Texans' nemesis, Jonathan Taylor, ran 30 times for 188 yards and a touchdown.

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