It has been more than four months since the Texans opened the 2023 season on the road in Baltimore.
It was C.J. Stroud's NFL debut and DeMeco Ryans first game as a head coach. For Houston, it was a new-look team and a franchise getting a fresh start.
Now, Houston and Baltimore meet again in the AFC Divisional Round on Saturday but with completely different squads than the two that clashed in early September – a game which the Ravens won 25-9.
"From there to where we are now, we've definitely grown," Ryans said. "Completely different team. They're a completely different team. They're trying to figure out who they would be offensively with the new [offensive coordinator] [Greg Roman], but they've done an outstanding job – Baltimore – with their defense. I think they've been probably the most consistent defense throughout the entire year.
"We've grown, their offense has grown. They've done a really great job."
As Ryans reflected back on that first game, what he remembered was that they were in it at halftime.
And they were. The Texans trailed 7-6 at the break.
"You look up – I remember going into halftime – and man, we were right there," Ryans said. "Going against a really tough team, we were right there."
The Ravens pieced together a 15-point third quarter to pull away and eventually get their first win of the year. Baltimore went on to win 12 more games to go 13-4 in the regular season and secure the No. 1 seed in the AFC.
Houston on the other hand, despite starting the season 0-2, pieced together a 10-win season, which included some dramatic, last-second victories, to get into the playoffs.
A 45-14 victory over the Browns in the AFC Wild Card Round last week has gotten them here now.
The Texans have grown from game one to now game 19 and Ryans admits that it took the ups and downs along the way to build this team. It took the failures throughout the season to get them to this point.
For the Texans, they have learned from those lessons and are now one win away from playing for the AFC Championship.
"It takes a lot of learning lessons just throughout the entire year to truly grow, to make you tighter," Ryans said. "I think you learn best in those tough moments. You see who guys are, their true character, when things get tough, when everything isn't going well. How do guys respond? We've seen that, we've seen how everybody responded through those tough times that we had, throughout some tough losses.
"But everybody continued to stick together, everybody continued to work, and that's the reason why we're in the position that we are in now."
The Houston Texans face the Baltimore Ravens on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. in the AFC Divisional Round. It will air on ESPN/ABC.