Nothing will take away the empty feeling that the Texans feel from missing the playoffs.
On Sunday, though, the team exacted some measure of revenge for arguably their most heart-wrenching loss in a season filled with them.
Behind the NFL's leading rusher, Arian Foster, the Texans ended the Jacksonville Jaguars' playoff hopes with a commanding 34-17 victory in front of an announced crowd of 71,023 at Reliant Stadium.
In Week 10, the Jaguars' Hail Mary touchdown off a deflected pass with no time remaining gave them a 31-24 victory over the Texans.
The rematch was far out of reach by the fourth quarter. Entering halftime with a 20-17 lead, the Texans shut out the Jaguars in the final two quarters and forced a pair of turnovers to close out the game. It was the second-fewest points allowed all season by the defense.
The Jaguars needed a victory and an Indianapolis loss to Tennessee in order to make the playoffs. The Texans were playing for pride and more.
"We played football as men and professional athletes for Coach (Gary) Kubiak," defensive tackle Shaun Cody said. "We know his job is on the line and we wanted to play our butts off for him."
Afterward, Kubiak praised his team's character.
"I told them I was proud of their efforts today," he said. "We always kept playing hard (this season), and I think we're all better people (because of it)."
The Texans' game plan was clear from the opening series. Foster gained 56 yards on his first carry and scored a two-yard touchdown to cap a six-play, 90-yard drive.
"I think our offensive line just dominated the line of scrimmage (today)," said Foster, who finished with 180 rushing yards and two scores.
Following a 26-yard field goal by Neil Rackers, running back Derrick Ward extended the Texans' lead to 17-7 with a 35-yard score off the left tackle early in the second quarter.
In the first half, the Texans ran for 162 yards on 17 carries (9.5 avg.), but the Jaguars were equally dominant with 157 yards on 23 carries (6.8 avg.).
At halftime, the Texans had to overcome the loss of linebacker Zac Diles (concussion) after starting the game without safety Bernard Pollard (shoulder).
"We were down to the bare minimum but still found a way," Kubiak said. "I told them that they needed to show what they're made of today."
The Texans forced a punt on the opening possession of the second half, and quarterback Matt Schaub capitalized with a five-yard touchdown to tight end Owen Daniels.
Following two more Jacksonville punts, Foster broke free on a 35-yard touchdown run that gave Houston a 34-17 lead with 10:57 left in the game.
The Jaguars missed a field goal on the ensuing drive. Their next series ended when cornerback Glover Quin popped the ball loose from tight end Marcedes Lewis. Safety Troy Nolan pounced on the fumble at the Houston 27.
With less than a minute remaining in the game, Nolan secured the season-ending victory with his third interception of the season.
"I saw the ball in the air, (and) I was going to try and hit the receiver and (cornerback) Kareem (Jackson) at the same time," Nolan said. "I saw the ball and chose the interception to seal the game."
The victory gave Houston a 6-10 record, three games behind last season's 9-7 mark. Kubiak refused to make excuses and said he will meet with Texans owner Bob McNair on Monday to discuss the team's plan going forward.
"It was a tough season," Kubiak said. "I've told you guys numerous times, the difference between winning seven or eight games – or six, in this case – and winning 10 or 11 (games) in this league, is finding a way to win close games.
"We didn't do that this year, so it's disappointing."