MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. - The Texans stared playoff elimination in the eye and didn't blink.
In what was billed by some players as the most important game in team history, the Texans kept their slim postseason hopes alive Sunday with a rollercoaster 27-20 win at Miami.
"It was a great win," coach Gary Kubiak said. "It's a tough place to play."
Now, the Texans are faced with their first-ever meaningful regular season finale in terms of the wild card standings. Houston hosts the New England Patriots next Sunday at Reliant Stadium.
"That's why I came here," Kubiak said. "To get this football team and this organization to get in a position like that, to experience stuff like that. This is as deep as we've been as a team."
The Texans continued a puzzling trend by playing two distinctly opposite halves against the Dolphins. After scoring on each of their five first half possessions to take a 27-3 halftime lead, the Texans did not score a point in the second half as the Dolphins crept into the game.
Fortunately, the Texans withstood the Dolphins' rally and secured their eighth win, which guarantees the team's third consecutive season with a non-losing record.
The Texans don't expect any pats on the back for that accomplishment. The team is focused on their primary goal which remains in play thanks to the team's current three-game win streak.
"To win this game in my hometown, it's a real good feeling to know that we're still alive and still have a shot,' wide receiver Andre Johnson said.
The Texans now stand ahead of the Dolphins, Jaguars and Titans in the AFC playoff standings. A win over the Patriots next week, combined with other results from around the NFL, could propel Houston to its first-ever postseason trip.
Playoff scenarios were far from the Texans' minds at kickoff, though, as the team faced a do-or-die game in front of 65,847 fans at Land Shark Stadium. Quarterback Matt Schaub, who completed 20-of-31 passes for 286 yards and two touchdowns, fired his first two attempts to Johnson for 38 yards. Later in the opening drive, Kris Brown's 49-yard field goal gave Houston the early lead.
"It was big for our team," Brown said of his kick. "It gave us momentum. I felt really good in pregame, especially going in that direction. I just went through my routine and when it left my foot it felt pretty good."
Johnson, who had more than 150 friends and family in the stands, caught a team-high five passes for 71 yards. His physical 10-yard touchdown grab on fourth-and-one extended the Texans' lead to 10-0 with 2:05 left in the first quarter.
"We moved him everywhere and they followed him everywhere," Kubiak said of Johnson. "It helped us make some big plays in some other areas of the game."
Following a three-and-out by Miami, the Texans drove 94 yards to score. Tight end Joel Dreessen caught two passes for 33 yards into Miami territory. Jacoby Jones' 44-yard touchdown catch stretched the lead to 17-0 with 12:41 left in the first half.
Less than a minute later, Cushing intercepted a pass that bounced off running back Ricky Williams' shoulder pads. Cushing, who added nine tackles and a sack in the game, returned the pick six yards to the Miami 28. From there, running back Ryan Moats caught an 11-yard pass by avoiding linebacker Akin Ayodele on a nifty spin move. A play later, running back Arian Foster waltzed into the end zone for a 17-yard touchdown. Foster finished with 97 yards on 19 carries.
The Texans kept up the pressure by forcing another Miami punt. Dreessen's 18-yard catch on the first play of the next series gave Houston a first down at the Dolphins' 46-yard line. Later, Brown capped the 12-play, 60-yard drive with a 22-yard field goal to make the score 27-0 with 4:25 remaining before halftime.
Just before the intermission, Dan Carpenter converted a 27-yard field goal with seven seconds on the game clock to put the Dolphins on the scoreboard.
Miami began the second half with a 12-play, 79-yard scoring drive. On third-and-goal from the two-yard line, quarterback Pat White handed off to running back Lex Hilliard for a two-yard touchdown that helped cut the score to 27-10 with 10:10 remaining in the third quarter.
Miami added to their momentum when Schaub's pass was deflected in the air by defensive end Kendall Langford and intercepted by safety Yeremiah Bell, who returned it 29 yards to the Houston 32. Wide receiver David Anderson made a touchdown-saving tackle from behind. The Texans dodged a bullet, though, when Carpenter's 54-yard field goal missed wide right.
The Texans appeared to commit their second turnover in as many series when running back Chris Brown had the ball jarred loose after a short reception. But officials ruled the play an incomplete pass, and the play was not reviewable. Matt Turk then punted the ball 37 yards to the Miami 11.
Quarterback Chad Henne launched a 62-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Ted Ginn on the ensuing drive, but the play was negated when officials penalized fullback Lousaka Polite for tripping rookie defensive end Connor Barwin. Three plays later, Miami punted to the 10-yard line.
The Texans burned almost three minutes off the game clock before Turk's 51-yard punt was returned eight yards to the Dolphins' 26-yard line. Henne put Miami in scoring range with a 35-yard pass to Ginn and a 15-yard completion to Davone Bess. Henne's 10-yard touchdown pass to Hilliard made the score 27-17 after Carpenter's extra point.
"We knew they were going to come out in the second half and make some plays," cornerback Dunta Robinson said. "We just couldn't quit."
Schaub quieted the crowd with a 10-yard pass to Anderson on third-and-five from the Houston 27. After Schaub's next third down pass sailed out of bounds, Turk punted 43 yards to the 15-yard line with 6:19 on the game clock.
Cushing's sack on first down for a four-yard loss led to a Miami punt with 5:22 left in the contest.
The Texans kept running to drain the clock, and the Dolphins burned two timeouts. Carpenter finished the series by booting a 38-yard field goal to make the score 27-20 with 2:30 on the game clock.
Walter recovered the ensuing onside kick at the Houston 41. With the Dolphins holding no timeouts, the Texans rushed on three consecutive plays. Foster's six-yard gain on third-and-three allowed Schaub to kneel and run out the game clock.
Injury report: Safety Dominique Barber left the game with a hamstring injury at the end of the first half. He was replaced by safety John Busing.
Cornerback Dunta Robinson left the game under his own power on the opening series of the third quarter after tackling tight end Joey Haynos. He returned later in the drive.
The following players were inactive for Houston: quarterback Dan Orlovsky, running back Chris Henry, tackle Ephraim Salaam, cornerback Fred Bennett, cornerback Mark Parson, guard Tutan Reyes, defensive end Tim Jamison and defensive tackle Frank Okam.
Dolphins linebacker Channing Crowder left the game in the first quarter with a foot injury. He did not return. Running back Ricky Williams left the game in the third quarter with a shoulder injury. He returned briefly.