One month ago today, the Texans traveled to Gillette Stadium to play the New England Patriots in a highly-anticipated Monday Night Football matchup that some players referred to as "the biggest game in franchise history." The stage was set for the Texans, who were 11-1 at the time, to prove to a national audience that they were a Super Bowl-caliber team and deserving of the number one seed in the AFC.
Instead, the Texans lost 42-14 in a lopsided affair in which Patriots quarterback Tom Brady threw for 296 yards and four touchdowns.
"We got our butts kicked," Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson said on Wednesday. "That's pretty much it. We didn't play like we know how to play, so that's what happened."
What happened in December is ancient history now, as the Texans have put the disappointing loss behind them and are looking forward to Sunday's rematch at New England in the Divisional Round of the playoffs.
"It was a bad taste that was in our mouth after we lost," rookie outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus said. "We could've played a whole lot better. Yeah, it was just an old fashioned butt-whooping that day when we played them. But all we're doing is just focusing now and making sure we execute well and understand the (Patriots') offense a lot better than what we did."
Texans head coach Gary Kubiak said Wednesday that the December loss at New England is so far removed from his mind that it feels like it happened years ago.
"That wasn't two years ago, but you can't dwell on the past," Johnson said. "It happened. We know it happened. Everybody saw it. It happened on the big stage. We're not running away from it. It's a new game on Sunday, so we'll see what happens."
Defensive end J.J. Watt is looking forward to facing the Patriots on their home turf for the second time this season, calling it a "very welcomed challenge."
"I'm sitting here in the NFL playoffs and we have a chance to go on the road and play against a very good football team," Watt said. "It's win or go home. This is what you live for. This is what you play for. As a kid, you dream about being in the playoffs. It's a great opportunity for us.
"I welcome all matchups. Any teams, any players, anyone, anytime, anywhere, I'll play anyone."
The Texans should have a few key players back for this matchup who didn't play against the Patriots in December. Tight end Garrett Graham, outside linebacker Brooks Reed and right tackle Derek Newton all missed the first meeting with the Patriots due to injury but are expected to play Sunday. Cornerback Johnathan Joseph played in Week 14, but it was his first game back from suffering a hamstring injury and he was not back to full health.
Texans quarterback Matt Schaub relishes the opportunity at hand, knowing that in order to lead his team to victory, the slate must be wiped clean.
"Whether it was good, bad or indifferent in the past, we can't control that," he said. "We're looking forward. We're looking to this opportunity to take the next step in the playoffs toward a championship. We've got to go on the road in New England and do that this week, but we're excited for that opportunity looking forward."