After a frustrating 0-3 start that sent the fans and media into football panic, the 2018 Texans made history. They became the first team to flip that start into a nine-game winning streak and eventually won their fifth division championship.
The start was filled with coulda-woulda-shoulda moments. All three games were dotted with key errors in close contests that contributed to being on the wrong side of the ledger. A Week 4 trip to Indy was not exactly looking like what the doctor ordered to remedy the mistakes.
The Colts were struggling too. But they performed like the playoff team they would eventually become and jumped out to a 7-0 lead. With the Indy offense backed up near their goal line, Jadeveon Clowney pounced on a fumbled snap for a TD that tied the game and changed everything.
The Texans would build a 28-10 lead in the third quarter before the Colts roared back to tie the game. Later, in overtime, a failed Colts 4th-and-4 attempt gave the Texans field position for a Deshaun Watson to Deandre Hopkins pass play that set up Ka’imi Fairbairn’s game-winner with no time left.
The streak began.
A week later, Dallas game calling. This time, Watson found Hopkins in overtime again. And Nuk put up a catch-and-run for the ages that will forever be called ‘Hopspins.’ Fairbairn’s second-straight game-winner meant the Texans were swiftly climbing out of the ditch.
Buffalo was up next in a closer-than-preferred type of game. Johnathan Joseph put the Texans up for good with a late pick-six.
The team clawed its way back to .500. The bigger problem was that Watson was medically unable to fly because of a lung injury. So, he and some assistants took a tour bus to Jacksonville, and the Texans came away with a rousing victory over the Jags.
Houston had a winning record and was looking for more. Miami was up next for a nationally-televised game with Brock Osweiler getting the start for the opponent. The Texans methodically took care of business and constructed a 5-3 record at the halfway point.
The division was now there’s for the taking. But there was much work to be done. A trip to Denver produced a slugfest that saw Case Keenum make an amazing play on 4th-and-long to help set up a long Brandon McManus field goal that went wide. 6-3.
The bye hit at a good time. The Texans had used a lot of gas jumping back into the race. The streak wasn’t filled with blowouts. It was all about making key plays at critical times. Like Justin Reid’s coast-to-coast pick-six to help beat Washington in the next game.
As the Texans were readying for the Titans, their founder, chairman and CEO, Bob McNair passed away. The entire organization and city mourned a great man. And there was a Monday night game to play. It was so fitting that it was against the former Oilers. And you got the feeling that McNair himself might have wanted it this way.
An emotional pregame tribute gave way to tough start, as the Texans went behind 10-0. But you never got the feeling that the Texans wouldn’t respond. And they did. A key goal-to-go stop gave Houston the ball at their three. Lamar Miller cracked through the line and went a franchise-record 97 yards for the score. It was pure magic on an unforgettable night.
A hot Cleveland team, helmed by Baker Mayfield visited in the following tilt. The Texans had the lead at the half and held on despite Mayfield playing well after intermission. That was the ninth win. The streak ended in a close loss to Indy the following week.
A 2-2 finish would earn the AFC South crown. And the ensuing loss to the Colts in the playoffs was not the ending anyone envisioned. But we’ll always remember the toughness and clutch, emotional play of a team that many wrote off. The 2018 Texans were a great example of resilience and teamwork in the face of adversity.