On a day when they needed it most, the Texans put together a total team effort and knocked off a division rival who was trolling Houston by dangling their sports memories in front of them.
We'll get to the whole Oiler thing in a moment.
The key takeaway here was that the Texans were stunningly banged up – without their quarterback, two leading receivers, their leading tackler and their star rookie edge player. Then, starting safety Jimmie Ward left the game relatively early and the stage was set for a struggle.
The Titans forced a three-and-out on the first series then went 83 yards for their lone offensive touchdown of the day. A Case Keenum pick-6 created a two-score deficit that seemed daunting to anyone not wearing Liberty White and Deep Steel Blue.
As the game continued to unfold, a few things became clear –
- The Texans were doing a solid job on the Titans ground game.
- Devin Singletary was finding room to run, consistently.
- Case Keenum and the offense were slowly starting to heat up.
- Ka'imi Fairbairn is really good at his job.
Touchdowns were hard to come by, so Fairbairn's return to the line up was critical. The Texans lost a game three weeks ago without him, when they missed two 50+ yarders. Against the Titans, he was four for four, including a 53-yard field goal and the O.T. game-winner from 54. He should be AFC Special Teams Player of the Week.
Keenum, getting his first start for the Texans in nine years, continuously made plays, but the Texans had trouble going the distance, stopped inside the 10 yard line twice, against the NFL's top Red Zone D. Then, in the fourth quarter, he found Dalton Schultz for three first downs and Noah Brown for the equalizer.
The next three possessions weren't as productive before it came to do-or-die time. Late in overtime he hit Singletary on the move for a 41-yard catch and run to set the Texans up for the winning three. It was a gutsy performance that we'll never forget.
That the defense pitched a shut out after the opening Titan drive should be a headline. That they held Derrick Henry to his lowest total (9 yards) in six years is the stuff of legend. Henry had gone over 1,000 yards combined in his previous five starts against Houston. This was a masterpiece.
Add in seven sacks, including 2.5 from top ten pass rusher Jonathan Greenard, and you have all the makings of a rock-solid Texans defensive performance.
Now, the uniforms. I can only imagine the emotions of so many Houston fans seeing their current team play a squad wearing the uniforms they grew up adoring. These are not the Oilers. Never will be. But they put on the costumes in tribute. The proper tribute was beating this team wearing them and continuing to show Texans fans that they are in outstanding shape with the current franchise – its coach, its ownership, its players.
As always in the NFL, it's always about the follow-up. Cleveland comes calling on Christmas Eve and they're hot. It'll be up to the Texans to mend, prep and maul a Browns team that possesses the Houston '24 first round pick and is currently ahead in the playoff chase.
For now, we celebrate one of the greatest Houston road wins we've ever seen. Where it ranks will be decided as the season plays out.