After everything they've been through this year, including a three-game losing streak that started in late November, the Texans found a way to dig deep and clinch the division with a week to go in the regular season.
Tonight's 12-10 win over Cincinnati was another example of this team grinding out a victory in the face of adversity. This time, they had a quarterback making his first start without the help of starting running back Lamar Miller. Yards were tough to come by in the first half. Tom Savage was just 2-of-7 and the ground game was slow to get going as Houston trailed 3-0 at the break.
But in the third quarter, Savage and the offense heated up and finally got on the board with a game tying field goal. Another field goal made it 6-3. On the first two scoring occasions, the Texans had the ball in goal-to-go situations and couldn't cross the goal line. They'll need plenty of red zone work to advance in the post season but we'll get to that later.
The Bengals finally got into the end zone on an explosive 86-yard pass play to Brandon LaFell. The Texans had just under 11 minutes left and needed a touchdown. Savage got them down to the 24 with two completions that sandwiched an 11-yard scramble. Alfred Blue came up with a huge 24-yard touchdown run that gave them the lead.
Cincinnati was resilient and set up a 43-yard attempt for the game winner, but Randy Bullock was wide right and that miss sent the NRG faithful into euphoria.
The Texans have a chance at ten wins. It's notable how Bill O'Brien put his foot down about a 'four game season' after the loss to Green Bay. It took a quarterback change and one of the best defensive stretches in team history but the Texans have pulled off three wins in a row and are back in the playoffs for the fourth time ever.
There's plenty of room for improvement. The offense sputtered early but woke up after the break and put up 216 yards and 12 points in the second half. Savage took some shots but hung tough and made enough plays to win the game. The defense sprung a couple of leaks in the second half but look at the point total. Holding Cincinnati to 10 points, even 13 had they made the kick, is a stout performance. The offense will have to rise to the occasion when the Texans enter the second season.
This was a game we won't soon forget. It clinched a trip to the post season and provided a launching pad for some promising possibilities when Houston gets there. It's the most wonderful time of the year and the Texans will be part of it.
Check out the best gameday photos as the Texans took on the Bengals at NRG Stadium.