The Texans worked for 12 months to get another shot at advancing past wild card weekend and the effort paid off. As is the case with many things in life, the planned path to achieve the goal had several twists and turns with many adjustments needed. But they got one step closer to their ultimate goal as an organization.
As was the case with most of the team's victories this season, the defense stole the show in the win over Oakland. Whitney Mercilus had two sacks and Jadeveon Clowney's 'tipped pick' was reminiscent of J.J. Watt's game-changing pick six five years earlier against Cincinnati.
Brock Osweiler got the start and took advantage of the opportunity. He was on point with some key throws to DeAndre Hopkins, Ryan Griffin and Will Fuller and, most importantly, played a clean game to prevent any unearned field position for the Raider offense.
Lamar Miller's 73 yards and two-and-a-half yards per carry might not look pretty on the stat sheet but as the game wore on the Texans played 'clock-ball' and relied on their defense to take them into next weekend. The Houston carrying committee ran it for 123 yards to a healthy time of possession of 33:29. Credit Bill O'Brien for having the patience to stick with the ground game to help grind out the win.
Special teams sprung a few leaks that required repair as the Texans recovered two of their own fumbles and allowed a couple of damaging punt returns. However, ultimately Houston got the job done with fine punting by Shane Lechler and Nick Novak going two-for-two including a 50-yard field goal. There were also some big stops in the return game by Don Jones and Jonathan Grimes, among others.
Now it's on to the divisional round. The Texans are making only their third trip to this level and they'll have to be better in all phases to move on from there. And who's to say they are not up for that?
The Texans just scored a season high in points, didn't turn it over and looked remarkably fresh. Clinching two weeks ago and playing the low pressure game last week at Tennessee might have done them some good.
Now they have to bottle this up and take it on the road. They'll certainly need to run it better and they'll need the defense, which had three picks Saturday, to continue to take the ball away. If those things happen, there are a lot of good possibilities in front of them.
For now, The Texans can smile about winning the third playoff game in the history of the franchise. They certainly want more. But this version of the team is going farther than they previously have. And it'll be fun to watch them keep trying to blaze the trail back to Houston.
Check out shots from the locker room after the Texans defeated the Raiders in the AFC Wild Card game.