They were fun times, they were simpler times, where it was much easier to UNCONDITIONALLY love our local football team. (Love for them nowadays seems to come with all sorts of conditions!)
There’s a first time for everything, and during that halcyon phase of unconditional Texans love, the first time they ever clinched an AFC South championship happened under some very strange and adverse macro-circumstance, in a game that was full of some very strange and adverse micro-circumstances.
To that point, let’s head to Cincinnati, Ohio, for Week 14 of the 2011 NFL season.
The Texans are riding a six game winning streak, and a 9-3 record into Cincinnati to take on the Bengals and rookie QB Andy Dalton (whose Bengal career, coincidentally, ended this week after nine seasons). The Texans counter with their own rookie QB T.J. Yates, who is thrust unto duty after season-ending injuries to Matt Schaub and Matt Leinart.
On that day, Yates was asked to go win a road game in the NFL, in his second career start, with his best target, Andre Johnson, watching in street clothes.
What started out as a near disaster — the Texans trailed 16-3 at the half, thanks to two turnovers and a missed field goal — turned into one of the most scintillating days in team history, with Yates orchestrating a fourth quarter comeback, and a game winning drive for the ages.
Kevin Walter with the TD catch with two seconds to go.
Texans 20, Bengals 19.
Find this game on NFL GamePass (it’s not on YouTube anywhere). It’s one of the more underrated crazy Texans games in team history.
He came into this Week 14 game with a very modest 4.5 sacks, and was probably, at best, the third most noteworthy rookie in this game, behind the two QB’s and MAYBE A.J. Green. (Key word, “noteworthy.” He was obviously a better player than both QBs, even then.) Needless to say, this period of time in NFL history, in which J.J. kind of blended in, did not last long.
2. The referee in this game is Ed Hochuli, who was the most chiseled official in any sport anywhere. I’m assuming Hochuli left the stadium right after the game to go fight crime and spin the axis of the earth backwards to save Lois Lane.
3. T.J. Yates' family had THE WORST seats in the house for this game, jammed into the second to last row with the sun in their eyes. Thankfully, Bengal fans suck, and they were able to move down a few rows since the upper tier was quite empty.
4. Man, it hurts to watch this game from this standpoint — they kept showing the AFC standings throughout the broadcast, and the Texans are right there with the Steelers (who they beat in Week 3 that season) and Patriots (who were in their lull in between Super Bowl trifectas) with 3 losses apiece.
It was a reminder that if Matt Schaub had just stayed healthy, I think the Texans really could have won the Super Bowl that season. That was a defense that really didn’t have a weakness anywhere.
You could argue that about six or seven of the starters had their best seasons as a Texan, and the ones who didn’t were J.J. Watt, DeMeco Ryans, and Kareem Jackson. What a team.
5. Also, Owen Daniels is a monster in this game. From the chunk plays that kept the Texans alive in the first half to the one handed catch on third down on the final drive that kept that drive moving, he was awesome all day (7 catches, 100 yards). Maybe his most underrated play was his pick that cleared Kevin Walter on the game winning touchdown.
OD all day!
6. The best part about these old network feeds is that they keep the cutaways to highlights of other games in the footage.
So in this game, we got to see a young Gronk break the tight end TD catch record; Ray Rice score a TD before he was ejected from the league for hitting his then-fiancee in an elevator; and former Texan David Anderson score a touchdown for the Redskins (sad tear going down my face).
7. One of the most bananas plays that I had completely forgotten about took place early in the fourth quarter, with the Texans down 19-10.
Arian Foster fumbles a first down catch (horrible call that should have been overturned on review, but wasn’t) that gets scooped up by Bengals DT Geno Atkins deep in Texans territory.
It looks like all hope is lost, but out of nowhere, center Chris Myers forces a fumble as Atkins attempts to return the ball, and Eric Winston recovers on the Texans’ two yard line. If Myers and Winston don’t combine on that play, the Texans lose this game.
I miss that 2011 offensive line, best in team history.
8. T.J. Yates. 3rd and 15. RUMBIN’ , STUMBLIN’, BUMBLIN’ for a first down. Top five play in Texans history. Don’t @ me.
Be on the lookout for the Twitter poll later today to pick next week’s Pendergast Classic Rewind!