In case you haven’t caught your breath yet after Houston’s latest last-second victory over the Denver Broncos, you probably need to work on your breathing. Houston has played a majority of its games this season on a tight rope between winning and losing. They’ve been fortunate enough to walk across those lines and get out on top most of the time, but as we all know if you live by the sword you die by the sword.
Look, I’m not complaining about Houston winning. Which, based on my previous Groupthink questions I wouldn’t dismiss you for thinking. However, seeing the forest for the trees, the next step in Houston’s progression is beginning to win games comfortably and distancing themselves from their opponents earlier on in the game. This is what makes the Kansas City Chiefs offense so devastating is their unrelenting onslaught of scoring combined with a bend but don’t break defense that shortens the game.
With that, I pose a question to the other writers to see what their feelings are on the Houston Texans fantastic but frantic wins.
Houston has played in and won a majority of games on the very last drive. The coin continues to fortuitously land facing up for us. Are you concerned about the quantify of close calls or more excited that the Texans are “finding a way to win”
I will take both for $5000 Alex. Seriously though, luck is not sustainable. All close games involve an element of luck. This game and the Bengals game felt like games we should have won by 20. This is all part of a learning process. We weren’t in enough close games in past years to learn anything. You don’t have to fail to learn. You can succeed AND learn at the same time. Yet, killer instinct is a thing and they need to learn that too.
This is a young team that has been losing badly for some time. Learning how to win is a tough thing. You can argue that the Texans’ are getting way too fortunate, but you can also argue that they are course-correcting for all the close games they’ve lost since 2020. A “Cardiac Kids” type team is not one built on long term success (see Cleveland 1980 or even Minnesota last season). Still, for Houston, I see this as more of a positive that can bear some longer term dividends. It is not just all Stroud and the passing game, nor is it just the defense making the key stops inside of the red zone with under a minute left, yes, I am dropping the c-word (complementary) football here. The Texans do not have the depth of high end talent or experience ala San Francisco or Baltimore to consistently beat teams by comfortable margins. Still, they are learning how to win in the clutch. Maybe they won’t be as fortuitous in games that come down to the wire like this 8-game streak (5-3 at this point) in 2024 and beyond, but then again, they may be at a point where they can win games before it comes down to the final 2 minutes. At least for the this team, unlike a LOT of the league, the Texans do not play a boring brand of football.
I’ve always been a subscriber to the philosophy of “better lucky than good” for exactly the kind of situations the Texans have found themselves in, especially late in games. It’s not sustainable by any stretch, to win on essentially the final play of the game, but at least we know they’re capable of it now. Speaking personally, I’m just enjoying the fact that they can win late in games. Think back to every game that came down to the last drive of the game and how many of those games the Texans wound up getting the short end of the stick on. The fact that it’s not a guaranteed loss anymore in late game situations is something I’ll gladly take; the whole getting to a point where we don’t need to win late in games will come with time, I expect.
To answer my own question.... I’m so happy we are winning I couldn’t care less what the score was, the weather outside the stadium, or if we wore all red uniforms like tomatoes. All that matters is the wins. Win win win win win. Easy enough, Kenneth? Winning is a culture, mindset, mentality, expectation, and habit. Doesn’t matter how it’s done, it’s only that each week the team continues to find a way. Given some of the injuries on offense and carousel of veterans entering the locker room on defense, there has to be a central determination to victory stemming from the coach.
Down the road, I will say that was one of the banes of the Bill O’Brien era. Houston looked benign against teams that were far inferior. They played to the level of their competition not on a weekly basis, but year over year. It created a distrust among the fanbase and soon rose expectations to a level that was not sustainable. It took the fun out of winning.
Right now, winning is fun in Houston again. It may not always be that way if things continue to trend up, but the 2023 season will always be remembered as a turning point for the franchise and renewal of winning in NRG Stadium.