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Red Zone Play: The Will To Win

Fresh off an inspiring win over the Colts, BRB’s Mike Bullock thinks the Texans can use what happened last night to springboard to additional success in 2016.

NFL: Indianapolis Colts at Houston Texans Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

When the Houston Texans tell you to board the train, they mean strap yourself in for a serious roller coaster ride. From the hesitant optimism of the off-season, the train optimistically climbed the tracks, steadily roaring higher and higher with each pre-season victory. Then the season started and the train leveled off before plunging into a deep ravine in New England, rising back up against the Titans and falling once more against the Vikings. Then, through the first three quarters Sunday night, the train seemed to be heading downward at a nearly uncontrollable pace.

Right when everyone was raising their hands to shield their face from the impending doom of a sudden, horrific impact with rock bottom (i.e., losing to the worst defense in football and looking totally helpless on offense while doing it) something else happened. A handful of players got under the locomotive just as it was plummeting into the bottom of the ravine, and like Superman saving a falling train, lifted it back up moments before the crash.

I hate to admit it, but I’d flat given up on the game, the team and the season by halftime last night. Not only did I forget what I wrote in this very column just last week, I couldn’t logically comprehend how the Texans could win…anything.

Thankfully, Whitney Mercilus, Lamar Miller, Jadeveon Clowney and the rest wouldn’t say no. They wouldn’t give up and they let the will to win take over.

That’s the very thing that sets winners apart from losers. What turned Barry Sanders into a Hall of Famer. It’s what put four Super Bowl rings on Terry Bradshaw’s hand.

That will overcomes schematic shortcomings, talent deficits, human error and devastating injuries.

Make no mistake—with the ever increasing list of injuries this team has sustained so far, this simply may not be the year they go all the way past the Red Zone to score the ultimate goal. But once that will to win is fully ingrained in the culture, winning will become second nature and championships come to winners.

Now that Houston has survived all but one game of the toughest part of the 2016 schedule (next Monday night against Denver, the reigning Super Bowl champs reeling from two straight losses, will be the last true test before the postseason), things should get easier.

The remaining regular season opponents for the Texans after Denver are:

Detroit Lions (3-3)

Jacksonville Jaguars (2-3)

Oakland Raiders (4-2)

San Diego Chargers (2-4)

Green Bay Packers (3-2)

Indianapolis Colts (2-4)

Jacksonville Jaguars (2-3)

Cincinnati Bengals (2-4)

Tennessee Titans (3-3)

With only two teams that currently have winning records (an inconsistent Green Bay Packers squad and an occasionally high flying Oakland Raider team that has the worst defense in Silver & Black history), there’s legitimate reason to believe the Texans could run the table after Denver. That would put them at 13-3 on the season if they lose to Brock Osweiler’s former teammates. Realistically, they’ll drop at least two of the remaining seven, so 11-5 is still very achievable. Of course, that’s predicated on the offense keeping it’s act together.

In order for that to happen, the will to win fever needs to fully infect everyone. Not just the handful of guys who rose up last night. If not, things may remain ugly. Sadly, as human nature goes, negativity is far more infectious than winning desire and undeniable determination.

If this team is going to cement their place in the Red Zone, they need to buck that trend and prove once and for all they’re the best team not only in the AFC South, but one of the best in the NFL. If they get that right – without J.J. Watt and whatever upgrades Rick Smith will make in the off-season - the sky is the limit for 2017 and beyond.

Look back at Sunday night’s first three and half quarters, rub some dirt on it and walk it off. There’s still a lot of winning left to be done.

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