This column began on the premise that the Houston Texans needed to move into their proverbial franchise red zone. Sure, they’d flirted with it a time or two, but they really hadn’t made it inside the 20 yard line.
One might argue that the Texans have been in this same place before, most recently when they secured their only other playoff win of the Bill O’Brien era against the Oakland Raiders on 1/7/17 to advance to the AFC Divisional Round. But that game carries the stigma of the “They beat a team with a backup QB making his first NFL start,” then Houston summarily got thrashed the following week by the New England Patriots. Now, New England is no longer in the way, and Houston took them out earlier this season anyway.
Not this season.
Houston took on and took out one of the hottest teams in the AFC in the Buffalo Bills last weekend. There’s all sorts of people trying to manufacture asterisks for that game, but the end Deshaun Watson and J.J. Watt stepped up, overcame a 16 point deficit (for the first time ever in the Bill O’Brien era, no less), and won the game.
This is what championship teams do.
While Bill O’Brien once again failed to bring his team out of the tunnel ready to play their best ball, Watson and Watt refused to accept defeat. This sort of will to win from the team leaders is what Houston has desperately needed through the entire Bill O’Brien era. It all began with one fateful play, where J.J. Watt took advantage of a rookie mistake, as he so often does.
JJ WATT SACK LUNCH— PointsBet Sportsbook (@PointsBetUSA) January 4, 2020
Texans (-2.5) hold Buffalo to a field goal, but still trail 16-0... pic.twitter.com/2OJgKvfxWj
“We just knew it was a matter of time that he was going to make a play. It’s J.J. Watt, Hall of Famer, the best guy to do it, and eventually he was going to get his opportunity, and that’s what he did. He made a heck of a play, and it just turned the whole momentum and the whole stadium to our sideline, and we just took it over.”
That play lit the spark that Houston needed to get rolling. You could almost see the the motivation fade from the Bills soon thereafter just as it filled the Texans’ sideline and the fans. Still, J.J. Watt is just one player and he couldn’t do it all himself. Insert Deshaun Watson.
Watson is, without a doubt, the greatest quarterback the City of Houston has ever had. No offense to Warren Moon, Matt Schaub, Dan Pastorini, and George Blanda, but Watson is in a league by himself in the annals of Houston history.
“He doesn’t quit, he doesn’t fold. There’s no fear in his heart. When you have a quarterback like that, our fearless leader, it’s easy for you to go with it.”— The MMQB (@theMMQB) January 6, 2020
Duke Johnson to @AlbertBreer on how Deshaun Watson willed his team into a playoff https://t.co/pZPq7Csc1G
Not only is Deshaun Watson special to this city, he’s been that way everywhere he’s ever played.
Deshaun Watson is the only starting QB in the last 15 postseasons with a 14-point comeback win in college and the pros.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) January 5, 2020
He led a 14-point comeback win vs Alabama in the 2017 CFP Nat’l Championship game, and a 16-point comeback win today. pic.twitter.com/ODxaubr3wR
"I said let's be great today. So somebody had to be great. Why not me."— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) January 5, 2020
—Deshaun Watson after completing the comeback pic.twitter.com/M406jIDQDV
One more just because it’s even more amazing in slo-mo:
Deshaun. Watson. Unreal. pic.twitter.com/od9xtYlWfd— Complex Sports (@ComplexSports) January 5, 2020
What’s crazy is the insanity that is Deshaun Watson almost becomes commonplace for those who pay close attention.
“I’ve seen some incredible plays, I’m very lucky. And that was an incredible play, but I think that when you get kicked in the eye, and you are still able to complete a touchdown pass -- I’m not sure that you can surpass that. I mean, I just think that play he made on (Saturday) was an incredible play and he’s an incredible player, but when he got kicked in the eye against Oakland and he grabbed his eye and he really didn’t know what was going on with his eye and he kept the play alive to complete a pass ... That was a pretty cool play.”
Make no mistake, the players on this team are special. If Bill O’Brien can get out of their way and install a game plan far enough in advance for the players to be ready when the opening whistle blows on Sunday, the city will finally see their team make it back to the AFC Championship Game for the first time in 40 years.
Best of all, the Texans not only won, but they avenged the Houston Oilers’ (in)famous loss on 1/3/93 in the game known as “The Comeback” when the Oilers let a 35-3 halftime lead slip out of their fingers, eventually losing to the Bills in overtime 41-38. It may have taken 27 years, but Houston fans finally got their payback, thanks to J.J. Watt and Deshaun Watson.
Now, while we take a minute to stop and smell the red zone roses - remember this is history in the making. Houston hasn’t seen this sort of football success since the 1978-80 span, when the Oilers lost back-to-back AFC Championship Games to the eventual Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers.
Before we gear up for the Kansas City Chiefs, give us your all-time favorite winning moments in Houston football history in the comments.