In 11 meetings, the Texans only came out on top once, their Week 17 contest in 2009. Let’s set the stage:
The 8-7 Texans, led by head coach Gary Kubiak, need a win and some help to clinch their first playoff berth in franchise history as they face the 10-5 Patriots, who have already locked up a playoff spot and have very little to play for. If the Texans win, it will also be the franchise’s first winning season in its eight-year run.
The Texans have a new running back starting today’s game. Steve Slaton has not played since Week 11 and is on Injured Reserve. Chris Brown and Ryan Moats took over for Slaton, but to not much success. Instead, the Texans will be forced to start some undrafted rookie named Arian Foster. It was the first of Foster’s 68 starts as a Texan, where he would run for 6,472 yards, still a franchise record.
Matt Schaub was looking to stay at the top of the league’s passing yards list. His 4,467 passing yards were a franchise record coming into the game; he led Colts QB Peyton Manning by 62 yards.
The Texans start off with the ball and immediately score on their first drive after a 25-yard touchdown from Schaub to tight end Joel Dreessen.
Texans lead, 7-0.
On the ensuing drive, the Patriots would drive down the field and Tom Brady passes to Wes Welker for a 12-yard gain. Welker tore his ACL on the play and his afternoon was cut short.
Welker’s injury would force Bill Belichick to be more conservative with his starters throughout the game, but he was not ready to pull all his ones just yet. On the Patriots’ next drive, 2020 Hall of Fame Semi-Finalist Fred Taylor scores on a 4-yard rush to complete a nine play, 63-yard drive.
Game tied, 7-7.
Brady would lead the Patriots on one more scoring drive at the beginning of the second quarter, ending with a Stephen Gostkowski 51-yard field goal.
Patriots lead, 10-7.
On the ensuing drive, the Texans would go all the way down to the 1-yard line and go for it on fourth down. Unfortunately, they can’t get seven and the ball goes to Tom Br—. Nope, it goes to Brian Hoyer and the Patriots. Yes, that Brian Hoyer.
On Hoyer’s first play, he hands the ball off to Fred Taylor, who fumbles it on the goal line. Bernard Pollard scoops it up and it is a quick seven for the Texans, who re-take the lead, but Kris Brown misses the extra point because of course.
Texans lead, 13-10.
Gostkowski would tie the score up on the next possession. Brown would get a chance for redemption at the end of the first half, but would miss once again.
Game tied at halftime, 13-13.
The Patriots start off with the ball and Brian Hoy—. Nope, Tom Brady returns to the field. Yes, that Tom Brady. The only thing the Patriots were playing for was the 3 seed versus the 4 seed. A win would solidify their position as the 3 seed, but with the Pats sitting five of their starters and seeing Welker go down in the first quarter, the move was puzzling to say the least.
In the third quarter, Schaub throws a pick-six that goes to the house from 91 yards out (foreshadowing!) and Kris Brown misses another field goal, this time from 38 yards out.
Fred Taylor runs in another touchdown from 11 yards out and the Patriots take a two-TD lead into the fourth quarter.
Patriots lead, 27-13.
In the fourth quarter, the Texans stay urgent, first scoring on an 8-yard pass to Jacoby Jones.
Patriots lead, 27-20.
The Pats go three-and-out and punt to Jones, who takes the ball all the way to New England’s 34 yard line, setting up a short field for Houston.
Seven plays later, Arian Foster lines up at the goal line to score from one yard out to tie the game.
Game tied, 27-27.
On the next possession, Brady has the chance to turn a late fourth quarter drive into a win for the Patriots, but he throws an uncharacteristic interception to Bernard Pollard in Pats territory, setting the Texans up to take the lead.
Foster then runs the ball on four straight plays, ultimately scoring from three yards out to give the Texans the lead once again.
Texans lead, 34-27.
With 1:47 left, the Patriots have the chance to tie the game by driving 66 yards, (thanks to a nice kick return from Matthew Slater) something Tom Br—. Nope, Brian Hoyer returns to the field with the game on the line. Bill Belichick confuses everyone yet again with his indecision on whether to start or sit his stars.
However, Hoyer holds his own, moving all the way down to the Texans’ 34-yard line, but he falls short when his pass to Julian Edelman on 4th-and-3 falls incomplete.
Texans win, 34-27.
In one word, this game could be described as bizarre. The Texans had no business winning after being down 14 in the fourth quarter. At the time, it was the largest fourth-quarter comeback in franchise history.
The Patriots also had no business winning with Belichick’s indecision on playing, then not playing, then playing, and then not playing Tom Brady. The Patriots would go on to lose the next weekend to the 9-7 Ravens, who beat out the Texans for a Wild Card spot. Not coincidentally, 2009 was the last time the Patriots did not make it to the Divisional Round of the NFL Playoffs.
Arian Foster would become the full-time starter at running back the following season and win a rushing title in 2010. The Texans would go 6-10 in 2010 but make the playoffs—as they won the AFC South for the first time—for the first time in 2011.
Since this meeting with the Patriots, the Texans are 0-8 against their nemesis. Sunday night provides another opportunity to change their fortunes. Although it may seem unlikely, there is a chance.