The 10 Greatest Texans Wins of All Time
The Texans may have the shortest history among current NFL teams—a mere 18 seasons—but that hasn’t stopped them from filling it with memorable moments. From the day the team first took the field right through the first round of the 2019 postseason, Houston has produced a plethora of meaningful victories. And while they have done their fair share of losing, a look at the numbers shows that the Texans are still one of the more successful expansion franchises since 1976:
- All-Time Record: 131–157
- Playoff Record: 4–6
- Championships: 0 (no Super Bowl appearances)
- Winning Seasons: 8
- Playoff Appearances: 6
- Best-Ever Regular Season: 12–4 in 2012
- Worst-Ever Regular Season: 2–14 in 2005 and ’13
From emotionally charged victories over rivals to tight thrillers in the postseason, the Texans have seen a little bit of everything in their 131 triumphs. What follows is a list of the 10 most memorable victories in Texans history (and a handful of honorable mentions). Selections are based on historical significance, as well as how much the win impacted the team’s future.
10. Dec. 8, 2002—Texans vs. Steelers
- Score: Texans 24, Steelers 6
- Significance: Texans seal a stunning win over Steelers without scoring an offensive touchdown
The Texans pulled off one of the most stunning victories in NFL history in an otherwise meaningless game late in their first season as an expansion franchise. Houston’s offense gained just 44 yards—setting an NFL record for fewest offensive yards in a victory—but the defense came to the rescue with three touchdowns in a 24–6 win over the Steelers, who had their playoff chances dampened by the loss.
“We’re not the typical expansion team,” said Texans cornerback Aaron Glenn, who scored on interception returns of 70 and 65 yards. “We’re not going to lay down and say, ‘Oh, we’re not supposed to win, we’re an expansion team.’ We have nothing to lose, we’re trying to be a spoiler.”
The Steelers came into the matchup having gone 6-1-1 over their past eight games, and the Texans became the third first-year expansion team since 1995 to beat Pittsburgh. Offensively, Houston had seen struggles all season, with just 16 touchdowns in 13 weeks, but in this game, things were even worse than usual. Rookie quarterback David Carr completed just three passes and was sacked four times, and the Texans’ offense gained a paltry three first downs.
9. Dec. 1, 2008—Texans vs. Jaguars
- Score: Texans 30, Jaguars 17
- Significance: Texans shine in first appearance on Monday Night Football
With a then-record crowd of 70,809 fans in attendance, the Texans put up a performance worth remembering during their first appearance on Monday Night Football. Third-year defensive end Mario Williams had three sacks, and rookie running back Steve Slaton scored twice in the second half of Houston’s 30–17 victory over Jacksonville. It was the second game in a four-game winning streak for the Texans, who closed the 2008 season by going 5–1 down the stretch for a second straight 8–8 finish. They carried that late-season momentum into 2009, finishing 9–7 for the first winning record in franchise history.
Slaton also etched his name into Texans history that night by tying the franchise’s rookie record for rushing touchdowns in a season. He’d add his ninth touchdown in the season finale against the Bears to establish a new record that still stands. Slaton’s 130-yard showing against the Jaguars also helped him break the rookie record for rushing yards in the season. He ended up with 1,282 yards on the year to best Domanick Williams’ 2003 mark of 1,031.
In total, the Texans have appeared on Monday Night Football 15 times, but they have only a 5–10 record. Overall in primetime games, Houston is 17–24.
8. Dec. 24, 2006—Texans vs. Colts
- Score: Texans 27, Colts 24
- Significance: Texans get past AFC South juggernaut Colts for first time
The Texans weren’t supposed to beat the playoff-bound Colts on Christmas Eve, but kicker Kris Brown and running back Ron Dayne missed the memo. Despite injuring his ankle in the first quarter, Dayne played on and ran for a career-high 153 yards. Brown knocked in a 48-yard field goal as time expired to give Houston a stunning 27–24 victory over Indianapolis, which was closing in on a fourth straight AFC South Division championship. It was the first win in the rivalry for the Texans, who had lost their first nine games to the Colts. Of those games, only one was decided by fewer than nine points.
“It’s one of the most unselfish team efforts I’ve ever been around,” said coach Gary Kubiak. “We probably couldn’t have played any better” (Duffey, 2006).
The victory was a highlight in a season that saw the Texans jump from a 2–14 record the year before to finish at 6–10. Victories over strong teams can improve a team’s confidence, and Houston’s next three seasons all finished at .500 or better. As for the Colts, the loss didn’t seem to hold them back—they defeated the Bears in that season’s Super Bowl. Indianapolis only lost to four teams in 2006, including each of their AFC South rivals, and the Texans were the only team with a losing record that beat the Colts.
7. Oct. 1, 2017—Texans vs. Titans
- Score: Texans 57, Titans 14
- Significance: Rookie quarterback sets record in highest-scoring game in team history
There was already plenty of excitement in Houston surrounding rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson, but it reached new heights after his record-breaking performance against the Titans. Watson accounted for five touchdowns as the Texans roughed up the Titans 57–14 in the highest-scoring effort in franchise history. In just his third start, Watson became the first rookie since Fran Tarkenton in 1961 to pass for four touchdowns and rush for another. (Prior to this 57-point effort, Houston’s best single-game showing also came against the Titans in a 45–21 victory in 2014.)
Austin American-Statesman columnist Kirk Bohls summed up the excitement surrounding Watson by writing after the game that his performance set in motion “a buzz about a seemingly predestined hero.” He then compared Watson to two Houston sports legends—Hall of Fame running back Earl Campbell of the Oilers and the NBA Hall of Famer Hakeem Olajuwon (Bohls, 2017).
“Just seeing your quarterback have that swagger and that demeanor to want to win and want to keep the ball going down field, that gets everybody going,” said running back Lamar Miller, who had 131 total yards and two touchdowns in the victory (Rieken, 2017).
One week later, Watson added to his budding legend by throwing five touchdowns to tie the NFL’s single-game rookie record. Those efforts gave the Texans hope that they would continue a streak of playoff appearances, but Watson was later injured in practice and missed the bulk of the season. He rebounded to help Houston make the postseason in 2018 and ‘19.
6. Dec. 20, 2015—Texans vs. Colts
- Score: Texans 16, Colts 10
- Significance: Texans defeat rival Colts on the road for the first time
Houston’s 14th attempt to win in Indianapolis started off poorly. A motivated third-string quarterback and a stifling defense, however, turned the game around and led to a surprising win. Quarterback Brandon Weeden led three scoring drives after being pressed into duty, and the defense held the Colts to 190 yards as the Texans won 16–10 to snap a 13-game losing streak in Indianapolis.
Weeden was seemingly the unlikeliest of heroes for the Texans, who were without starting quarterback Brian Hoyer because of a concussion and lost backup T.J. Yates to a knee injury just before halftime. Weeden was claimed off of waivers a month prior to his emergency appearance and came to the Texans with a career record of 5–19. Weeden started the following week in a 34–6 win over the Titans, pushing Houston closer to its third AFC South Division title in five seasons.
“He’s a pro, he acts like a pro, he carries himself like a pro, he is a pro,” coach Bill O’Brien said of Weeden. “Look, I’m not sure he has the whole offense down pat, but I think he has enough that he can go in there and function” (Marot, 2015).
After losing the first six games in Indianapolis by more than one possession, Houston began to close the gap with four one-possession losses over the next seven matchups. Going into the 2020 season, the Texans have three wins at Indianapolis.
5. Nov. 26, 2018—Texans vs. Titans
- Score: Texans 34, Titans 17
- Significance: Texans secure emotional win three days after owner’s death
Just three days after they were rocked by the death of owner Bob McNair, the Texans took the field for a Monday Night Football game against a division rival and made a statement. Running back Lamar Miller dashed 97 yards for a touchdown, and quarterback Deshaun Watson connected with Demaryius Thomas in the end zone twice as the Texans prevailed 34–17 for their eighth straight victory. That streak, along with Miller’s run, both set franchise records—a fitting tribute to the man who brought football back to Houston after the Oilers left for Tennessee in 1997.
“The one thing Mr. McNair wanted was a winner,” said star defensive end J.J. Watt. “All he wanted was a winner. He wanted to win every week. He wanted a team that could win and bring a championship to this city. So to be able to win eight straight and to be able to win tonight for him was good, and we’re going to try to keep doing that for him” (Rieken, 2018).
The Texans opened the 2018 season at 0–3 and would ultimately wind off nine straight victories to take command of the AFC South. They finished 11–5 as division champions but lost in the first round of the postseason.
4. Jan. 4, 2020—Texans vs. Bills
- Score: Texans 22, Bills 19
- Significance: Texans outlast Bills in thrilling overtime playoff victory
The Texans certainly opened the 2019 playoffs with excitement. After falling behind 16–0, Deshaun Watson put the Texans on the board late in the third quarter, rushing for a 20-yard touchdown and then plunging in for a 2-point conversion to cut his team’s deficit in half. A Ka’imi Fairbairn field goal early in the fourth quarter combined with a five-yard touchdown pass from Watson to Carlos Hyde with 4:37 to play gave Houston its first lead of the game. All told, Watson led the offense to 19 straight points.
Buffalo got a field goal with five seconds left in regulation to push the game to overtime. Fairbairn finished the game with a 28-yard field goal in overtime to cap off a thrilling victory. To help set up that field goal, Watson spun out of a sack and completed a 34-yard pass to Taiwan Jones for what is, thus far, the defining play of his young career.
“The play he made at the end of the game—nobody makes that play,” said defensive end J.J. Watt, who returned from an October pectoral injury and recorded a sack in the victory. “The guy’s unbelievable. I’m very thankful and lucky to have him as my quarterback. That’s why you play the whole game” (Rieken, 2020).
The rally from behind was not unusual for the Texans, who have trailed in three of their four playoff wins. There’d be no such luck the next week, when Houston lost 51–31 to the Chiefs, who would continue on to win Super Bowl LIV. That marked the second time the Texans lost in the playoffs to the eventual Super Bowl champion. The next task for Houston will be winning a second-round playoff game to advance to their first AFC Championship game.
3. Dec. 11, 2011—Texans vs. Bengals
- Score: Texans 20, Bengals 19
- Significance: Texans score late touchdown to clinch first AFC South Division championship
The stakes were staggering for quarterback T.J. Yates as he led the Texans offense onto the field with 2 minutes, 31 seconds to play in a Week 14 road matchup against the Bengals. Trailing 19–13, Yates faced an 80-yard field and needed a touchdown to clinch the first playoff appearance in team history. That’s quite a situation for a rookie who started the season as the third-string quarterback and was making just his second career start. But he delivered. It took 13 plays, but Yates connected with Kevin Walter for a six-yard touchdown in the waning seconds to pick up a monumental win for the franchise.
“It’s pretty crazy,” said Yates, who hit the 300-yard mark that day for the only time in his career. “A lot of people in this organization have waited a long time for this. This is a special day for this team and this organization” (Kay, 2011).
Yates was also without top receiving target Andre Johnson, who missed the game because of a strained hamstring. The defense, however, stepped up in the second half, holding the Bengals to just 81 offensive yards. Combined, the units helped push the Texans to a then-franchise-record seventh straight win, despite three lost fumbles.
The victory proved crucial, as the Texans would lose the final three games of the season, but they did post a first-round playoff win over the Bengals. Combined with a Titans loss that day, the win gave Houston its first of six AFC South titles.
2. Sept. 8, 2002—Texans vs. Cowboys
- Score: Texans 19, Cowboys 10
- Significance: Texans win first game in franchise history by beating in-state rival
It only took four plays for the Texans to score the first touchdown in franchise history. The Cowboys probably figured that was a fluke, but Houston didn’t let up, beating Dallas 19–10 in the “Texas Super Bowl” to become just the second first-year expansion team to win its first game. The Texans tried to hit it big on the first play, but instead came away with a 43-yard gain on a pass-interference penalty, and rookie quarterback David Carr fired a pass to tight end Billy Miller for a 19-yard touchdown three plays later.
“I think that put a little sting in the Cowboys,” said receiver Corey Bradford, the intended receiver on the opening play who also caught a 65-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter to break a 10–10 tie. “I think they said to themselves this ain’t no expansion team” (Carley, 2002).
The Cowboys had chances to make a comeback, but their offense repeatedly stalled in the fourth quarter—gaining just three offensive yards. Such a poor performance from the Cowboys led to headlines suggesting the team was “rising fast on the laugh track” and columns that read “fire everybody” and “deport the owner” (Galloway, 2002). The rest of the season wasn’t as exciting for the Texans, as they would lose the next five games as part of a 4–12 season, but the unexpected win to open the season will always be remembered. Dallas didn’t fare much better, losing four games in a row twice during a third straight 5–11 campaign.
The game also helped the Texans develop an identity as a defensive-minded group, and that attitude has continued on ever since. Many of the top players in franchise history have played on the defensive side of the ball, and since 2011, Houston has finished in the top 11 in scoring defense six times—including five seasons in which the Texans made the postseason.
1. Jan. 7, 2012—Texans vs. Bengals
- Score: Texans 31, Bengals 10
- Significance: J.J. Watt’s interception breaks tied score as Texans claim first postseason victory
Defensive end J.J. Watt was a rookie, but he made himself known to the rest of the NFL during the first playoff game in Texans history. Watt intercepted a pass and rumbled 29 yards into the end zone to break a 10–10 tie. The offense did the rest as Houston turned what I consider the greatest win in franchise history into a 31–10 rout. That interception was named the team’s top play of all time prior to the 2019 season in a countdown of the team’s 100 greatest moments and was one of three picks in the game for Houston.
“I was really just trying to put my hands up and get in the way of the passing lane,” Watt said. “It happened to kind of stick. I realized I had the ball so I just ran to the end zone just trying not to fall down” (Duncan, 2012).
Watt would go on to become the best defensive player in the NFL—winning Defensive Player of the Year awards in 2012, ‘14 and ‘15—but he wasn’t the only player responsible for getting past the Bengals. Running back Arian Foster scored twice and had 153 yards, and long-time receiver Andre Johnson caught 90 yards and a touchdown on five receptions from rookie quarterback T.J. Yates. Foster’s rushing total remains a single-game postseason record for the Texans, and he also owns the second- and third-best efforts.
Houston was unable to get past Baltimore in the next round, but has since made five more postseason appearances. The Texans are 4–6 in the playoffs, which includes two wins against the Bengals.
For having only 18 years of history, the Texans have produced a number of memorable victories. The following are a handful of important wins that didn’t quite crack the top 10.
Sept. 9, 2013—Texans vs. Chargers
The Texans faced a 28–7 deficit in the third quarter, but stormed back to score 24 straight points, shocking the Chargers 31–28 for the biggest comeback win in franchise history. Houston’s kicker, Randy Bullock, knocked in a 41-yard field goal as time expired to secure the victory—an exclamation mark that kicked off a new campaign that would be marred by 14 straight losses to end the season.
Sept. 7, 2003—Texans vs. Dolphins
Houston opened the 2003 season as the NFL’s biggest underdog with a matchup against the Dolphins, but just like they did in their inaugural season the year before, the Texans pulled off a season-opening upset. Kris Brown kicked five field goals for Houston, including the game-winning boot with 25 seconds to play, and the Texans walked away with a 21–20 victory. Miami was expected to contend for a spot in that year’s Super Bowl and was favored to win the opener by two touchdowns. The Dolphins hadn’t lost a season-opener since 1991.
Dec. 26, 2004—Texans vs. Jaguars
Coming into the second-to-last game of 2004, the Texans needed a win for a chance at a .500 record and the Jaguars needed a win to stay in playoff contention. Despite having less at stake, Houston seemed more ready to play, blanking Jacksonville 21–0 for the first shutout in franchise history. The Texans’ defense was stifling, holding the Jaguars to just 126 offensive yards. At the time, that was the fewest yards an opponent had gained against the Texans; Jacksonville has since beaten that record twice, gaining 117 yards in 2012 and 119 in ‘18.
The Greatest Comeback Wins in Texans History
The Texans have come from behind to win several games throughout their history, but the greatest comeback came against the Chargers on Sept. 9, 2013. On that day, Houston overcame a 28–7 deficit by scoring 24 unanswered points in the third and fourth quarters of a 31–28 victory. The largest deficit ever overcome by the Texans was a 25-point margin they erased in the fourth quarter of a 38–36 loss to the Titans on Oct. 21, 2007.
Houston has overcome at least a two-touchdown deficit and won 11 times in history; details of those games are listed below.
Best Texans Comebacks
Bohls, K. “A Star in the Making.” Austin American-Statesman. pp. C1-C5. Oct. 2, 2017. Retrieved from Newspapers.com on April 16, 2020.
Carley, J. “Bradford learned lessons well.” Fort Worth Star-Telegram. pp. CC4. Sept. 9, 2002. Retrieved from Newspapers.com on April 17, 2020
Duffey, G. “Texans triumph over Colts” Austin American-Statesman. pp. C6. Dec. 25, 2006. Retrieved from Newspapers.com on April 16, 2020.
Duncan, C. “Texans make history, while season’s history for Bengals.” Austin American-Statesman. pp. C1-C7. Jan. 8, 2012. Retrieved from Newspapers.com on April 16, 2020.
Galloway, R. “Cowboys rising fast on the laugh track.” Fort-Worth Star Telegram. pp. CC1-CC4. Sept. 9, 2002. Retrieved from Newspapers.com on April 17, 2020.
Kay, J. “Yates, Texans clinch first playoff berth with last-second victory.” Austin American-Statesman. pp. C1-C6. Dec. 12, 2011. Retrieved from Newspapers.com on April 17, 2020.
Marot, M. “A Day of Firsts.” Austin American-Statesman. pp. C1-C4. Dec. 21, 2015. Retrieved from Newspapers.com on April 16, 2020.
Rieken, K. “Texans, Watson roll over Titans.” Austin American-Statesman. pp. C5. Oct. 2, 2017. Retrieved from Newspapers.com on April 16, 2020.
Rieken, K. “Texans honor late owner with key victory,” Odessa American. pp. B1-B3. Nov. 28, 2018. Retrieved from Newspapers.com on April 16, 2020.
Rieken, K. “Texans beat Bills in OT, 22-19.” Longview News-Journal. pp C1-C2. Jan. 5, 2020. Retrieved from Newspapers.com on April 17, 2020.