The Houston Texans have gotten off to their first 3-0 start in team history, a great way to begin their 10th anniversary season. In commemoration of the ten year anniversary, my Texans’ top ten series is looking back at the top ten victories, players, and individual single game performances in team history.
The victories segment kicked off at #10 with the unlikeliest of upsets, a 24-6 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Texans inaugural 2002 season. Coming in at #9 on this list happens to be a victory in December of 2008 against this weeks opponent, the Tennessee Titans. The Texans entered the Week 15 game with a 6-7 record and had already been eliminated from playoff contention. However, they were riding a three game winning streak and still had the goal of winning out to finish with the first winning record in franchise history.
Tennessee on the other hand was a juggernaut in 2008, and the big, bad Titans strolled into Reliant Stadium with an NFL best record of 12-1. With the AFC South title and a 1st round playoff bye already clinched, the Titans had designs on winning and wrapping up home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs. Tennessee was riding the career year of backup QB Kerry Collins, the running of rookie RB Chris Johnson, and the leagues top rush defense to an incredible season.
None of that mattered to Houston, who on that day went toe to toe with the leagues best team. In their best overall team performance and most significant victory of the 2008 season, the Texans emerged victorious in a 13-12 street fight of a game. The win marked the first time that they had won 4 games in a row and also snapped a frustrating seven game losing streak to Jeff Fishers’ Tennessee team.
The Titans are the team that came into this game with the ballyhooed defense, but the Texans defense was the one who shined the most this day. A linebacker core led by Kevin Bentley and DeMeco Ryans paved the way for the stout effort of a defense that kept Tennessee out of the end zone. The Texans defense limited the Titans to 4 field goals, 281 total yards, a dismal 2-13 3rd down conversion rate and forced 2 turnovers.
The Tennessee defense, particularly their run defense, had been dominant all season. Only one player had rushed for 100 yards in a game against Albert Haynesworth, Jevon Kearse and company that season. That one player was Texans RB Steve Slaton, who gained 116 yards rushing in the Week 3 31-12 loss to the Titans. After the game there was still only one player to go for 100 yards on the ground against the Titans, but Slaton had now done it twice.
He gained 100 yards on the day and the majority of them were hard fought. Slaton battled for every one of those 100 yards, refusing to go down when met by a group of defenders and several times gaining extra yardage when it appeared that his momentum had been stopped. It was the third straight 100 yard game for Slaton and it gave him 1,124 rushing yards on the season, breaking Domanick Williams‘ mark (1,031 yards) for most rushing yards by a rookie RB in franchise history.
It was an impressive performance by Slaton and the defense, but the no doubt player of the game was Andre Johnson. Johnson had a career day, catching 11 passes for a career high 207 yards and a touchdown. He became the first player in Texans history to record a 200 yard receiving game, and he scored the games’ only touchdown on a 13 yard pass from Matt Schaub that gave the Texans a 10-3 lead that they would not relinquish. Kris Brown added the second of his 2 field goals in the fourth quarter, which turned out to be the game winning points as Houston held on for the one point victory.
The win evened Houston’s record at 7-7. They would go on to split their final two contests to finish .500 at 8-8 for the 2nd consecutive season. The 8 wins matched 2007 for the most in franchise history up to that point. Meanwhile, Tennessee would also split their last two games to finish an AFC best 13-3. They did earn home-field throughout the playoffs but it would go for naught, as they were upset 13-10 in the divisional round by the Baltimore Ravens.
Although the Texans technically had nothing to play for, this was a big win for several reasons. One, the 12-1 Tennessee team is the highest win percentage opponent that they have ever defeated. Two, it broke the aforementioned 7 game losing streak to the Titans. Three, it gave Houston its first four game winning streak in team history and four, it’s always good to send Bud Adams back to Tennessee with a loss when he returns to Houston. Those reasons land this win at #9 on the Texans’ top ten victories list.