The Texans did something on Saturday they had never done before — win a playoff game. They made big plays on both sides of the ball and in the end dominated a team they were supposed to beat.
In the playoffs, however, euphoria lasts all of about five minutes. The next challenge looms, and until there are two teams left standing, there are goals ahead left to accomplish.
What the Texans did on Saturday was impressive. They got big plays on defense from their three biggest offseason acquisitions:
— No. 1 pick J.J. Watt turned the games momentum with one of the best plays you will ever see by a defensive lineman in his amazing pick six.
— Pro Bowl corner Jonathan Joseph came up with a pick (although he should have knocked the ball down on fourth down and played field position.
— Danieal Manning also had a key pick, one that took athleticism and skill.
In the end, they were able to dominate a Bengals team that made mistakes, had questionable coaching decisions and played like a team that was lucky to be there. The Texans got a big win, and defensive coordinator Wade Phillips got a head coaching interview out of it.
The stakes get much higher next week, and once again the Texans will be asked to do something they have never done — beat a superior team on the road. They have also never beaten next week’s opponent, the Baltimore Ravens.
In reality, the Texans season will likely end next week. The Ravens are superior on defense, run the ball as well as the Texans and have a veteran QB.
The Texans couldn’t win in Baltimore earlier this year with a healthy Matt Schaub at quarterback.
But there are some scenarios where the Texans could pull off an upset:
1) Pull off another turnover free game. The Texans won the turnover battle 3-0. Arian Foster put the ball on the ground a couple times early, and T.J. Yates got away with one awful pass, but the Texans held the ball each time. They will need to do the same to have any shot at beating the Ravens. It’s unlikely they will play turnover free ball again, but they will need to in order to have a chance.
2) Keep the defense off the field. The Texans d wore down late in the earlier loss to the Ravens because the offense was unable to control the clock. If the Texans can get some drives going and keep their defense off the field, they might once again have a shot in the fourth quarter.
3) Hope evil Joe Flacco shows up. When Flacco is on (as he was the first game), the Ravens are simply too good for the Texans to beat. But he is prone to the occasional stink bomb, and the Texans need that to happen to have a shot. They punished Flacco early in the first game and will need to do so again, but if he survives that (as he did last time) and finds open receivers, this one won’t be close.
4) Take more shots downfield with Andre Johnson. This is one area where the Texans have an advantage — Johnson against the Baltimore secondary, and he didn’t play in the first loss. Still, Yates will have to avoid the pass rush and get Johnson the ball deep, which is easier said than done.
5) Get a couple short field scores off turnovers. The Texans D has made some plays when it counted, especially against the Bengals. If they can set up Yates and the offense with some short fields, the game could stay close. The Texans really need to get out to an early lead, pressure Flacco and control the clock. That should feed more turnovers.
Do that, and big things might be ahead. The Patriots and Steelers are better matchups down the road for the Texans. They likely would not be favored against either team, but they would have a puncher’s shot.
First though, comes a date with perhaps the best team in the AFC. A team the Texans have never beaten, in a scenario they have never accomplished. But that is what playoff runs are all about. You have to beat the best there out there.
It’s unlikely, but not impossible. And at least they have earned this shot.
What they can do with it remains to be seen.