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These Three Texans Games From 2022 Represent Hope In 2023

The Texans have been the laughingstock of the NFL for the last three years, and rightfully so. In 2022, the team somehow managed to deliver a disappointing season with little to no expectations in the first place. Yet, in a stretch of three games last year- against the Browns, Cowboys, and Chiefs- the Texans shocked the world with a rare display of competency, nearly pulling off three improbable upsets. Were these games just a fluke, or are they a sign of better days ahead for fans in Houston?

The Texans Defense Gives Deshaun Watson A Warm Welcome Home

By Week 12, all hope for the Texans’ 2022 season was lost. Yet, there was plenty of reason for everyone in the city of Houston to tune into this game: the return of once beloved franchise quarterback, turned alleged sexual predator, Deshaun Watson.

Entering this game, two big questions were to be answered: first, how would fans react to Watson in his return home? Second, how rusty would Watson be after over a year away from football?

To answer the first question, Watson was booed from the moment he stepped onto the field, and every snap after that. To answer the second question, the Texans’ defense had a field day against Watson and the Browns’ offense. Houston managed to force a sack, fumble, interception, and safety and held the Cleveland offense scoreless heading into the fourth quarter. Moreover, Watson posted an abysmal stat line, completing just over 50% of his passes, and throwing for less than 150 yards with no touchdowns and one pick.

Looking back on this game now, it’s easy to say the Texans’ impressive afternoon defensively was simply a product of Watson’s rust and the greater meaning of the game. After all, Houston lost anyway due to its offense delivering one of the worst performances in franchise history. However, it is important to realize that this game proves that with the crowd behind them and something to play for, the Texans’ defense can terrorize some of the best quarterbacks in the league. And, with the hiring of Demeco Ryans expected to bring fans rushing back to NRG, this hungry unit will certainly have more opportunities to back up that previous statement.

The Texans Nearly Win Their Super Bowl

While the Texans have never made it to the real “big game”, there is one game every four years that comes close: taking on the Dallas Cowboys. Houston is always looking to squash the “little brother” moniker given to them and things were no different ahead of this Week 13 matchup. The red-hot Cowboys were expected to steamroll through the ailing Texans, but Houston delivered a surprisingly competitive matchup.

Unlike the week prior against the Browns, the Texans’ offense decided to show up, partly due to creative play calling with rotating quarterbacks, but mostly because of stellar play by the offensive line. The unit led by bookend tackles Laremy Tunsil and Tytus Howard gave up zero sacks against a vaunted Cowboys pass rush. Perhaps even more impressive, however, was the line’s work in the ground game as the team posted over 100 rushing yards and won the time of possession battle. Rising star rookie running back, Dameon Pierce, also had a large hand in this effort, carrying the ball 22 times for 78 yards and a touchdown before going down with a season-ending injury. And, despite surrendering a lot of points, the Texans’ defense had another big game, forcing three turnovers against the star-powered Cowboy offense.

Although suffering a heartbreaking loss in the end, the Texans proved for the second straight week their ability to show up in a big game with something to play for. Particularly, the offensive line and run game proved their ability to control the pace of the game when given the opportunity. With Houston bringing in much of its new offensive staff from San Francisco, which boasts one of the best blocking/run schemes in the entire league, the development of Tunsil, Howard, Pierce, and others, should only continue to skyrocket.

The Texans Give The Champions A Run For Their Money

Can the Texans Challenge the defending Super Bowl champion, Kansas City Chiefs? Well, they already did it in Week 14 this year, taking Patrick Mahomes’ squad to overtime at NRG.

This game was a culmination of everything that Houston had been building in the last two weeks. The defense was able to sack Patrick Mahomes twice and force two fumbles against a normally sound Chiefs offense. The offensive line played another beautiful game only giving up one sack (their first in three weeks) and bought Davis Mills enough time to not only have his best passing game of the season but also opened up a lane for him to score a rushing touchdown in the second quarter. And, perhaps most significantly, the Texans played more disciplined football than the team that would go on to win the Super Bowl, losing just 33 yards in penalties to the Chiefs 102.

If not for a Davis Mills fumble in overtime to preserve the Texans’ tank job, Kansas City would have had an ugly loss as a blemish on an otherwise perfect season. Nonetheless, for the third straight week, with every odd stacked against them and absolutely nothing to play for, the Houston Texans competed with one of the best teams in the National Football League.

Don’t Sleep On The Texans

Reality check: it is highly unlikely the Texans make enough noise next season to truly challenge the Chiefs for the number one seed in the AFC. And, yes, in the grand scheme of things, no one cares about the three games last season where the Texans looked competent.

That being said, it would also be foolish to completely erase every memory of the Houston Texans’ 2022 season. Because these three games in particular prove, despite what many in the national media may proclaim, young talent is abundant on the Texans’ roster. Rookies Dameon Pierce, Derek Stingley, and Jalen Pitre all showed flashes of superstardom last season. The offense, although in desperate need of a quarterback, has the pieces to support whoever “the guy” ends up being. The defense can force turnovers and can rattle even the best young quarterbacks this league has to offer. Overall, with an energized coaching staff with the right scheme (enter in Demeco Ryans) and an answer at quarterback, Houston could be competitive sooner rather than later.

So, are the Texans good? Not yet. But the rest of the league should take a lesson from Cleveland, Dallas, and Kansas City: do not sleep on the Houston Texans. A team set to have plenty of fans returning next season, an infusion of talent over the offseason, and the ability to show up when they have something to play for.

 
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