It was January 8th, 2023 when the Houston Texans would go on to win their last game of the season against the Indianapolis Colts 32-31 and by doing so, forfeited their chance for the No. 1 draft pick. After years of what could be appropriately described as rebuilding, the team moved on from head coach Lovie Smith who’d given them a 3-13-1 record and brought in former Texans player, DeMeco Ryans, for a fresh start. It was the beginning of a new era for Houston and some might even say it was serendipitously ignited with a demand for a culture of winning for the team.
Fast forward to week 10 in the 2023-2024 season where the Houston Texans are 5-4 and just put a stop to the Cincinnati Bengals’s four-game win streak with a final score of 30-27, and it doesn’t take long to see the Texans are making waves in the league. We’ve heard all about the record breaking games from rookie C.J. Stroud, likely earning him the title of Offensive Rookie of the Gear, but the team is achieving something together that has eluded them far too often in the past. They’re winning games.
He’s earned the record for most pass attempts without an interception to start the year, then he earned the most passing yards in a single game for a rookie, but Stroud’s arguably most exciting feat so far is bringing the Texans to above .500 since Week 1 of the 2021 season. While Stroud is understandably garnering most of the attention, it’s the talent on both sides of the ball that continues to secure win after win.
Week 10’s victory against the Bengals came with key players for the Texans ruled out including Stroud-favorite wide receiver target Nico Collins, running back Dameon Pierce, and linebacker Henry To’oTo’o. A game winning drive led by Stroud — the second in as many weeks — secured not only their fifth win in the season against a team on a winning streak led by an elite quarterback like Burrow, it validated the team’s emergence as a force to be reckoned with in the league.
There’s no denying the team has a long way to go. There were failed tackles, turnovers, and missed opportunities that made the matchup against the Bengals closer than it needed it to be. The season has brought several losses in the final moments of the game and the lack of veteran presence on the team in key positions can still be felt, even during their wins. While the offensive has felt explosive, the run game ranks 27th in the league for yards per game with an average of 87 yards. The defense under DeMeco Ryans, on the other hand, has struggled with injury and are currently ranked 24th in opponent passing yards per game and 27th in opponent 3rd down conversions per game. And then there was that loss to the at-the-time 1-6 Carolina Panthers.
None of this changes the fact that the Houston Texans are putting up wins and showing that they can do whatever it takes even against high caliber teams. They are competing at the highest level week after week. The Texans are ranked 4th in passing yards per game, 6th in third down conversions per game, and 11th in total points per game. But there is something more than just a rise in the ranks happening in Houston, there is a foundation for a winning team with Stroud at the core as the franchise quarterback, a head coach in Ryans who has finally returned home ready to lead the team, and a fanbase who can already see all too clearly the kind of bright future that is right at their doorstep.
"They came out here today and they were the best team for 3 hours on Sunday, and that’s all that matters."- Texans Head Coach DeMeco Ryans
The Bengals may have been ready to add to their winning streak at home against the Texans, but they were facing the same swarm-mentality culture that forced other teams like the now 6-3 Pittsburgh Steelers to take notice. The Texans of today are built on the decision to win a game that most criticized them for and the lesson to win above anything else is one that seems to have stuck with the tema. With headline-grabbing performances coming each week from the Texans now, it’s only a matter of time before the rest of the league will be put on notice.