Texans 10, Ravens 3. That would be the final score of Sunday’s AFC playoff game if we could just erase those pesky fifteen minutes known as “the first quarter.”
As Sports Illustrated‘s Peter King noted, the Ravens—which beat the Texans 20-17—scored just three points in the game’s last 46 minutes. The Texans also out-gained Baltimore, with 315 yards to the Ravens’ 227, and out-sacked them 5-0.
But Gary Kubiak’s team could not survive four turnovers, most notably wide receiver and punt returner Jacoby Jones’ muff after the Raven’s first possession, which gave Baltimore a 7-3 lead it never relinquished.
Did we say fifteen minutes? Just erase the first five and it might have been a different game.
But, to misquoth the Raven, nevermind. It’s great to have Super Bowl expectations, but given that the Texans made the playoffs for the first time despite epidemic-level injuries (to quarterback Matt Schaub and defensive star Mario Williams, among many others), this was still a season to remember—indeed, the greatest and most memorable in the franchise’s young history.
“For the first time since the Houston Rockets first championship team, I follow and cheer for a team who is legitimately one of the best in their sport,” wrote the Houston Chronicle‘s Ultimate Texans blogger Lance Zierlein (who is apparently not a baseball fan).
Here’s five reasons why Texans fans should look to 2012 with nothing but a smile on their face:
1. They’re set at quarterback
The Texans almost made it to next weekend with surprising third-string rookie T.J. Yates at QB. Sports Illustrated‘s reckoned that injured starter Matt Schaub “could very well have won in Baltimore,” but while Schaub will lead the team next year, should anything go wrong, Yates is now battle-tested. The team has two good quarterbacks, more than most other NFL franchises.
2. Arian Foster’s gone from star to superstar
The fantasy crowd already knew it after last year’s 1,600 yards, but now, with two 100-yard playoff game performances, as well as Sunday’s breathtaking one-handed catch, the once-undrafted free agent has a legitimate chance to get mentioned in sentences with names like “Earl” and “Emmitt.”
“He’s the best all-around back in the game,” gushed.
3. Wade Phillips
Being the head coach (of any team, but especially the Dallas Cowboys) is all about public relations. Being the defensive coordinator is all about football. Wade Phillips may aspire to lead a team again (he just turned down a chance to talk to Tampa Bay), but he is way better at the football part.
So while it’s fittingly ironic that Phillips is the last guy Jerry fired—and special that his father, Bum, is a Houston football legend—all that really matters, as NFL.com’s Elliot Harrison wrote, is that Phillips is:
[O]ne of the game’s great defensive minds . . . the best assistant coach in football this season — period. Phillips was THE MAN. Man enough to transform last year’s 30th-ranked defense into the league’s second-best unit. Read that again: 30th to second! And that was mostly without Pro Bowler Mario Williams, who was lost for the season in early October.
“That was probably the best defense I’ve seen all year,” the Ravens’ Ray Rice said of a unit that also featured stand-out rookies J.J. Watt and Brooks Reed, as well as top-notch secondary play, according to Chris Baldwin of CultureMap Houston.
4. Jacoby Jones made history
Not, obviously, the kind that Houston sports fans like, but definitely the kind that Houston sports fans are familiar with.
Jones’ muff, described as “Bill-Buckernesque” by Ben Dubose of the Houston Press and as the Texans’ “Stagger Lee” by the Houston Chronicle‘s Jerome Solomon (referring to a similarly ill-advised backwards-pass fumble by the Oilers’ Mike Rozier against the Denver Broncos in 1988) was a legitimately awful, hope-killing, if-only-that-play-hadn’t-happened moment, one that Texans fans won’t soon forget.
But go ahead: own that feeling. Maybe even be a little grateful for it. Why? Because . . .
5. It hurts to care
“You are why we can feel real pain again,” wrote “riversmccown” of SB Nation‘s Battle Red blog in a post addressed directly to Wade Phillips.
Thank you for making the entire endeavor of being a Texans fan not feel like a complete exercise in futility. There is definitely a lot of pain right now due to this loss. But it’s nothing like that of being a fan of a team that seems to actively make you miserable on a week-to-week basis.