I was fortunate enough to have some connections come through to get me into Reliant Stadium for the first playoff game in Houston Texans history and, wow, was it ever worth it.
With my ears still ringing from the house of loud, I am going to have a hard time narrowing down all of the things I saw about this ever-changing team today from Section 110.
With their first playoff victory in history under their belt, let's take a look at five things this team showed me today before they head northeast to Baltimore.
J.J. Watt started off the year looking like one of the steals of the draft. Then, he hit what many call a rookie wall, and while he never looked bad, he didn't look the same as he did the first quarter of the season.
Whatever changed the past month, no one knows. But a new light has come on for Watt as he is playing like he has been doing this for quite a long time. I've been over it a few times, but it seems like having that "career game" type of performance robbed from him in Indianapolis was a good thing. Because he has just been an animal ever since that game.
His interception that was taken to the house right before halftime was not only one of the most athletic plays I've ever seen for a guy his size, but it changed the entire game. After that play, I was never in doubt that the Texans were going to win this game. It wrecked the entire Bengals game plan and demoralized them heading into the locker room.
By the way, he also threw in a sack, two tackles and one for a loss. To think, I was unsatisfied with the pick when it happened. Sometimes, crow tastes delicious.
I love it when I go on Twitter and hear all these opposing fans say their team can stop Arian Foster because they will "focus on stopping him." If it were that easy, I'm sure game planning for Arian Foster wouldn't keep opposing defensive coordinators up all night.
Teams have tried to stack the box all season once Andre Johnson went out, and make stopping Foster their focal point. To put it simply, it hasn't worked. He eclipsed 1,200 yards and 10 touchdowns in only 12 games this year. Had he played all season, he likely would have eclipsed his breakout season from 2010 that all the experts said he had no shot at replicating.
Today showed how you can stack the box all you want, Arian is going to get his. Having Andre Johnson back out there helped, no doubt, but to deny his current status as the best back in the league at the moment is just stubborn—153 yards and a pair of touchdowns in his NFL playoff debut is none too shabby.
It was also a nice treat for long-time Houston sports fans to see him perform Hakeem Olajuwon's "The Dream Shake" as a tribute after his first touchdown that was requested by his fans via Twitter.
It's pretty hard not to like this guy.
In the second quarter after Yates' slow start, I already heard the guys behind me at the game calling for Jake Delhomme to be put in over him. This, of course, was met with a Texas-sized face-palm by myself.
But we've been over how knee-jerky some of the fans in Houston can be. Let's just say by the end of the game, the same guy was thinking that T.J. Yates hung the freaking moon.
Headed into a matchup between two rookie quarterbacks for the first time in NFL history, if I had read you the line of 257 yards passing and three interceptions, most would have thought that would have been on Yates. However, T.J. looked like the second-round quarterback and Andy Dalton the fifth-round one.
The difference between the two is that one clearly had a vastly superior team around him, yet Yates didn't make the silly mistakes that Dalton did. Going 11-for-20 with 159 yards and one huge touchdown is the kind of line that is plenty for the Texans to be able to win.
When you can put up those kinds of numbers after not turning the ball over, well, then you can win with T.J. Yates.
I said in an article before this game that Gary Kubiak was the guy under the most pressure on the field this afternoon. A lot of people thought that Kubiak was a given to receive an extension from Bob McNair regardless of if the Texans won this game today or not. But I'm not so sure.
I am by no means going to criticize what coach Kubes has been able to achieve with this team. To overcome the type of adversity that he has been able to is unrivaled. No coach could lose his starting quarterback and arguably his best defensive player and not only make the playoffs, but win at least one game.
However, if the Texans had dropped this game today against a team that they are/were clearly better than, at home in front of the biggest crowd in Texans history, well, that just might of been the bad taste in Bob McNair's mouth—especially headed into the offseason that saw no new deal for Kubiak. Had things gone differently today, I could have seen him entering the 2012 regular season in the final year of his contract.
However, the pressure is off now whether Houston wins, loses or whatever next week in Baltimore. This is enough of a building block to go off of, especially if Bob was willing to keep Kubes around last year, he's going to be around for the foreseeable future now. There is a guy in Houston who is breathing more easily than Gary Kubiak tonight.
In his 123rd career start in the NFL, Andre Johnson finally got to set foot on a playoff field.
Being the longest tenured Texan on the roster, there isn't anyone you could feel better for than Andre Johnson. Even if he hadn't had a decent game, it would have been a great story to see the first future Hall of Famer in a Houston Texans uniform finally get to play in the postseason. But to go for 90 yards and a 40-yard touchdown that ended with a hop into the adoring fans at Reliant Stadium, that was special to see. In fact, I was only about a hundred feet away from where it happened, so that made it even better for yours truly.
You can only imagine that sitting out almost the entire season this year had to be absolutely killing Andre. To see the team is finally good enough to win, and win big, and it's all happening while you're standing on the sidelines in street clothes? Andre isn't a visually emotional guy, but you knew it was tearing him up. This has to be a smiley face band-aid over his injury-prone season.
Speaking of, Andre looked the most healthy he has since Week 3 in New Orleans. That's huge going into a tough matchup against the Ravens in Baltimore, a team the Texans have never defeated in franchise history. Regardless of what happens, it was special to see Andre not only get to play, but play huge in his playoff debut. There isn't a guy in the league who deserves what he got today any more.