Ron Dayne provided a Christmas miracle.
All week, I'll be looking a great game from each team in the AFC South that fans may have forgotten. The idea to try to capture something of the essence of the team from remembering great wins of the past.
The Texans have such a short history that it's difficult for any of their early wins to be forgotten. In that respect, their stunning upset of the Colts in 2006 hardly should qualify for this slot. The one thing it has going for it is that it does capture exactly where the Texans were at the time and where they were headed.
The Colts started off the 2006 season winning their first nine games in a row, and came to Houston needing a win to lock up a potential bye. The Texans were still adjusting to the Gary Kubiak era, but had begun to gel late in the season. They won their fourth game in Oakland and lost a heart-breaker in overtime to the Titans. Before playing the Colts at Reliant, they were throttled 40-7 by New England.
The Texans weren't given much chance against the vaunted Colts, as they had never beaten them in nine previous matchups. On the night before Christmas, however, they did the unthinkable. Gary Kubiak's running game showed its teeth, and the Texans announced they would be a tough matchup for Indianapolis for the foreseeable future.
Houston rode Ron Dayne to the tune 153 yards and two scores as they kept the ball away from Peyton Manning. As was often the case for the Texans in those days, the defense wasn't up to keeping the team in the game. They forced only two stops of the Colts offense all day, one on a fumble in the first quarter. That left it up to Dayne to keep Peyton Manning off the field.
Even as Manning went 21-27 with three scores, the Texans were ruthlessly efficient on offense and stayed one step ahead of the Colts. Houston was 10-14 on third down, as David Carr managed to not get sacked or throw a pick.
No matter how well the offense played, the defense couldn't contain Manning. He closed a seven-point deficit with a touchdown to Marvin Harrison with 2:46 to play in the fourth quarter, knotting the score at 24-24.
Carr responded with unquestionably the biggest drive of his Texans career. He snuck for a first down with 1:31 to play, then hit Andre Johnson for 17 yards down to the Indy 33. Dayne added three more yards for comfort, and Kris Brown came on for the game winning kick.
He drilled it.
After that game, both teams would go on to see better days. The Colts fixed their run defense and went on to win the Super Bowl.
The Texans replaced Carr with Matt Schaub and continued to struggle to get over the hump but kept on battling Indianapolis tough at home. They lost close games in 2007, 2008 and 2009 before punishing Manning in a season-opening win in 2010.
The playoffs were still a long way off in 2006, but Kubiak's first year provided a glimpse of things to come and a moment Texans fans should never forget.