Houston's prime-time statement win has people talking about them once again as a favorite to make the Super Bowl.
Here's what a second look at what the tape reveals about the game.
The Real Story
Arian Foster may be a vegan, but he feasted on Bear meat in Chicago.
Foster's tough-as-nails performance was the only discernible difference between two clubs that struggled to move the football against the two best defenses in the game.
Houston's offense consisted largely of Foster and field position generated by Chicago turnovers. Despite facing one of the most fearsome fronts in the game, Foster found ways to pound out yards all night.
The defensive play was as good as advertised on both sides, and it was one of those games in which it is difficult to make definite statements about either squad. They were evenly matched, and the Texans made a play or two more to win the game.
Winning a difficult road game in adverse conditions is a crucible in which a team's character is revealed.
There's a reason the Texans' coaches were so enthused after the game. Gary Kubiak said,
Last night, I think we knew what it was going to take, but were we willing to do it? Could we sit in there and go toe-to-toe with them in that type of game and be patient and all those things as a team and win the kicking game, all those things that we were able to get done?
The outside world didn't learn much about the Houston Texans that they didn't already know, but it's possible the Texans learned a thing or two about themselves.
Obviously, Foster's 102-yard, 29-carry effort tops any list of heroes. Kubiak said of him,
I would say that was about the toughest 102 yards a man could get. If you sit there and look at some of the great games he’s had, I don’t think there’s anything bigger than last night because we were running against eight-, nine-man fronts all night. Everybody and their brother knew who was getting the ball and he still found a way to keep us on track. I was very proud of him.
Danieal Manning's two forced turnovers also loomed large. He took obvious and well-deserved delight in victimizing the team that allowed him to leave.
Kareem Jackson's big interception was a turning point just before the half. It was the last play Cutler would make in the game and snuffed out a potential Bears' scoring threat.
Bad stats do not always mean bad play. Sometimes a quarterback in particular can do a great job despite uneven numbers.
Matt Schaub's performance against the Bears does not fit that bill. Schaub was awful.
Obviously, the conditions were brutal and the defense he played was outstanding. Both of his interceptions were terrible throws, however, and were it not for a pair of big runs by his backs, it's unlikely the Texans would have scored any touchdowns.
The officials had a brutal night, routinely missing calls against both teams.
Bad officiating in no way invalidates the performance of the winning team, but pretending it doesn't influence the outcome is naive.
With just under eight minutes to play in the first half, Jay Cutler fired deep down field on third down toward Devin Hester.
Kareem Jackson clearly grabbed Hester's left arm, yanking him to the turf well before the ball arrived. The pass hit Hester in the hands anyway, and he nearly made the catch.
It was a obvious interference call, one that is flagged in virtually every instance.
No flag was thrown.
The Bears punted, and the Texans went on to score their only touchdown of the game.
The play symbolized a sloppy performance by an officiating crew which allowed far too much contact down field by both offensive and defensive players.
Jostling and hand-fighting is one thing, but pulling players to the ground with the ball in the air is quite different.
Plays like this one contributed to an ugly overall game, and the officiating crew did not acquit itself well.
Houston won this game fair and square, but prime-time product deserves better officials.
Gary Kubiak chose to kick a field goal on 4th-and-goal from the Bears' 2-yard line on the opening drive of the game. This is a sub-optimal decision, but on a night where points were at a premium, it can probably be defended.
Under normal circumstances, Kubiak's conservative play-calling near the end of regulation would draw criticism. Calling three runs with under 3:35 to play and punting is typically a recipe for disaster in the NFL.
This was not "normal circumstances".
Given Jason Campbell's obvious inability to throw successfully on the Texans' defense, Kubiak was smart to kill the clock, avoid a turnover and hand the ball back to the Bears.
All strategy must be adjusted for the circumstances, and while normally the phrase "trust your defense" are famous last words, in the time-machine that was Soldier Field that night, going old school was perfectly acceptable.
Kubiak coached to conditions and should be applauded for it.
Keep an Eye On...
Despite the injury to Brian Cushing, the Texans have been remarkably healthy compared to other teams in the league. Still, there are injury issues to watch.
The hip issue Owen Daniels is suffering from may not be serious, but it needs to be watched closely. The offense languishes without him.
Much has been made about Foster's workload, and with good reason. Houston needs Ben Tate to get back to full health, or the consequences for Foster next season could be grave.
Houston should take care of business against Jacksonville before playing three consecutive road games.
If the Texans go 2-1 in those games, they will likely have the top seed in the conference sewn up by Christmas.
Quotes courtesy of the Houston Texans' PR department via press release.