The Texans defense came to play. Tim Warner/Getty Images
The Texans had every reason to lay an egg against the Cleveland Browns on Sunday. They were coming off an emotional Monday Night win over Tennessee, and will face Indianapolis next week in a game that could end the AFC South race.
From a betting perspective, the Browns were the classic "sandwich" game.
No one told the Texans, who had plenty to eat, forcing four turnovers and turning in a dominant performance on both sides of the ball, beating the Browns 29-13.
It was not that long ago that the Texans were 0-3, there was talk of firing Bill O'Brien and the team looked uninspired. Nine wins later, they are playing like one of the best teams in the AFC.
On Sunday, the defense intercepted Baker Mayfield three times in the first half, and forced a fumble in the second to keep the Browns out of the end zone after a long pass that looked like a sure touchdown.
Offensively, the Texans ran the ball effectively again with 187 yards on 39 carries, and Deshaun Watson was efficient throwing the football. The Texans took their foot off the gas in the second half, but after racing to a 23-0 halftime lead, it was a luxury they could afford.
There were some of the old negatives - poor clock management at the end of the first half, some big passes given up in the second half where the Texans were bailed out by a hold and the fumble, and settling for too many field goals - but they had no impact on the outcome.
The Texans have won nine in a row since that 0-3 start, which seems like a lifetime ago. Barring a colossal collapse, they will win the most games in a season of the Bill O'Brien era. They are still in the hunt for a possible first-round bye, and are playing their best football at the right time. They got some help from Jacksonville, too, which upset Indianapolis 6-0. At 9-3, the Texans now lead the AFC South by three games.
How good was Sunday's win?
Considering the situation, this might have been the Texans most impressive of the season. The Browns had won two in a row, and Mayfield had been on a tear since Hue Jackson was fired. But the Texans took the soul out of the Browns early.
There are some injury concerns moving forward - Jonathan Joseph went out early and the offensive line took some more hits - but the Texans are looking solid as the postseason looms. During this streak, they have won close games, won when one side of the ball was struggling, and beat some teams (Dallas, Denver) where the wins look better and better every week.
And on Sunday, when they could have mailed it in, they didn't. They pounded an inferior team in impressive fashion, something they struggled with earlier in the season, losing to the Giants and getting lucky to beat the Bills.
So much for that sandwich. The Texans had themselves a turnover feast on Sunday, and it came at just the right time.
When Bryce Young and CJ Stroud were drafted with the first two picks of the NFL Draft, we knew they would be compared to one another for years to come.
And here we are just 11 games into the season and one quarterback has already seen his head coach fired. Panthers owner David Tepper spoke to the media on Wednesday and discussed his decision to fire Frank Reich, and also set the record straight on how they arrived at the decision to draft Young.
In so many words, Tepper basically blamed the Texans for how the top of the draft played out. He mentioned Stroud by name and said the Panthers were ready to draft him at No. 2 overall until the Texans backed out of the three-team trade with the Bears.
Tepper made a point of saying everyone in their building had Bryce Young as the top player on their draft board, despite rumors about Frank Reich preferring Stroud.
CJ Stroud and the Texans have been so much better than Bryce Young and the Panthers that Tepper clearly felt it was necessary to defend himself, and the decisions he's made for the organization.
In the end, the person that gets the worst end of the deal is Bryce Young. Coaching changes can be very difficult on young quarterbacks. And it looks like he'll have to learn a new offense in his second year when the Panthers hire a new coaching staff.
How fortunate we are as Texans fans to have DeMeco Ryans and CJ Stroud leading the team moving forward.
With all of this in mind, is there a reason Texans fans haven't fully bought in to the new-look Texans? JJ Watt was a guest on The Pat McAfee Show this week and was asked about the team's inability to fill the stadium on Sundays.
As a former player for the Colts, McAfee always thought Houston had the loudest and best fans in the NFL. And while the Texans are 9th in attendance this year according to ESPN, even CJ Stroud has asked for the fans to fill the stadium.
So there is something to it. You can see the empty seats in photos. So why aren't the Texans packing NRG with a shiny new franchise QB?
We believe the recent history of the team is why fans are slowly coming back. McAfee wasn't here for:
Bill O'Brien cussing at fans during games
Trading DeAndre Hopkins away for next to nothing
The Jack Easterby disaster
Deshaun Watson allegedly blaming ownership for why he wanted out
The Deshaun Watson scandal
Firing back-to-back coaches after one season, and the list goes on.
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