When the Houston Texans fell to 0-3 to begin the year, there were many questions as to how this team would bounce back following a 27-22 loss to the Giants.
Clearly, those inquiries sparked something in that locker room as the Texans rattled off nine straight wins to catapult to the top of the AFC South standings where they eventually locked up first place with a win over the Jacksonville Jaguars in the last regular season game.
Now, for the third time in the last four years, the Houston Texans finished as AFC South champions.
They became the first team since the San Diego Chargers in 1992 to start a season 0-3 and finish it as division champions.
Even more impressively, that division was the winningest group in football this year with the Colts, Titans and Jaguars adding to the 11-win season in Houston to push the South to 35 total wins.
The AFC West gave them a run for their money but finished just shy with 34 total wins between the Chiefs, Chargers, Raiders and Broncos.
The final week of the regular season left plenty to be decided with playoff seedings still up in the air but that fateful 17th week determined just whose season would continue and whose would come to a close by the end of the day of competition.
It started in the early window where Jacksonville made the trip to Houston for one last divisional clash although there was little to fight for with the visitors owning a 5-10 record entering the day.
However, the Jaguars struck first and got on the board early, although with only a field goal.
DeAndre Carter looked to be interfered with when attempting to haul in a punt but it was indeed ruled a fumble and Jacksonville took over inside the red zone.
But the offense was unable to mash its way into the end zone and came away with only a trio of points.
Those would be the only lights operated on that side of the scoreboard as the Texans grabbed a pair of touchdowns in the second frame while the defense held it down by allowing only 119 yards of offense to Jacksonville, one of its lowest totals in a single game in franchise history.
Deshaun Watson started getting loose on the other side, getting it done with his arm and his legs as he has been able to do all year.
By the end of his season, he was amongst esteemed company in dual-threat quarterbacks.
A season with 4,000 yards throwing and 500 yards rushing had only been accomplished twice before in a single season, most recently in Seattle with Russel Wilson in 2015 and Carolina’s Cam Newton did it in 2011.
Watson worked his way to be the third to do so as well as becoming the first to put up even more impressive numbers.
As only a sophomore in the league, he became the first quarterback to rack up more than 4,000 yards and 25 touchdowns through the air as well as over 500 yards and four touchdowns on the ground in a singular season.
He wasn’t the only one breaking records though, as DeAndre Hopkins put icing on the cake that was his year, setting a new personal-best with 12 receptions in the regular season finale.
Those receptions helped push him to first all-time in receptions in the first six years of a player’s career, passing Pittsburg’s Antonio Brown with 528 catches so far.
Not only that, but he ended up tying Andre Johnson’s franchise record with 115 receptions in a single year as well.
The former teammates shared the podium in the post-game press conference and the former sole owner of that franchise record shared nothing but praise for the current receiver.
“To see what he’s accomplished and the things he’s doing out on the field, it’s amazing,” Johnson noted. “I’d line him up against anybody in the NFL. He continues to do it week in and week out.”
This week he did it against one of the best corners in the game right now in Jalen Ramsey, who will tell you he is emphatically the best in the game.
But that effort was not enough to slow down this Houston team that has not looked back on that gloomy locker room following the loss to the Giants since it happened.
The Texans as a team were also one of two squads to complete a full 180 from last year and earned a division crown the immediate year after finishing last in their respective division.
The Chicago Bears were the other team this year achieving that turnaround, making this the second year in a row a pair of teams did just that.
Last year it was the eventual Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles and the Jaguars who traded in their basement rankings for the tops the following year although the latter team has returned to the cellar.
At the end of the day, it’s another banner year for Houston, and head coach Bill O’Brien is proud of that.
“It means a lot,” he said. “These guys have worked hard, especially the way we started out. It’s a testament to the players in that locker room. They’ve always hung tough. And to go from 0-3, then go 11-2 in this league, pretty tough to do. Give credit to the players.”