Super Wild Card Saturday lived up to its name in the city of Houston, with the Texans’ introduction to the postseason making light work of the Cleveland Browns, 45-14. If you thought Houston’s 10 wins in head coach DeMeco Ryans’ first year with a rookie quarterback was a fluke, go ahead and smack yourself right now. That goes double for anyone picking the Browns (like me) to waltz back into H-Town and repeat what happened on Christmas Eve.
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These teams played less than a month ago and the Browns had their way in Houston, 36-22. The difference at that time was the Texans took the field without C.J. Stroud. This time around Stroud was the difference, passing for 274 yards and three touchdowns while completing just 16 passes. A rookie QB in his first playoff game has the ball hit the ground only five times and completes 76 percent of his passes. The word “efficient” never sounded so sweet.
Houston is for real and could have the Coach of the Year and Rookie of the Year on the same team. Talk about a change of fortune and epic turnaround from one year ago. This time last year, Houston was coming off a three-win campaign with the future in doubt. A new head coach (and staff), a few draft picks, and a QB later, and the Texans are AFC South Division Champions and on their way to the divisional round of the postseason.
The Texans had an outstanding season, but Saturday was their coming out party to the world. After the Browns scored a touchdown early in the second quarter to go up, 14-10, that was the end of their scoring output for the day. Thirty-five unanswered points later, Houston was on their way to the next round.
Of course, there were big expectations for Ryans being a head coach for the first time, but nobody expected him to pay dividends on Houston’s investment this fast. Winning eight games and barely missing the playoffs in year one would’ve been acceptable as it would have shown improvement under the new regime. But Ryans and his boys went for the gusto instead. They overtook the division from Jacksonville, won double-digit games, and a playoff victory. And they may not be done winning just yet.
It’s quite possible we could see the Texans in the AFC title game in a couple of weeks. This team is that good. Even traveling on the road next week, you can’t count this young team out because they defied the odds all year. Now Houston’s playing with house money because all this is a bonus. No one expected this much success this fast under Ryans’ administration in Houston. Let alone from two newcomers leading the way as a coach/QB combo.