By John P. Lopez
Houston has a fantastic football history, but very few signature wins to claim.
That sounds like an oxymoron, but the truth is the memories of great and not-so-great football moments flood our sports history– Earl on Monday Night Football; Gifford Neilsen winning at San Diego; Warren Moon and the Run-and-Shoot; Buddy Ryan’s House Of Pain and so many more.
But true, HUGE and, more important, significant wins? The top five is as follows and, frankly, it’s not exactly Packers-, Cowboys- or Patriots-like.
1) Oilers 17, San Diego Chargers 14 — Dec. 29, 1979:
Without question, the greatest win in Houston NFL history. The irony– it did not involve the Oilers’ top three players, quarterback Dan Pastorini, running back Earl Campbell and receiver Kenny Burrough. But Gifford Neilsen and Rob Carpenter guided the Oilers to the AFC title game with one of the biggest upsets in NFL history.
2) Oilers 31, N.E. Patriots 14 — Dec. 3, 1978:
Sound familiar? Huge underdogs in New England. Tough conditions. The franchise never had advanced to the AFC title game. And then Pastorini flips the script on the Earl-first standard, throwing for three touchdowns in a seven-minute span and ultimately destroying the Pats and advancing to Pittsburgh.
3) Texans 31, Cincinnati Bengals 10 — Jan. 7, 2012:
The first Houston NFL playoff victory since 1992. J.J. Watt turned a tight, tense game into a romp with a 29-yard interception and touchdown that was brilliant and sent the city into a frenzy.
4) Oilers 35, Miami Dolphins 30 — Nov. 20, 1978:
The Luv Ya Blue era began in earnest on the game’s grandest Monday Night Football stage, with Earl Campbell’s back-breaking 81-yard touchdown run. The Oilers reached a higher level and grabbed the city’s heart for a remarkable, still-beloved era.
5) Texans 20, Cincinnati Bengals 19 — Dec. 11, 2011:
T.J. Yates to Kevin Walter for the win. Wait, what? Yeah. The Next Man Up story of the 2011 playoff run was solidified and epitomized with a game-winning touchdown pass to clinch the Texans’ first-ever playoff berth and division title.