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Texans in divisional round: Fourth time’s the charm?

Texans 0-3 in previous divisional round games

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HOUSTON – The Houston Texans have been here before, but they’re hoping to do something they’ve never done -- advance to the AFC championship game. Houston has made the playoffs six times in team history without a trip to the conference title game.

Houston faces the Kansas City Chiefs at 2:05 p.m. Sunday with a trip to the AFC title game on the line. Houston beat Kansas City 31-24 earlier this season in Kansas City behind three touchdowns from quarterback Deshaun Watson.

They’ve lost the wild card game twice and have now won a wild card game four times, following their 22-19 overtime win against the Bills. This is the first divisional round game that will feature both defensive end J.J. Watt and Watson.

The results of their three previous trips to the divisional round have all been disappointing. Let’s take a look back at those three games -- all losses.

2016 playoffs: Patriots 34, Texans 16 -- Jan. 14, 2017, in New England

The most recent trip to the divisional round was a return to New England for Texans head coach Bill O’Brien to face his former team in his first second-round playoff game. Houston was competitive in the first half, driving the ball into the red zone three times, but the team was only able to find the endzone once. Two of those three scoring drives were helped greatly by the defense and special teams. Cornerback A.J. Bouye picked off Tom Brady to set up one score and Akeem Dent (current Texans assistant coach) forced a Dion Lewis fumble on the kickoff return following a field goal (recovered by Eddie Pleasant). That turnover was converted into a touchdown on a 10-yard Brock Osweiler to C.J. Fiedorowicz touchdown pass. At the half, the Patriots led 17-13, Osweiler had completed 65 percent of his passes to go along with that touchdown and no turnovers.

Then Osweiler turned in a disastrous second half completing just half of his throws and threw three interceptions. The only Texans drive that resulted in points came after an Andre Hal interception late in the third quarter. The Texans trailed 24-13 at the time, clearly, a touchdown would’ve put the Texans in a pretty good position as the game turned to the fourth quarter. However, the offense managed just six yards and kicked a field goal to close the gap to 24-16.

The Texans defense forced a punt and with 13 minutes remaining in the game, Osweiler and the offense took the field down just eight points. Osweiler’s first pass was picked off, the Patriots scored a touchdown two plays later and that was essentially the ball game.

2012 Playoffs: Patriots 41, Texans 28 -- Jan. 13, 2013, in New England

The 2012 Texans were 12-4 in the regular season -- the same record as the Patriots. The teams had met in the regular season, also in New England, with the Texans holding the best record in the AFC (11-1) and riding a six-game winning streak. It was also the infamous ‘Letterman jackets’ game. Houston got smoked that Monday night in New England, trailing 28-0, before losing 42-14.

However, the playoff matchup started brilliantly for Houston. Danieal Manning caught the opening kickoff six yards deep in the end zone, but brought it out and nearly scored. His 94-yard kickoff return set the Texans up with first and goal at the Patriots 12 yard line. Unfortunately on second down, Matt Schaub’s pass to James Casey was dropped in the end zone. Then on third down, Schaub missed on a throw to an open Andre Johnson and Houston had to settle for a field goal.

Following a late first-quarter touchdown from the Patriots, the Texans would not lead again. Though they trailed just 17-13 at the half, the Patriots scored touchdowns on three of their first four second-half possessions and blew the game open. Schaub threw a pair of late touchdown passes to make the score more respectable, but it made the pain of a season-ender after starting so brilliantly, no less easy to stomach.

2011 Playoffs: Ravens 20, Texans 13 -- Jan. 15, 2012, in Baltimore

The Texans were sizable underdogs in this one with T.J. Yates in at quarterback for the injured Schaub. This loss probably still stings the most since it seemed like the game was given away. Houston had four turnovers in the game with the Ravens scoring 17 points off those miscues.

The game started with points for the Texans. A big kickoff return from Manning set up a short drive that ended in a field goal when head coach Gary Kubiak elected for the short Neil Rackers field goal rather than go for it on fourth and one.

The Texans defense was brilliant that day, giving up zero yards and forcing a three-and-out on the Ravens’ first drive. But the game turned in the Ravens’ favor five seconds after the Sam Koch punt because Texans punt returner Jacoby Jones fumbled the ball, the Ravens recovered at the Texans two-yard and scored a touchdown three plays later. Houston managed to put a couple of long scoring drives together following a Yates interception that had led to a second Ravens touchdown and trailed just 17-13 at halftime.

As noted, the Texans defense was masterful throughout, forcing eight three-and-outs from the Joe Flacco-led offense so Houston remained in a one-score game until the final whistle. J.J. Watt has two-and-a-half sacks, three quarterback hits and three tackles for loss. Two more Yates interceptions, both thrown in Ravens territory killed the Texans’ chances of advancing.