The Houston Texans are the sixth team since 1980 and the first in 20 years to make the postseason after a 0-3 start.
“When you start off 0-3 and you’re sitting here at 10-5 with a chance to win the division on Sunday you’ve done a lot of good things over the course of those games since we were 0-3,” defensive end J.J. Watt said. “But we have to make sure that we do what we need to do to make sure that doesn’t all go to waste.”
They’ve lost two of their past three games, capped by Sunday’s 32-30 loss at Philadelphia, but earlier had won nine straight games after their dismal start to turn their season around and reach the playoffs for the fifth time in franchise history and first since 2016.
The Texans (10-5) opened with losses to New England, Tennessee and the New York Giants that left them 0-3 and were all close games decided by a total of 15 points.
Houston’s rebound began with consecutive three-point wins in overtime against Indianapolis and Dallas before seven-point victories over Buffalo and Jacksonville.
The Texans scored their most points of the season the following week in a 42-23 trouncing of the Miami Dolphins. Their next two wins both came by two points after both Denver and Washington missed long field goals in the final seconds of those games.
The Texans extended their winning streak to nine games with victories over Tennessee and Cleveland before their first loss since Sept. 23 came in a 24-21 defeat against the Colts on Dec. 9.
Houston led early against the New York Jets before falling behind and needing a fourth-quarter rally to get a 29-22 win on Dec. 15.
As the Texans prepare to wrap up the regular season with a visit from the Jaguars where they need a win to clinch the AFC South title, here’s a look at the other teams who reached the playoffs after 0-3 starts.
1981 NEW YORK JETS
New York’s winless start came thanks to losses to Buffalo, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh. The Jets’ first win of the season came in a 33-17 defeat of the Oilers before they played to a 28-28 overtime tie with the Dolphins.
They won two in a row after that before a loss to the Seahawks. A season-long five-game winning streak followed before the Seahawks downed them once again. But they bounced back with two wins to wrap up the regular season and finish 10-5-1 and second in the AFC East.
They hosted the Bills in the wild-card game and scored 14 points in the fourth quarter to cut the deficit, but came up just short in the 31-27 loss.
1982 TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
This team is different than the others on this list because Tampa Bay’s turnaround from 0-3 to the playoffs came in a season that was shortened to just nine games because of a 57-day strike by the players. Because of the strike the league adopted different rules for qualifying for the playoffs that weren’t tied to division standings, leading to two teams Cleveland (4-5) and Detroit (4-5) making the postseason despite losing records.
Tampa Bay won its next two after starting 0-3 before a loss to the Jets. The Buccaneers, who were led by quarterback Doug Williams then won their last three regular-season games, capped by a 26-23 overtime victory against the Bears to finish 5-4 and reach the postseason.
But just as the Jets had a year before, the Buccaneers fell in the wild-card game when Williams threw three interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown, in a 30-17 loss to the Cowboys.
1992 SAN DIEGO CHARGERS
It would be a decade until another team opened the season 0-3 to make the playoffs, and the San Diego Chargers stand out on this list because they are the only team to drop their first four games and reach the postseason.
The Chargers fell in the huge hole early after Stan Humphries threw eight interceptions with just one TD in the first four games. San Diego got going after that, winning four in a row to reach .500 before its second loss of the season to Kansas City. The Chargers rebounded the next week with a win to start a seven-game streak to end the season at 11-5 and give them the AFC West title.
They became the first of these teams to win a playoff game when they beat Kansas City 17-0 in the wild card after the Chiefs beat them twice in the regular season.
Their season ended when Humphries threw four interceptions and Dan Marino had three touchdown passes in a 31-0 win by the Dolphins in the divisional round.
1995 DETROIT LIONS
The Lions won two in a row after their 0-3 start but then lost their next two to fall to 2-5. Another win followed by their sixth loss came after that before they finally got rolling, winning their last seven regular-season games to finish 10-6 and second in the NFC Central.
Barry Sanders ran for 1,500 yards and 11 touchdowns that season, with 10 of those scores coming in Detroit’s wins.
Detroit met Philadelphia in the wild-card and Sanders managed just 40 yards rushing as Rodney Peete threw three touchdowns to lead the Eagles to a 58-37 win.
1998 BUFFALO BILLS
Former Texans defensive coordinator Wade Phillips coached the 1998 Bills when they turned their season around to reach the playoffs after a 0-3 start. The Bills opened the season with Rob Johnson at quarterback, but Doug Flutie took over during the fifth game when Johnson was injured and helped them to a 31-24 comeback win over the Colts. The next week Flutie made his first NFL start since 1989 and led the Bills to a 17-16 win over the Jaguars for their first loss of the season.
Those two wins were part of a five-game streak that came after the winless start. The Bills won four of six after that streak and ended the regular season with a loss to the Jets and a win over the Saints to finish 10-6 and in third place in the AFC East.
The Bills lost to Miami 24-17 in the wild card when Flutie threw an interception and they lost four fumbles.
Source: The Associated Press