The last time the Packers and Texans met, Green Bay was third in a competitive NFC North and underachieving based on lofty preseason expectations.
Aaron Rodgers’ stats were down. Opposing teams had figured out how to defend his receivers. Their running game was pitiful; Green Bay ranked just 21st in total offense. A bend-but-don’t-break defense had turned into a bend-and-break defense.
History has a funny way of repeating itself.
From December 2010 to the start of the 2012 season, the Packers held a sparkling 21-2 record and a Super Bowl XLV victory. They entered the season as the team to beat.
The season began, and the Packers started 2-3. They were handily beaten by the San Francisco 49ers at home, lost on a fluke last second touch-ception to Seattle on the road and blew a 21-3 halftime lead against an emotional Colts team led by an interim head coach and rookie quarterback.
The undefeated Texans were five and a half point home favorites and playing on a national stage in front of the largest regular season crowd ever at Reliant Stadium.
Aaron Rodgers then proceeded to toss six touchdown passes, dismantle a top five Texans defense 42-24, and quiet his critics with a postgame “shhhh” when interviewed by Michelle Tafoya.
Rodgers’ career day started right when the Packers got the ball. Driving in Houston territory and facing a 4th and 3, Houston lined up offsides on the Packers’ punt. Jordy Nelson hauled in this 41 yard touchdown on the next play.
Later in the first quarter, Rodgers found James Jones on a drag route to put the Packers up 14-0. While Rodgers put the ball right where it needed to be, Jones made a wonderful effort to secure the catch and stay in bounds.
The maligned Packers offensive line gave Rodgers plenty of time against a stout Texans defense coached by coordinator Wade Phillips. A clean pocket on this second quarter touchdown pass to Nelson – his second of the day and third of the season – put Green Bay up 21-7 and capped off a 7 play, 78 yard drive.
Two costly Texans penalties – leaping on 4th and 20 to nullify a 39-yard field goal and unnecessary roughness on a 3rd and 14 play that had gained only 11 yards – set up Rodgers’ fourth touchdown throw of the night.
The score came on a throw that seemingly never works for the Packers, a goal line fade. Watch Rodgers place the ball exactly where only Nelson can catch it.
Rodgers continued to make tremendous play after tremendous play. Tight end Tom Crabtree had three steps on the nearest defender and hauled a dart from Rodgers for a 48-yard touchdown. The throw was right on target despite Rodgers absorbing a big hit.
Early in the fourth quarter, the Texans were facing a 35-17 deficit. Matt Schaub tried to find receiver Keshawn Martin over the middle but instead found Packers corner Sam Shields. Three plays later, James Jones closed out Rodgers’ career game with a miraculous catch.
In the five games before the Packers ended the Texans’ undefeated season, Rodgers’ quarterback rating sat at 96.9, 6.6 points below his 103.5 career average up to that point in his career.
In the final eleven games of the 2012 season, Rodgers’ quarterback rating was a sparkling 113.8.
The 2011 MVP also started to throw touchdown passes at a faster rate, too. Before the Houston game, Rodgers was averaging a touchdown pass every 18.8 attempts. After, Rodgers needed only 12.5 attempts per touchdown.
Notes from the Packers’ 42-24 rout of the Texans
- Wisconsin native and Texans defensive end J.J. Watt – who will miss this Sunday’s game – sacked Rodgers midway through the first quarter and parroted the quarterback’s “discount double check” celebration.
- In the 21 games before playing his hometown team Green Bay, J.J. Watt recorded just 13 sacks. Including his first matchup against the Packers, Watt has since notched 63 sacks in just 62 contests.
- The Packers defense held the Texans offense in check. Running back Arian Foster, who would rush for over 1,400 yards and 15 touchdowns in 2012, averaged just 1.7 yards per carry on 17 attempts. Quarterback Matt Schaub was sacked three times and tossed two interceptions. Backup T.J. Yates threw a third interception late in the game.
- After evening their record to 3-3 with the victory, Green Bay would finish the season on an 8-2 clip. Chicago and Minnesota (who both started 4-1) finished the season with identical 6-5 records, and the Packers won the NFC North.