Texans players take part in a tribute to late owner Robert “Bob” McNair before Monday night’s game against the Titans.(Photo: David J. Phillip, AP)
HOUSTON – Lamar Miller exploded for a 97-yard touchdown, Demaryius Thomas scored the first two touchdowns of his Texans career and Houston’s vaunted front seven again looked – well, like a vaunted front seven.
None of them took home the game ball after a 38-17 win.
Head coach Bill O’Brien instead handed the ball to Cal McNair, the Texans owner in the wake of his father’s death. Bob McNair, who brought pro football back to Houston 16 years ago with the Texans, died Friday at 81. He had battled skin cancer for years, according to the Houston Chronicle.
“We had a great man own this team, found this team,” Texans head coach Bill O’Brien told his team in the postgame locker room. “Bob McNair passed away and that game right there, that is Houston Texans football right there. That is for Bob McNair.”
"That is Houston #Texans football right there, and that was for Bob McNair."
Inside the locker room after the win. pic.twitter.com/9u7AiYxbzV
— Houston Texans (@HoustonTexans) November 27, 2018
Cal McNair accepted the football from O’Brien.
“He loved you guys, he loved being around you,” Cal McNair said, before breaking the team out in a chant of “family” on three. “He’s watching from above.”
Texans held pregame tribute to late owner Bob McNair with cadet choir, memorial video and shots of fan signs pic.twitter.com/Ir4pmDMmu3
— Jori Epstein (@JoriEpstein) November 27, 2018
The Texans honored the late McNair with helmet decals and his initials (RCM) in the shape of a football lining the 25-yard lines on each end of the field. They aired a pregame video tribute while the Texas A&M cadet choir sang. Fans hoisted signs thanking McNair for his contribution to the city.
The Texans launched as an expansion team in 2002, six years after the city’s earlier franchise, the Houston Oilers, moved to Nashville and became the Titans.
Houston started slow after kickoff. But it didn’t flinch when falling behind 10-0.
Twenty-seven unanswered points fueled a franchise-record eighth-straight win.
“It feels great,” said defensive end J.J. Watt, who finished with nine tackles, 1.5 sacks and a forced fumble. “We love winning. Winning’s always better than losing.
“The only thing McNair wanted was for us to win: He wanted a win, to win every week, a team that could win and bring a championship to the city. So to be able to win eight straight and win tonight was good. We’re going to keep trying to keep it up for him.”
Quarterback Deshaun Watson – who complemented 19-of-24 passes for 210 yards and two touchdowns with another 70 yards and a touchdown on the ground – explained why the McNair family was “special” to him and his mom.
“They brought football back to Houston,” Watson said. “So grateful for this organization, the city of Houston. When I got drafted, they connected with my mom, made my mom feel at home.”
Watson said the McNairs always took special care to look out his mother, Deann, who battled tongue cancer.
“They make sure she feels at home and comfortable, always communicate with me and my family,” Watson said. “Every game, really, is for the McNair family and I know he’s watching over us. We’re going to make sure we make him proud.”
Giving Cal the game ball was the first step, and one the players endorsed. Linebacker Whitney Mercilus said teammates reached out to support the McNairs just like they support each other in a loss.
“The game ball for Bob meant a lot to him,” Mercilus said, “and means a lot to us as well.”
Christian Covington, emotional after a 2.5-sack game, agreed.
“A man lost his father,” Covington said. “That’s going to be heavy on anyone’s heart. For [Cal] to come in and cherish this win with us truly as one team and one family, that put the icing on the cake on top.”