HOUSTON -- Hope is in short supply for the two teams that squared off Monday night at Reliant Stadium. There is little that can make up for expectations this season they've missed by miles rather than yards.
But one team gets to leave Reliant Stadium feeling good, believing it can build something lasting in the final month of the season. One team is in third place in the AFC South behind two clubs that may be destined for big things in the playoffs.
That team is the Houston Texans, who won their first "Monday Night Football" game, topping Jacksonville 30-17. The Texans are now 4-1 against the Jaguars when they wear their red jerseys on what they call "Battle Red Day." It's hard to imagine they'll ever wear anything else against them.
At 5-7, the Texans are ahead of the 4-8 Jaguars. As Houston moves ahead, it expects to have starting quarterback Matt Schaub back in place after he missed the last four games with a knee injury.
That is a lot more than the Jaguars, who looked to give up late in the game, have to look forward to.
Through 10 games, the Texans gave up an average of 28.7 points a game, a total that made their ability to move the ball on offense less relevant.
But last week they made a concerted effort to be more aggressive defensively and won in Cleveland, 16-6.
They kept at it Monday with three sacks from Mario Williams and three forced turnovers. They mounted a successful goal-line stand and held a division rival to a field goal while the result was still up in the air.
The first of Jacksonville's two touchdown came with 2:11 left and the game well in hand.
That's nearly two full games for the Texans without allowing a touchdown. Maybe it's the start of something new.
Even if it's not -- even if it's more a commentary on the state of the Jags -- don't you think the Texans wish they had decided to force the issue and play a little more assertively on defense sooner?