Sean Pendergast

All Hail Andy Dalton! The Most Important Opponent in Texans History

Andy Dalton might be the most important NFL quarterback in Texans history.
Andy Dalton might be the most important NFL quarterback in Texans history. Photo by Groovehouse
On Saturday evening, news broke that the Dallas Cowboys had signed free agent quarterback Andy Dalton. Dalton, a Katy native, had not been a free agent all that long, having been released by the Cincinnati Bengals on Thursday morning after a nine year run that saw him lead the Bengals to five playoff appearances, but no playoff victories.

It's a good signing by the Cowboys, who immediately become a team that could make some noise, even if their starting quarterback, Dak Prescott, goes down with an injury. In nine seasons, Dalton has become the epitome of that midway point of starting NFL QBs, where he can win at a high level with all the right pieces around him, but could be a disaster without said pieces (as we saw in 2019, when he went 2-11 as the starter for Cincy).

To localize the Dalton saga, though, we must talk about how meaningful he is to the recent history of the Houston Texans. If there is a list of, say, the top 15  to 20 most important wins in Texans history, Dalton is unequivocally the opposing quarterback in five of those (a list we will run through here in just a second). Put simply, Andy Dalton may be the most important starting QB in Texans' history. Hell, maybe HE should be the next inductee into the Texans' Ring of Honor!

Here is the Dalton Saga, as pertains to his hometown team, the Houston Texans:

2011, WEEK 14: Texans’ first ever playoff clincher
TEXANS 20, BENGALS 19
DALTON STATS: 16-28, 189 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT

I actually just did a rewatch post about this game for our station's website, and realized I'd forgotten how crazy an afternoon this was. Two rookie quarterbacks, Dalton and T.J. Yates for the Texans. A rookie J.J. Watt still finding himself. An unbelievable Texans' defense rejuvenated by Wade Phillips. Above all else, this game will be remembered for this drive engineered by Yates, the most memorable and, to that point (and maybe to this point), the most important in franchise history....


2011, WILD CARD ROUND: Texans’ first ever playoff win
TEXANS 31, BENGALS 10
DALTON STATS: 27-42, 257 yards, 0 TD, 3 INT
A few weeks later, these two teams would meet again, this time in the Texans' first ever postseason game, and by then, Watt had gone from "nice contributor to a really good defense" to something more. Much more....

2012, WILD CARD ROUND: Texans’ second ever playoff win
TEXANS 19, BENGALS 13
DALTON STATS: 14-30, 127 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT

The following season, the 12-4 Texans would limp into the playoffs, having lost three of their final four regular season games. It didn't matter. As he would do four other times in his Bengal career, Dalton did his hometown team a solid by being positively meek as the opposing QB, throwing for a sub-fifty percent completion percentage, and just 127 yards.

2014, WEEK 12: Dalton's only win vs Houston, Mallett plays hurt
BENGALS 22, TEXANS 13
DALTON STATS: 24-35, 233 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT

To be fully fair, we must acknowledged that Dalton DID beat the Texans once in his Bengal career, during Bill O'Brien's first season, in Ryan Mallett's second career start. Let's move along.

2015, WEEK 10: MNF win over 8-0 Bengals
TEXANS 10, BENGALS 6
DALTON STATS: 22-38, 197 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT
This was , at the time, the most improbable win of the Bill O'Brien Era, with the Texans on a 3-5 start and the Bengals a red hot 8-0. Once again, T.J. Yates played a key role, coming off the bench for an injured Brian Hoyer to engineer the only TD drive of the game, a deep ball on which DeAndre Hopkins (remember him?) made a circle catch. After the game, J.J. Watt made this extremely forced and awkward joke at Dalton's expense....

2017, WEEK 2: Deshaun Watson’s first career start
TEXANS 13, BENGALS 9
DALTON STATS: 20-35, 224 yards, 0 TD, 0 INT
Finally, Dalton's last start as a Bengal against the Texans was Deshaun Watson's first start as an NFL quarterback. Circle of life! Once again, it only took one touchdown on offense to beat a Dalton-skippered Bengals squad. This was that touchdown....

The Texans trotted out five different starting quarterbacks against Dalton during his Bengals career, and unless your name was Ryan Mallett, it didn't matter what your name was — Andy Dalton would oblige with a positively mediocre performance. Again, for that, can we at least start a Ring of Honor for Texans' opponents?

DALTON TOTALS vs TEXANS: 123-208, 1227 yards, 2 TD, 6 INT, 67.13 passer rating

Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.
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Sean Pendergast is a contributing freelance writer who covers Houston area sports daily in the News section, with periodic columns and features, as well. He also hosts afternoon drive on SportsRadio 610, as well as the post game show for the Houston Texans.
Contact: Sean Pendergast