HOUSTON -- It was an idea with good intentions that unraveled quickly into one of the most embarrassing and corniest moments in Houston Texans franchise history.
Four years ago, the Texans were riding high on an 11-1 start heading into a pivotal Sunday night road game against the New England Patriots. The fast start inspired veteran nose tackle Shaun Cody to have custom-made letterman jackets made for the team.
The navy blue jackets looked sharp and were meant to inspire pride and camaraderie in the locker room. Instead, the fashion statement backfired into a terrible look as the Texans were widely panned around the NFL as an amateurish bunch of "High School Harrys" after being demolished on the field and made fun of by the Patriots during a 42-14 debacle of a loss at Gillette Stadium.
The jackets became a symbol of ineptitude, of a football team not ready for primetime against one of the top franchises in the league. The Texans suddenly became a national punchline.
It was a rough enough moment that Texans star defensive end J.J. Watt, a 23-year-old second-year player at the time of that game, says he no longer knows the whereabouts of his letterman jacket
"I got no idea," Watt said Tuesday when asked if he knows the location of the jacket. "Those are some bad memories. I don't think so. I hope not. I don't want to bring that back up at all. Those were some bad days."
Fast forward from the jacket episode and the undefeated Texans are a different team. They sport a new-look backfield comprised of quarterback Brock Osweiler and running back Lamar Miller, a potent receiving tandem of DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller and a potentially dominant defense headlined by Watt.
Houston and New England are undefeated through two games heading into a Thursday night clash at Gillette Stadium. The Texans hope to break a four-game losing streak against the Patriots, including playoffs, and look for their first win against them since a 34-27 decision Jan. 3, 2010.
"I think it's a game against a very good football team," Watt said. "Obviously, they have a great pedigree, a ton of success recently, but we're the 2016 Texans and we're going to play against the 2016 Patriots. That's the mentality that we have is just go up there and play the game that's in front of us and that's all we can do."
As the Texans prepare for another opportunity to prove themselves against the Patriots following another defeat to them last December, Watt is providing the defending AFC South champions with hope of becoming a relevant contender in the AFC.
The three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year, recovering rapidly from undergoing back surgery in late July to repair a herniated disk, resembled his old self Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs. He had 1 1/2 sacks and a fumble recovery, and routinely shed attempts to block him.
"It started to feel good again," Watt said. "You come off the field and everybody says 'Oh, you're back.' I say partially. I'm still working on some things and I think it maybe some things that only I see, but definitely some things that I want to continue to improve upon.
"But I have to admit, it did feel good on Sunday to have some glimpses of my old self back. I just want to continue that and go out there and continue to be myself and do whatever I can to contribute to help this team win however I can."