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Houston faithful hope Texans luckier than Oilers of old

Saturday's wild-card game between the Texans and Bengals marks a struggle between two franchises thirsty to end nasty playoff droughts.

The Bengals haven't won a postseason game since January 1991, and the Texans are in the playoffs for the first time in their 10-year history.

It's been ages -- more than 6,500 days -- since Houston has participated in the NFL postseason, the Chronicle pointed out Saturday. That dates back to the Oilers of old, a team that toyed with hearts all across the Lone Star State in the decade before moving to Tennessee in 1997.

Those Oilers teams of the late '80s and early '90s were led by coaches Jack Pardee and, before that, Jerry Glanville -- whose primary concern was to leave game tickets for an Elvis he still considered alive and well somewhere in America. Those were the rough-and-tumble days of the AFC Central, when Houston lit 'em up in the "House of Pain" and generally were money in the bank -- that is, until the playoffs arrived.

Warren Moon and his fleet of small-but-fiery wideouts then hit a wall, deep-sixed seven consecutive years in the playoffs by the likes of John Elway, Jim Kelly and Boomer Esiason, among others.

Houston's most infamous collapse has become the stuff of postseason legend: In January 1993, in the gloom of Buffalo's Rich Stadium, Moon and the Oilers watched a 35-3 lead against Bills backup quarterback Frank Reich dissolve into a 41-38 overtime loss.

The playoff fizzles don't steal from the drama of that old AFC Central, four teams -- the Oilers, Browns, Steelers and Bengals -- that utterly despised each other.

Who can forget Glanville calling Cleveland a "rathole" one season before Bengals coach Sam Wyche grabbed an on-field mic at Riverfront Stadium to remind a debris-throwing Bengals crowd: "You don't live in Cleveland!" Glanville and Wyche held nothing back when their Bengals and Oilers teams clashed, an age-old grudge that infuses Saturday's Houston-Cincinnati meeting with a hint of nostalgia, even if the Oilers now are the Titans, 800 miles away in the Volunteer State.

As for the Bengals, perhaps the stars finally have aligned. Their last playoff win, more than 20 years ago, came against those Oilers of old -- so something's got to give.

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