HOUSTON -- The party began at rollicking Reliant Stadium long before the game and continued well after the final seconds ticked off the clock.
Nobody in the record crowd of 71,725 on hand to witness history wanted to leave.
And why would they?
The 31-10 blowout victory against the Cincinnati Bengals in an AFC wild-card playoff game Saturday was a long time coming for this star-crossed city and its NFL franchise.
It was the first playoff victory for Houston since the Oilers beat the New York Jets in the 1991 wild-card round.
It was the first playoff appearance in the 10-year history of the Texans franchise, which was founded after the Oilers fled in 1997 to Tennessee to eventually become the Titans.
No longer is the Texans' 2002 victory against a Quincy Carter-led Dallas Cowboys team in their first NFL game considered the biggest win in franchise history.
"It's time to let go of the Luv Ya Blue days and get behind this team," said Bum Phillips, referring to the slogan embraced by Houston fans when he coached the Oilers in the late 1970s.
"This crowd helped them win today just like in the Luv Ya Blue days. It's a good feeling to know that Houston is back."
It's an especially satisfying feeling for Phillips because of the role his son Wade, the defensive coordinator, had in bringing Houston back.
The Texans' defense proved too much for former TCU star and Bengals rookie quarterback Andy Dalton. He was sacked a season-high four times and forced into three interceptions, including a game-changing pick-six by rookie defensive end J.J. Watt to give Houston a 17-10 halftime lead.
"Coach Phillips gives us a great game plan and then everybody does their job," Watt said "We just had relentless pressure. Once you get a quarterback rattled, it's tough to get him unrattled."
A close game became a Texans blowout in the second half.
Andre Johnson caught a 40-yard touchdown pass from rookie quarterback T.J. Yates in the third quarter. Running back Arian Foster had a 42-yard touchdown run in the fourth, his second of the game, capping a 153-yard effort on the ground.
The Texans (11-6) will play the Ravens in Baltimore in the divisional round at noon Jan. 15.
"This is our greatest achievement," Texans owner Bob McNair said.
Certainly no one is more appreciative than Wade Phillips. He was fired as the Cowboys' coach midway through the 2010 season a few months after leading them to their first playoff win in 13 years in 2009.
He came to Houston in the off-season and helped turn around a defense that finished 30th in 2010 before rising to second in the league in 2011.
Phillips coached Saturday just a month after undergoing surgery to remove his gallbladder. He lost a lot of weight and is still admittedly weak.
But the magnitude of the moment for redemption was not lost on him.
"We lost our team for a while, but we got it back," Phillips said. "Now we got a winner. It's gratifying for the city. That's what everybody here wanted and deserved. It's a big win. Anytime you win a playoff game it's big, no matter what. We did it two years ago in Dallas for the first time in 13 years. These games don't come along that often. We are going to keep it going here."
Clarence E. Hill Jr.