Posted on: December 15, 2008 7:48 am
 

Simply The Best

"The reason he is so special is because I can move him all over the place and it doesn't bother him. There are some players that you ask them to play too many spots and they get bogged down. He says, 'Where do you want me to go?'" - coach Gary Kubiak

His end zone celebrations will never include a Sharpie, a baby's diaper, a cell phone or an Usain Bolt sprinter's stance.
You won't see him on the sidelines screaming at offensive coordinators.
He's not likely to be interviewed on the Deion Sanders Show.
He doesn't need to all those things to get attention. He can get his attention another way.
By being the best wide receiver in the game today.
NFL fans. Meet Andre Johnson.
Andre who?
Oh yeah, that's right. He plays for the Texans so many of you have already dismissed him as being nothing. Well, you might want to open your eyes to that other team in the Lone Star State. Forget about the secret handshake club in Dallas that is allegedly a conspiracy to keep the ball away from the guy who loves him some him. No, look further south. What will you find?
You will find the man who leads the league in receiving yards with 1,408. Almost 100 yards ahead of second place. You will find the man who leads the league in receptions with 103. 1 more than Wes Welker's 102.
You will find Andre Johnson.
Against the Titans, Andre caught 11 catches for 207 yards and a touchdown and almost assuredly will be named AFC Offensive Player of the Week, which would be the third different Texan to gain that honor in the past three weeks.
"
He has big-play ability and has a way to spark us by getting a big catch. He did that numerous times today for us. He brings a whole lot of excitement and energy to our team when he goes up like he did on that one drive and catches that go-route over everyone’s heads. It brings an energy level to our team when he makes a play like that,” Matt Schaub said about Johnson.
And Andre does it quietly. But... "He’s kind of like E.F. Hutton – when he speaks, everybody listens. Today, he stood up and talked in front of the team for a few minutes," said Kubiak.
And what did Andre have to say?
“Over Thanksgiving, everyone was talking about what they were thankful for in the chapel service that we have. We were sitting in a circle and everybody was just saying what they were thankful for, and it was kind of shocking because other than the guys’ kids or their families, the first thing that came out of their mouths was this team. I was telling everybody about that, even the guys who weren’t there. I was just letting them know that the guys here are really thankful for their teammates. I think that’s showing this past month, that the guys are just giving it up for the team and it’s not about one guy, it’s about everybody.”
And that's the final ingredient that makes Andre Johnson the best at his position.
He plays for the Texans. He doesn't play for Andre.
Category: NFL
Posted on: December 14, 2008 4:26 pm
 

Titanic Monkey Off Texans Back

Seven straight losses.
Heartbreaking overtime losses.
Long field goals to end the game.
It's over!
The Houston Texans beat the Tennessee Titans 13-12!
Yes, you read that correctly. The Houston Texans beat the Tennessee Titans.
Steve Slaton 100 yards rushing. The only back to rush for 100 yards against the Titans and he did it twice.
Andre Johnson 11 receptions for 207 yards and a touchdown.
But the defense of the Texans gets the game ball. Kept the Titans out of the end zone the entire game.
The Texans at one time were 0-4 on the season.
At another time, they were 3-7.
Now the Texans are 7-7, with the Raiders and Bears left on their schedule.
Another 8-8 season is almost a given.
But the opportunity to finish 9-7 is very strong now. With the Bears game at home.
The Texans have now won 4 games in a row and are looking at their first ever 5-game winning streak as they head to Oakland next week.
And, perhaps finally, the Texans can start being looked at as a team that has to be taken seriously.
Category: NFL
Posted on: December 12, 2008 9:55 am
 

Rookie Clause

"To see these guys out here pick out stuff and know they are going to enjoy it for months, maybe years, is a great feeling.” - Duane Brown

The Houston Texans roster consists of several rookies. Steve Slaton, Xavier Adibi, Dominique Barber, Duane Brown, Antwaun Molden, Jesse Nading, Frank Okam, Darnell Jenkins and Alex Brink. As happens with any NFL team, all these rookies have to go through all sorts of hazings and initiations.
\
Too bad not all of the hazings and initiations can be like this.

These rookies played Santa Clause this past week for 28 underprivileged youth in the city of Houston, presenting each child with a $100 gift card donated by Academy Sport + Outdoors. But they didn't just give those kids the gift cards, wish them a Merry Christmas and then leave. They actually went through Academy with the kids and helped them shop for their gifts. Also, the rookies signed footballs for all the kids.

Then there was Barber helping the kids test out hula hoops. “That’s probably not my best sport, but it was fun,” he said.

“It’s awesome,” Slaton said. “You really don’t get to spend that much time with kids during the season. To come out in the community and spend time with these kids is a plus.”

(source: houstontexans.com)
Category: NFL
Tags: Texans
 
Posted on: December 10, 2008 6:35 pm
 

Boys Will Be Boys

"My first road game with Dallas, we walk into the hotel lobby and there are four hundred people waiting - grown men, beautiful women, kids. It's a circus and a rock concert rolled into one. My first game with the Rams, the only people waiting are the bellhops." - Jim Price, Cowboys tight end.

While entertaining and amusing for a self-professed "Cowboy-hater", Boys Will Be Boys (by Jeff Pearlman) was still somewhat of a disappointment. After reading this book, I do not get the feeling I know much now that I didn't know when the 1990s came to an end.

Did I know that the Dallas Cowboys partied hard during that time? Yes.
Did I know that the Cowboys lacked discipline under Barry Switzer and that was a big reason they fell apart after winning 3 of 4 Super Bowls? Yes.
Did I know that, without Jimmy Johnson, Jerry Jones' drafts were mind-numbingly horrible? Yes.
Did I know that Deion Sanders was the walking billboard for prima donnas? Yes.
Did I know that Skip Bayless is the least credible writer in the history of sports journalism? Yes.

The most insight gained into the Cowboys of the '90s from this book that I gained had mainly to do with Jimmy Johnson. Whilw heralded by many as the real genius of the operation, one would be stunned to read that Jimmy Johnson wanted to trade Troy Aikman, cut Michael Irvin and not draft Emmitt Smith. Jimmy was also such a brutal taskmaster that, except for guys like Aikman and Irvin. most of the Cowboys' players were glad to see him gone.

There are some other golden tidbits in there. Deion's attitude towards practice and film study rubbed many teammates the wrong way. Charles Haley being downright insane got him in trouble more than once. And, of course, there is the story of Michael Irvin punching a referee. Not in a football game. No no. In a "charity" basketball game. (The referee was a volunteer).

Oh, by no means is this book a total waste of time. You actually learn more about Super Bowl XXX than you might have thought. Such as, how Neil O'Donnell's second interception was actually the fault of a receiver named Andre Hastings, who ran the wrong route. Then, again, most people by now know that too. And the book is well researched. It just reads like a summary of everything we already knew.

Still, if you are looking for an amusing book that can give you a few laughs at the expense of "America's Team", Boys Will Be Boys is for you. If you are looking into new insight into the Cowboys of the '90s, you won't find it here.
Category: NFL
Posted on: December 9, 2008 6:13 pm
 

Schaub, Slaton Recognized

"There’s a lot of yards out there—to have 550 yards in a football game, I don’t think I’ve ever been a part of one like that. And to do it on the road in that temperature was really special." - Gary Kubiak

Kubiak is not the only one impressed with the Texans' performance this past week. For the third time this season, Texans quarterback Matt Schaub has been nominated as one of the finalists for the FedEx Air NFL Player of the Week award. And Steve Slaton has been nominated for NFL Rookie of the Week honors for the sixth time this season.

“I don’t know if I could imagine any quarterback going in there in that temperature and in that place and throwing for 414 yards," Kubiak said of Schaub's performance against the Packers. Schaub completed 28-of-42 passes for 414 yards and two touchdowns. He set a franchise record in passing yards and matched a career high with attempts.

Slaton gained
a game-high 120 yards on 26 carries against the Packers and had three catches for 40 yards, but was quick to note that his performance was a "team" thing and not a "me" thing. “It’s just the O-line, the fullbacks and the receivers blocking their guys downfield. They are doing a great job and it’s leaving me with mismatches with linebackers.”

You can vote for Schaub at http://www.nfl.com/partner?partnerType=players-air-and-ground and for Slaton at http://www.nfl.com/partner?partnerType=Rookies

(source: houstonrexans.com)
Category: NFL
Tags: Schaub, Slaton, Texans
 
Posted on: December 8, 2008 2:02 pm
Edited on: December 8, 2008 2:03 pm
 

Milestone Matt

“I just think right now that we are battling like heck. We are a football team that got off to a very bad start this year. We are out there battling for respect, trying to become a good football team." - coach Gary Kubiak

The Houston Texans won their third straight game (the second time this season they have done that) and improved to 6-7, as Matt Schaub made his first start since being injured against the Minnesota Vikings which forced him to miss the last 4 games. Schaub threw for 414 yards, a franchise record, with a pair of touchdowns and one interception, firmly establishing himself as the "franchise quarterback" the Texans have longed for since their inception.

Now, if he could just stay healthy!

Schaub got plenty of help too, as Steve Slaton rushed for 120 yards to go over the 1,000 yard mark for the season, Kevin Walter had a season-high 146 yards receiving and Andre Johnson caught a TD pass and a 2-point conversion.

And Kris Brown made the 11th game-winning field goal of his career, his 8th since joining the Texans in 2002.

Schaub, however, was the sparkplug in his return.
With two minutes left in the game and the score tied at 21, the Packers pinned the Texans at their own three-yard line with a Jeremy Kapinos punt. Schaub ran the two-minute drill to perfection, marching the Texans downfield with a 22-yard pass to fullback Vonta Leach, two passes for 21 yards to receiver David Anderson and a 27-yard toss to tight end Owen Daniels that moved the Texans to the 25-yard line and set up Brown’s deciding field goal.

“I’m really happy just for the team, and especially for Matt. After the game, he just came up and gave me a big hug," wide receiver Andre Johnson said.

The Texans amassed a team-record 549 yards of offense in the win. It was Schaub’s third 300-yard passing game in eight starts this season.

CBS' Shannon Sharpe gave credit to the Texans post game and also mentioned what most of us have already learned. "This team can be outstanding, if they just learn how to take care of the football. When they learn how to take care of the football, the Houston Texans have as good an offesne as anyone in the National Football League."

Schaub, however, would not take all the credit, but spread it all around. “Our offensive line is really coming together. They are playing extremely well, so we are getting the running game going and the passing game going." The Texans line has been a focal point of criticism throughout the franchise's short history, particularly during the David Carr era but is now also becoming a strength to this football team. In the past three games, the Texans have allowed just 2 sacks.

Still, the big corner the Texans turned was finally winning a game that had been impossible for them to win all season. One in which they rurned the ball over, on the road, and still overcame. “Our group had every reason at some point to fold with the turnovers hurting us, but this group is made up of a lot of character and that is as good a win that I have ever been around. We are on cloud nine right now," Kubiak said.

And how was Schaub after the game?
“It’s hard to describe, just a lot of excitement for the guys that are in that locker room because every single guy put it on the line today. We needed everybody in order to win that game. We had every opportunity to win it early on and we gave them opportunities to get back in the game, which they did. And then we just had to make another play. We were able to do that and overcome the adversity of being backed up on that last drive. Guys just ended up making plays, and it’s just exciting for our team.”

(quotes credited to houstontexans.com and sportsline.com)
Category: NFL
Posted on: December 7, 2008 6:21 pm
 

Texans Not Packing It In

This was one of those wins that could have been another coulda/woulda/shoulda loss.
The Texans had a chance to blow the Packers out in Green Bay. As has been the case all season, the Texans had turnover problems in the red zone and lost the ball 4 times over all.
Yet, unlike other times, they managed to get the win despite shooting themselves in the foot.
That is something the better teams in the NFL find ways to do.
Holding a 7-0 lead, the Texans lost a fumble at the Packers 2. Had a chance to be up 14-0. Instead it was just 7-0.
Then, Matt Schaub throws an interception and the Packers turned the pick into a TD. Instead of 14-0 Houston, it was 7-7.
Add two Kris Brown field goals and the Texans led 13-7. It could have been 20-0.
The next turnover came when the Texans were in field goal range and then a couple plays later. Aaron Rodgers connected on a long pass and the Packers had a first and goal. Then the Packers scored a TD. Instead of leading 23-0, the Texans trailed 14-13.
But they kept coming back, retook the lead when Schaub connected with the best wide receiver in the NFL, Andre Johnson, on a TD and then a 2-point conversion. The Packers rallied to tie it but then the last original Texan, Kris Brown, won us yet another game on a last second kick.
On the road. A place the Texans have struggled. Overcoming 4 turnovers, something the Texans have let beat them all season.
Houston was won 3 games in a row for the second time this season.
And the return of Dunta Robinson to the starting lineup has put a new spark in the vastly improving Texans' defense.
Next week, Houston hosts the Titans. The Texans have no shot at the playoffs but still can finish with their first ever winning season.
After Tennessee, the Texans travel to Oakland to face the Raiders and then host the Bears in the season finale.
Category: NFL
Posted on: December 5, 2008 8:03 am
Edited on: December 5, 2008 8:43 am
 

The Best Worst Number One Pick Ever

The talk still hounds him. The 2006 draft, when the Texans were nationally criticized for not taking Reggie Bush and locally blasted for not picking Vince Young.
All that talk still follows Mario Williams. And if you don't think it hasn't had an effect on him? Read on:

http://www.houstontexans.com/news/S
tory.asp?story_id=4964
Super Mario's World

December 4, 2008
By Michael A. Lutz, HoustonTexans.com

EDITOR'S NOTE: A version of this article appeared in the Houston Texans Gameday magazine on Dec. 1, 2008, for Houston’s home game against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Monday Night Football.

The controversy surrounding the 2006 NFL Draft is hardly a footnote in the emerging legend of hugely talented Texans defensive end Mario Williams. For that reason, it’s worth mentioning, since it once was the story. Today, it is merely a reference point for how far Williams has come from what could have been a disaster for both player and franchise.

When Williams stepped before the national television cameras last December and played the best game of his career against the Denver Broncos, he silenced any remaining doubt that the Texans made the right choice in selecting him with the first pick of the 2006 draft instead of Reggie Bush, the Heisman Trophy winner, or Vince Young, the immensely popular hometown hero.

Williams got another look-see from a national audience as the Texans hosted their first-ever appearance on Monday night television in a game against the Jacksonville Jaguars earlier this week. In like fashion to last year’s Thursday night performance, Williams had another statement game with three sacks and a forced fumble in a 30-17 Texans win.

Now that Williams – a player who Texans defensive line coach Jethro Franklin says could become among the greatest to play the position – is among the NFL’s rising superstars, the Bush/Young discussions hardly seem pertinent.

Except for the effect it had on Williams, who is an intelligent and friendly sort if you can get him cornered. He is not rude. He’s just bored by repetitive questions and by the fickle nature of alleged supporters. If he is skittish about opening up to the media, he has his reasons.

Fans awed by Williams’ athleticism in games should witness some of his moves to avoid interviews. In a recent walking chat that ended in the players’ parking lot, Williams got the question: Is he just a private person who prefers not talking?

Williams laughed, shook his head and gave a look that said, “Do I really have to answer this?”

“I do talk and I will, but a lot of times, I think it’s because of what happened when I first got here,” Williams said. “You can talk all you want, but at the end of the day, it will go only so far in some people’s minds. It can be good for this person and bad for that person.

“I experienced it firsthand with all the stuff that was said about me when I first got here. That’s why I look at it like that, going out and talking. It’s just talking. You can say a million different things, but at the end of the day, it’s all about who hears it and how they hear it.”

In other words, Williams quickly realized he wasn’t going to talk his way into the hearts of Texans fans. He decided to play his way in instead. What a smashing success that strategy has been.

Williams is the Texans’ career leader with 29.5 sacks in just two-plus seasons. He shattered the team single-season record last season with 14.0 sacks, which ranked third among NFL defensive players, and was named a Pro Bowl alternate. This season, he has dumped quarterbacks 11 times, more than all other AFC defensive ends.

Any mystery about what Williams is thinking does not extend to Franklin, who knows exactly where his star pupil stands on any issue.

“He’s a rare breed, the rare size, the rare speed,” Franklin said. “He has that rare quality of a defensive lineman with that mentality. He is a special type of player. Those types of players don’t come along all the time. I’m just glad he’s here and he’s playing for the Texans.”

Franklin doesn’t care how Williams communicates off the field as long as he understands where his talent can lead.
 
“He can accomplish what some of the greats have done at the position,” Franklin said.  “That’s all attitude and him believing in himself. The sky is the limit because he has the tools. A lot of them have the tools, but the difference is the ones who have the attitude and do something with it.”

Does Williams realize how much he can accomplish?

“That’s my job as a coach,” Franklin said. “He has so much untapped ability that is beginning to be tapped into. I tell him all the time, he can be as great as he wants to be or he can be just average. I try to take that out of his hands by pushing him all the time and always making him strive to become better and to want more and to be an all-around football player.”

Williams is getting the message.

“I know I have a lot of room for improvement,” Williams said. “Who knows what the limit will be? I’ve just got to take it one day at a time and focus on trying to get better.”

Williams’ first knockout performance on national television, when he had a career-high 3.5 sacks on Broncos quarterback Jay Cutler in last year’s 31-13 win, was a big factor in his development and a boost for the Texans.

“It meant a great deal to Mario and to this team,” head coach Gary Kubiak said. “This team hadn’t been put in those situations on Thursday night or Monday night. It was important last year that we rose to the occasion and played well. For a guy like Mario, it kind of reassured everyone in the league how well he’s playing. I think they knew it, but it reassured them.”

Williams won’t say that game was an I-told-you-so moment, just that it came at a good time for the team.

“It was a big game not just for me but for our organization and for Coach Kubiak,” he said. “There was a lot of momentum and enthusiasm, and we just came out and played great. Everything started clicking.”

Kubiak has a feeling that bigger things are yet to come for Williams after the 6-7, 291-pound defensive end racked up three more sacks in primetime this week under the Monday Night lights.
 
“That was something,” Kubiak said. “He’s a heck of a player, and he’s slowly on his way to becoming a great player. To give you a little insight to where he’s at in his career right now, this kid’s here at 2:00 (Monday afternoon) watching film of his opponent he’s fixing to play. When you start to do that as a player in your career, then you’re ready to take some giant steps. It was a heck of an outing by him.”

Even though Williams had another dominant performance in the national spotlight, he isn’t likely to begin chatting frequently with the media. 

“A lot of times in our profession, it’s the same questions,” Williams said. “If you’re winning, it’s, ‘How are you winning? How is it so good? How does it feel?’ If you’re losing, it’s, ‘Why are you guys losing again?’ It’s just the same stuff.”

Not always. Watch a replay of Monday night’s game, and listen to the cheers for No. 90. See how far he’s advanced on the field and in the hearts of the fans.
 
The 2006 draft debate has not been forgotten in this city, nor should it be—except for in future stories about Mario Williams.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Michael A. Lutz worked for The Associated Press for 38 years covering news and sports in Louisville, Ky. Dallas and Houston. Most of that time was spent in Houston covering the Oilers, Astros, Texans and other college and pro sports.

Category: NFL
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com