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Houston Texans

Andre Johnson makes a statement


Andre Johnson has a career-high 103 catches for 1,408 yards this season.

Andre Johnson was amazing enough on the field Sunday against the Tennessee Titans. He did something even more astounding in the postgame locker room: He spoke.

Johnson, the quiet leader of the team, caught 11 passes for a club-record 207 yards, scored one touchdown and was the driving force in the Texans' 13-12 victory that snapped a seven-game losing streak against the Titans.

Then, he reminded his teammates how far they'd come this season to win four games in a row for the first time in franchise history, and just how thankful they are to have each other and how far they've come together.

"The week after Thanksgiving everyone was talking about what they were thankful for in the chapel service," Johnson said. "It was shocking to me because other than the guys' kids or family, the first thing that came out of their mouths was this team."

That's what Johnson wanted to remind his teammates Sunday.

"I was just telling everybody about that, even the ones who weren't there (at the chapel service), I was letting them know that the guys here are thankful for their teammates," Johnson said. "I think it's been shown over the past month that guys are giving it up for the team. It's not about one guy. It's about everybody. We've been able to go out and get the job done."

The Texans' closeness proved a winning formula again on Sunday. After a frustrating loss to Indianapolis that could have pulled the team apart, the Texans beat Cleveland on the road, Jacksonville on Monday Night Football, the Packers in frigid Lambeau Field and now they've whipped the team with the best record in the NFL.

And no one gets more credit for the Texans' surge than Johnson.

{QUOTE}"He's a quiet person, whether it's practice or the game,'' coach Gary Kubiak said. "He's just a worker. He's kind of like E.F. Hutton: When he speaks, everybody listens."

Johnson quietly has become one of the top receivers in the NFL in his six seasons with the Texans. Johnson has caught passes in 48 consecutive games and he's caught at least one pass in 82 of 83 career games. Johnson surpassed the 100-catch mark for the second time in his career.

Kubiak is always trying to find ways to tap into Johnson's talent.

"I carry a little sheet with me in the back of my pocket, I've done it for years,'' Kubiak said. "How do you get 'X' the ball, how to get 'Z' the ball, how to get 'Y' the ball. Believe me, his list is long."

Kubiak might appreciate Johnson's unselfishness more than his talent.

"The reason he is so special is because I can move him all over the place and it doesn't bother him," Kubiak said. "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? I'll play inside, outside. I'll do whatever you want me to do.'"

As the seconds ticked down in the game and it was obvious the Texans had pulled off the upset, Johnson was among the most excited players on the field, jumping up and down and hugging teammates. Quarterback Matt Schaub, in his second season with the Texans, understands Johnson's elation.

"I can understand all the tough years he's been here and he can sense that times are changing and headed in the right direction with him and Chester Pitts and Petey (Faggins) and Kris Brown," Schaub said. "You can sense the excitement."

Johnson was the Texans' first-round pick in 2003. Pitts, Faggins and Brown are original Texans.

Schaub and Johnson have become a lethal pass-catch combination.

"He has that big-play ability, a way to spark us and to get a big catch," Schaub said. "He did that numerous times for us today. He just brings a lot of excitement and energy to our team when he goes up like he did on the go route and catches the ball over 31's (Cortland Finnigan) head.

"He doesn't talk much, but when he does, it's always something important and we always listen. It doesn't happen very often. We're all thankful for the guys on this team. That's the kind of bond that we have."

The season has been big for character building. The Texans lost their first four games after entering the season with hopes of making the playoffs.

"There's been a lot of frustration at the beginning of the season," Johnson said. "I've talked about it. I put that all behind me. I said to myself before that Colts game I'm going out to do whatever I have to do to help this team win.

"It's been a long road. I didn't think it would take this long when I first got here. We've grown and learned a lot about ourselves and now we're starting to see that we're starting to find our niche."

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.

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