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Daniels proves clutch as receiver


Owen Daniels hauls in one of his six receptions against the Dolphins.

Owen Daniels was caught unsuspecting like all the rest of us.

Daniels is the Texans' tight end who is considered a combination of a good receiver and a good blocker. He is one of those players known as "possession receivers" because he consistently makes the catch, but isn't necessarily spectacular.

In the fourth quarter Sunday, he was spectacular.

And he didn't see it coming any more than the 70,000-plus fans at Reliant.

"I don't know exactly what the coaches had in mind for me that last quarter," Daniels said. "I thought we were trying to run the ball the first half. But fortunately the last two drives I was able to make some plays.

"I didn't know what the plan was, but I was glad to be part of it."

And how. Daniels had toiled in relative anonymity the first half, catching one pass for seven yards in the second quarter. He caught one more in the third quarter for 17 more yards.

{QUOTE}But still, who would have expected him to be the go-to man at the critical juncture of the Texans' most important game to date?

Evidently Matt Schaub would. The Texans' quarterback was still very aware of his second-year tight end.

"We have a good connection there," Schaub said. "Owen always runs great routes. I'm very confident in getting the ball to Owen."

Not to mention that during the week, the Texans had worked on a particular play over the middle that Daniels had looked very good at in practice. It was to be run against Cover 2 defenses that often leave the middle open.

"We saw him make that move in practice," Schaub said of Daniels' cut across the middle. "He made that same move across the middle several times, so we knew it would work."

So the Texans found Daniels in the fourth quarter – four times for 72 yards to total six catches for 96 yards, his biggest game this season.

"We just were working the plays we ran all week," Daniels said. "It was just the play calls we had were ones where I was the primary receiver and I took advantage of the opportunities."

In the Texans' drive to the tying field goal, on a third-and-13 play, Schaub hit Daniels for 15 yards and a first down. Then on a second-and-eight at the Miami 28 later in the drive, Schaub hit Daniels for 24 yards to the four-yard line leading to Kris Brown's 20-yard field goal with 5:26 to play.

Then when many – including Daniels – thought the Texans would run the ball out the final 1:33 to play for overtime, Schaub hit Daniels on second-and-nine for 19 yards and a first down at the Houston 23.

"I thought we were just going to try to run the clock, get a first down and take it to overtime," Daniels said. "But we had a couple of nice plays in a row and a couple of more to get it in their territory and we just went from there."

Two plays later, Schaub hit Daniels for 14 yards and a first at the 37 and a game-winning field goal began to materialize in everyone's minds.

"That," Schaub said later, "was a huge catch for us."

Coach Gary Kubiak admitted Daniels' big plays changed the complexion of the last minute.

"We tried to run it first and see what (the Dolphins) were going to do with their time outs," Kubiak said. "It was obvious they were going to wait 'til the second or third down and use them so when we saw that, we tried to make a play.

"And we made a great play with O.D. (Daniels) getting the ball out of the hole. It was a very tough situation. The bottom line there is if we don't get a first down, we're going to give them some kind of field position."

And when did Kubiak begin to believe the Texans had a chance to win this game in regulation, rather than go into overtime and try to win it?

"When we got the ball out of the hole with O.D.," Kubiak said. "I felt good there – let's go and even if we have to punt, we should not be putting them in real good field position. Once we got the play from O.D., we went ahead and tried to make some plays."

Which was fine with O.D.

"It was fun," he said. "From then on we were trying to throw the ball and this offense is designed so the tight end can catch a lot of passes. I had a couple of catches down the middle against Cover 2 defenses and it was fun."

Daniels wanted to heap most of the praise on the prolific foot of Brown. But it was obvious Daniels was a major factor in this win.

"It was great," Daniels said. "It just proves they can look to the tight ends in this offense any time."

Especially one named Owen Daniels.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Jim Carley is a veteran Houston sportswriter who has covered the NFL for more than 25 years. He has worked for such newspapers as the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, The Houston Post, the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner and the National Sports Daily covering such teams as the Dallas Cowboys, the Houston Oilers, the Los Angeles Rams and the Oakland Raiders.

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