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Davis stars in win


The only thing that Davis thought about during his touchdown returns was not cramping up.

Jacksonville had a dilemma in Sunday's game against Houston: Each time the Jaguars scored, they had to kick off to André Davis.

Davis, who started the season on the inactive list, scored on consecutive kickoffs with a 97-yard return late in the second quarter and he opened the second half with a 104-yard return.

Davis started the season wondering about his career and finished by igniting the Texans to a 42-28 victory over the playoff-bound Jaguars that gave Houston its first ever non-losing season at 8-8.

What goes through a kick returner's mind when he breaks open?

"Don't cramp up," Davis said with an ear-to-ear grin. "Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the guy had the angle on me. I was a track guy growing up and a lot of times when you get under pressure that's when you tighten up and start looking a little crazy out there trying to run away from those guys.

"So I tried to make sure that I stayed relaxed and took it down the sidelines and realized they couldn't catch me. It's a great feeling to be able to do that, especially against the No. 1 coverage team in the NFL."

It was Davis' third kickoff return for a touchdown this season, breaking Jerome Mathis' record from 2005. He also had a 97-yard return Dec. 9 against Tampa Bay.

Coach Gary Kubiak already felt comfortable with Davis as his kick returner. He recalled a conversation with general manager Rick Smith about whether Davis could return kicks for the Texans.

"We said, in all fairness, we need to give him a few more games and I'll be danged if it wasn't that week he took one to the house against Tampa," Kubiak said. "I can't remember how our conversation ended, but there's no doubt he's a kick returner."

Davis' 104-yard run was the longest in Texans history. It also was the seventh time in NFL history a player had two kickoff returns for touchdowns. The last was by Chicago's Devin Hester in 2006 against St. Louis.

"It means a lot," Davis said of playing well after being inactive earlier in the year. "It was one of those things (where I wondered) about where I stood on the team, but at the same time it's about going out there and getting the opportunity to make the most of it."

The Texans signed Davis as an unrestricted free agent last March. Before that, Davis spent three seasons in Cleveland, one at New England and played special teams for Buffalo last season.

He didn't figure in the Texans' wide receivers rotation until Andre Johnson suffered a knee injury and was inactive for seven games.

Davis caught five passes for 117 yards against Atlanta. He was the first Texans receiver, other than Johnson, to gain 100 yards receiving since Corey Bradford had 101 yards against Jacksonville on Dec. 24, 2005.

He's been a key threat ever since.

"I kept my head down and continued to work hard and made the most of it," Davis said. "I realized it was a long season and even though I didn't play in those first two weeks, I knew that at some point in the season I'd get an opportunity to shine and when I did get that opportunity I wanted to make sure I made the most of it."

Davis didn't only return kickoffs Sunday. He also caught a pass for 20 yards and was big on punt coverage. Late in the first quarter, he pounced on a muffed punt by Jacksonville's Chad Owens at the Jaguars' six-yard line.

"We were able to see the ball bounce," Davis said. "When he (Owens) went for it, it bounced off his chest, I knew it was a live ball and I just pounced on it."

Davis' first kickoff return broke a 14-14 tie and the Texans never lost the lead.

"I couldn't have done it without other guys on the team, like Matt Turk, the hang time he's had on the balls and giving us time to go down there and really put some pressure on those guys," Davis said.

"In the return game, I wouldn't be able to do it without those guys. We were able to do something special today and hopefully we'll be able to do the same thing again."

Kubiak had some key advice for Davis as the Texans left the field at the half.

"One thing about him, with his speed if he gets free, you're not going to catch him," Kubiak said. "I said, 'Heck, do it again. Let's go.'"

Davis followed Kubiak's advice to perfection.

"The first one was pretty much a bounce right play," Davis said. "You run up the middle and then suck them in and bounce to the outside. Everybody just made perfect blocks."

The Jags thought they were ready for Davis on the second half kickoff. This time, no bounce.

"On the second one, again the guys stayed on their blocks and we ran up the middle and the guys stayed on them to let me get into the open field," Davis said.

"I have that sneaky speed where a lot of guys don't think I'm that fast until I run by them."

Davis was the key to the game in Kubiak's view.

"They were both extremely important," Kubiak said of Davis' returns. "They both were the catalyst in the game as far as getting the football team juiced up and the crowd. You make plays like that, everybody feeds off that."

Special teams are special to the Texans, Davis said.

"It means a lot that we all go out and take it serious when we play," Davis said. "When we see other guys around the league making plays on special teams, we want to make sure we're one of those teams doing the same things.

"In our final games, we were able to do the same thing."

Davis' 46.8-yard kick return average against the Jags set a team record. Davis also has the kick return record for an opponent. He averaged 42.0 yards Oct. 20, 2004 when he played for the Browns against the Texans.

Earlier this season, Texans owner Bob McNair said he reminded Davis of his game as an opponent earlier this season.

"I said, 'You owe me one for that. You did it to us, and it's time that you start doing something,'" McNair said. "So he has now run three back, so I told him that now maybe I owe him one at this point."

McNair could hear his words repeated back to him at contract time this offseason, but that couldn't be further from Davis' mind.

"Right now, I'm not even thinking about it," Davis said. "I have a baby that is going to be (delivered) in the next two weeks. I'm just worried about my son and my wife right now. I'm going to enjoy my time with them. When the time comes to start talking contracts, then I'll think about it more seriously."

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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