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There is occasional argument over who is the best wide receiver in the NFL. Then, Andre Johnson comes up with another performance like Sunday that erases any doubt.
Showing little effect from a sprained ankle that has bothered him recently, Johnson once again pulled Houston from near defeat with a back-of-the-end zone touchdown catch that rallied the Texans to a 35-31 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs.
Johnson caught 13 passes for 138 yards and nabbed an 11-yard touchdown catch from Matt Schaub with 36 seconds left to clinch another comeback victory.
"I said on the sidelines when the defense made the stop that I knew someone would make a play for us to win the game," Johnson said. "It turned out I was the guy that was able to make it so I was pretty happy about that."
The Texans were down 31-21 with seven minutes to play when the offense finally started to look cohesive. They scored in eight plays over 86 yards and pulled within a score of tying or taking the lead.
The Texans' defense, battered throughout the game, made their biggest stop of the game and gave the offense one more chance.
Johnson caught three passes in the decisive drive, including a 31-yard gain down the sidelines with 1:54 to play. Moments later, quarterback Matt Schaub and Johnson ad-libbed the winning touchdown.
"I was supposed to run an in-breaking route but the safety was sitting inside of me," Johnson said. "When Matt took off scrambling, he came to my side of the end zone and it helped me a lot because the back of the end zone was wide open."
Schaub saw Johnson's move.
"As soon as I scrambled, I saw Andre break open in the end zone and I just tried to give him a chance to make a play," Schaub said. "That's one of those throws you don't want to hang up there or throw too far.
Johnson's big game was similar to his performance against Washington on Sept. 19 when he had 12 catches for 158 yards and a big fourth quarter touchdown that rallied the Texans to victory. In Johnson's view, beating the Redskins and Chiefs in crucial fourth quarter drives shows the Texans have grown up.
"In the past if we were in a game like this we wouldn't have come out victorious," Johnson said. "We've grown up as a football team and we can win games like this when there is a big drive needed at the end of the game. It gives us confidence. We've done it before, like in the Redskins game. The defense got the stop."
Tight end Owen Daniels had a big part in the comeback with seven catches for 79 yards on the day and he had a big third down catch for a first down in the winning drive.
"If I had any legs left, I probably would have scored on that play but we were all dying out there," Daniels said. "I knew I could get the first down. That was big for us to have a chance to go for the end zone."
Daniels had time to marvel at Johnson's performance.
"He's one of the most consistent guys I've ever been around," Daniels said. "He's going to make plays and today was no different. He's been struggling with that ankle."
Johnson was inactive for the Oakland game and has worn a brace to help him stay on the field since then.
"Wide receivers are like thoroughbreds," Daniels said. You need them to be pretty much 100-percent healthy to do what he's been doing for us. But he's been fighting hard and giving it up and he showed it today."
Johnson said a new brace gave him more comfort.
"They made another brace for me that is much more flexible," Johnson said. "It helps me when I'm breaking in and out of my routes. The other braces were uncomfortable. It makes me play with more confidence."
Daniels had a major role in the game-winning touchdown. He drew coverage away from Johnson.
"Matt broke the pocket and we rolled to where he was going and Matt put it in a great spot and 'Dre," Daniels said. "He got separation and had some awareness of where he was in the end zone.
"It's a lot harder than it looks, especially at a crucial time like that."
The offense might need more big offensive performance to help the defense, which lost linebacker DeMeco Ryans for the season with a torn Achilles tendon. Coach Gary Kubiak said as much and the offense accepts the added load.
"That's part of the game," Johnson said. "When the offense isn't playing good the defense has to help us out and when the defense isn't playing good we have to score points. We're going to keep working and do best and hopefully we can do that.
"Once we get in a rhythm, we can go out and score points. We got in a rhythm today and we were able to go out and score some points."
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 teams.