Less than 48 hours before the start of the playoffs, Texans coach Gary Kubiak was asked what message he would have for his players leading up to their Saturday afternoon kickoff at Reliant Stadium.
The Texans are in the playoffs for the second consecutive year, once again hosting the Cincinnati Bengals in the Wild Card round.
"I don't think I have to tell them a whole heck of a lot," Kubiak said on Thursday afternoon. "They understand. They were right here last year. They understand the situation. You play good, you win, or you go home. That's the way this thing works.
"I think the biggest thing that I'll be talking about over the next 48 hours is I don't want them to worry about making mistakes. I want them to play with a reckless abandon. I want them to cut it loose, because I think that's the most important thing. I don't want to see any apprehension on anybody's part."
Judging by the way Texans players have described practice this week, they seem to have taken Kubiak's message to heart.
"I think this is one of the best weeks of practice we've had – so much excitement, so much hoo-rah and having fun again," Texans defensive end Antonio Smith said. "It's back to having fun, back to being confident, back to having the swagger back. Everybody did their soul-searching and checking themselves, and after you did that, you've got to move on, because it's the playoffs.
"We chose the road we chose by not completing some of the tasks that we had, so you just have to take it how it is. If it's going be the tough road, it's going to be the tough road. I, frankly, have had it that way forever, so I like it that way. It makes a better story."
The Texans enter the playoffs with losses in three of their final four games after an 11-1 start to the season. During that 1-3 stretch, they seemed to struggle at times to move on from mistakes, bad plays or breaks that didn't go their way during games. Lapses piled on top lapses, big plays piled on top of big plays and losses piled on top of losses.
Now, it's one loss and they're out, watching the rest of the playoffs from home. The Texans know they have to play like there's no tomorrow. They know there won't be a tomorrow if they don't do what it takes to win.
"There is nothing after this if you don't play well," running back Arian Foster said. "That (Kubiak's message) is more or less telling us, 'Don't worry about if you mess up. Whatever. Let's go on.' You have to move on because if we don't rebound off of our mistakes, then it will be our last mistakes.
"We are ready to roll. We are ready to play a football game at the highest of our levels."