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Postgame notebook: Texans vs. Patriots


Recapping the major storylines from the Texans' 34-27 victory over the New England Patriots in the regular-season finale:

Finally, a winner: The Texans clinched the first winning record in team history when rookie cornerback Brice McCain broke up a fourth-down pass with 18 seconds left in Sunday's game. It finally pushed the Texans over the .500 hump, where they resided in 2007 and 2008, in Gary Kubiak's fourth season as head coach.

The last time the city of Houston was home to a winning football team was 1993, when the Houston Oilers went 12-4. Until now, that is.

"I'm happy for everybody in the organization," Kubiak said. "It's a lot of hard work to win in this league and to get a franchise to have the chance week in and week out, and I think we're pretty darn close to that. I'm just happy for (owner) Bob (McNair), his family; happy for Andre (Johnson), Dunta (Robinson)… all these people that have been here fighting the fight; for you guys in this city."

Johnson shared an emotional hug on the field with Robinson after the game.

"It feels great," Johnson said of the winning season. "After they failed to convert on fourth down, I just started yelling. It was like a sigh of relief. This is something that I have been working for since I've been here. You just try to put yourself in position to get into the playoffs and hopefully, everything will work out for us."

Scoreboard watching: After beating the Patriots, the Texans needed two of three teams to lose among the Denver Broncos, Baltimore Ravens and New York Jets. All of those teams kicked off after the Texans' on Sunday.

"I can say this: I've never rooted for the Raiders and against the Broncos in my life," said Kubiak, who spent 23 years with the Broncos as a player and coach. "But I'm looking forward to it. I'll go find me a place to do that."

Kubiak's cheering paid off. The Broncos lost to the Kansas City Chiefs 44-24, knocking Denver out of postseason contention.

Unfortunately for the Texans, the Ravens hung on for a 21-13 victory over the Oakland Raiders. That left the Texans rooting for the Bengals to beat the Jets in primetime, with the game scheduled to kick off in the Meadowlands at 7:15 p.m. CT.

Historic seasons for Schaub, Johnson: It's a near certainty that quarterback Matt Schaub and wide receiver Andre Johnson will finish the season as the league's leading passer and league's leading receiver, respectively. They would be the first teammates since 1998 to accomplish the feat, which previously has been done only seven times in NFL history.

Schaub finished the regular season with a career-high 4,770 passing yards. That's the sixth-highest single-season passing total in NFL history. He finished with nine 300-yard games on the season, tied with four other players for the second-most in NFL history.

"He's been exceptional," Kubiak said. "He got sacked one time and he's been special all year long. I don't know if he'll end up leading the league but that's one heck of a milestone for a player. I'm just very proud of his leadership and what he's done with this football team."

Johnson finished up with 1,569 receiving yards after leading the league with 1,575 in 2008. He and Marvin Harrison are the only receivers in NFL history with back-to-back 1,500-yard campaigns.

Johnson also is set to become the only receiver other than Jerry Rice to lead the league in yards in consecutive seasons.

"It's a great accomplishment," Johnson said. "Like I say, I really don't know who has done what as far as stats and everything like that, so when you guys tell me about it, that's pretty much when I find out about it. To be mentioned with Jerry Rice, the greatest receiver to ever play the game, is a tremendous honor."

Leading the comeback: The Texans fell behind 27-13 in the first minute of the fourth quarter on an 11-yard touchdown run by Fred Taylor. That came after a 91-yard interception return for a touchdown by the Patriots' Darius Butler in the third quarter.

"When they scored on us, there was a lot of time left on the clock in the fourth quarter," linebacker DeMeco Ryans said. "We realized that we still had enough time to go and make plays to win this game. I was just telling the guys on defense that we needed to step our level of play up.

"I just asked all the guys to dig deep and give me everything you've got, because this is our season right here. If we wanted to be a team that was still in the playoff hunt and have a winning season, this is the time. 'If not now, when?' That's what I was telling the guys. The time for us was then."

Instead of folding, the Texans responded with a 21-0 scoring outburst to win the game. They were 3-for-3 in the red zone the fourth quarter after going 0-for-3 through the first three quarters.

"I said, 'Let's go get a touchdown,' and we went down and got it," Schaub said. "There's not much to say at that point. You can say it, you can 'rah rah' and you can say all you want, but you've just got to go out there and do it.

"It was just about converting and executing the plays. You can only say so much."

Showing up: Defensive end Mario Williams was selected for the Pro Bowl last week, but he was called out by the Houston media for being unworthy of the honor. Williams, who had 8.0 sacks on the season through 15 games, had zero tackles and didn't record a statistic at Miami in Week 16.

Williams silenced his critics in the season finale with a couple of game-changing plays. With eight minutes left in the game and the Texans down by seven, Williams sacked Tom Brady on third-and-four from the New England 25-yard line. It was the first time that Brady had been sacked since Nov. 30 at New Orleans. The Texans scored the game-tying touchdown eight plays later.

On the very next series, Williams hit Brady as he threw on second-and-14 from the New England 19. The pass was intercepted by safety Bernard Pollard, which set the Texans up with a short field and the game-winning touchdown.

"He seemed to be at his best there at the end when it mattered the most," Kubiak said. "That's kind of like we talked about this week: When you get voted to the Pro Bowl, it's about respect, what guys expect from you, and he went out and proved people right today that they did the right thing, that that's where he belongs."

Big-play Pollard: Safety Bernard Pollard started the regular season without a job after being cut by the Kansas City Chiefs. He finished the season doing what he had done for the last 12 games in Houston: Making big plays.

Pollard recovered a fumble in the end zone to make the score 13-10 in the second quarter. The fumble was caused by defensive end Antonio Smith, who hit Fred Taylor in the end zone.

Pollard also set up the game-tying touchdown with a leaping interception over Sam Aiken late in the fourth quarter.

"When I finally hit the ground and I was going to get up, it was probably one of the greatest feelings because you know you just did something to change the momentum of the game and you've got all your teammates rooting for you," Pollard said of the interception. "That's just big. I think our fans were just tremendous today. Just being able to celebrate with my teammates, my new teammates… I actually came in and I dropped down to a knee and I prayed.

"It just feels good to me to know that I have all kind of guys in this locker room that have my back. They know I'm going to give them 100 percent every time I go out there."

Now you see him, now you don't: Leading up to the game, there was much speculation on how much – if at all – the Patriots would use key players like Tom Brady and Randy Moss. Five Patriots starters were inactive on Sunday, but Brady wasn't one of them.

Brady played the first three series of the first half, leading the Patriots to a touchdown and a field goal. He was removed in favor of rookie Brian Hoyer for the final two series of the first half.

But when the second half began, Brady was back on the field. He stayed in for the entire second half, save for the Patriots' final series of the game after the Texans went up 34-27.

"Knowing the mentality of their team, the mentality of their head coach is they don't want to lose the game," Ryans said. "The second quarterback wasn't doing a good job, so you had to put Brady in there to have a chance to win, and it didn't surprise me at all. We'd seen him on the sideline warming up and we kind of figured that he would definitely be coming back in because we had started to gain a little momentum."

Brady finished 17-of-26 for 186 yards, no touchdowns and an interception. Hoyer was 8-of-12 for 71 yards.

Barwin, Brady jawing: Rookie defensive end Connor Barwin had three tackles, including one tackle for loss, and a quarterback hit in the game. He also was in on a sack that officially was credited to Brian Cushing.

Barwin said that he made a comment to Brady at one point about trying to get a "cheap call," and that Brady subsequently got in his face.

"I liked it," Barwin said. "I was happy he did, I didn't think he was going to.

"I said, 'Stop whining about the call, it was a clean hit.'. He gets those all the time, and he started going to the ref and I said, 'Why are you even going to complain about that?' Because he knew it was a clean hit."

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