Rising to the occasion

         In the NFL, every team is capable of beating any other team on any
         given Sunday, no matter the odds. The Texans exemplify that, having
         gained two "improbable" wins this season versus two of the
         NFL's upper-echelon teams--the Miami Dolphins and the Carolina
         Panthers.

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Capers is one of the main reasons why the Texans play each contest with a never-say-quit attitude.


While most agree that the NFL's parity lends itself to so-called "upsets," there are certain games each week that fans, players and coaches alike look at and think 'That game will definitely be a blowout,' regardless of how unpredictable the league may be.

While the Texans have won a modest seven games in their early existence, the fact that four of those wins were against teams that many thought far outmatched the Texans is a strong reflection of the team's fabric and head coach Dom Capers' resolute leadership and bold coaching style.

Last season, the Texans took on the surging New York Giants on Nov. 24. The Giants, who were then 6-4, entered Reliant Stadium in the thick of the playoff race riding a three-game winning streak.

On the other hand, the Texans were an expansion team far out of the playoff picture at 2-8 and had lost three consecutive games. On paper, the Texans looked completely outmatched.

Looking at the post-game stat sheet, it looked like the Giants far outplayed the Texans. They had 19 first downs, while the Texans had just 12. The Giants accumulated 368 net yards of offense to the Texans' 212 yards, and Giants RB Tiki Barber finished with 146 rushing yards and a score.

In a shock to many, except the Texans, the Giants fell 14-16 mainly due to the Texans' grit and determination, as well as their opportunistic takeaways and clutch field-goal kicking by Kris Brown, who hit a game-winning 50-yard field goal.

Flash forward two games and the Texans arrived in Pittsburgh to face the Steelers on Dec. 8. The Steelers were one of the NFL's top teams in 2002, finishing with 11 wins and reaching the second round of the playoffs.

The Texans had just come off of another loss and were now further out of the playoff race. Also, they had to battle the elements at Heinz Field. The temperature at kickoff was 35 F. It still stands as the coldest game the Texans have ever played in.

While everyone had the Steelers as a shoe-in to win the game, the Texans persevered in one of the wildest, most mind-boggling games in NFL history.

The Steelers managed 24 first downs to the Texans' three, and gained 422 net yards of offense, while the Texans' gained a record-low 47 yards. Tight end Billy Miller was the only player for Houston to catch a pass.

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Gaffney made some big catches at Miami to spoil their home-opener and shock the NFL in the process.


Nonetheless, the Texans won by forcing five turnovers and putting a halt to several of the Steelers' drives in critical situations. Cornerback Aaron Glenn returned two interceptions for touchdowns and cornerback Kenny Wright chipped in with a fumble return for a score to lift the Texans to a stunning 24-6 victory.

Capers has put together a team that fears nobody and would sooner lay down in front of a train than a supposedly superior opponent. There is no finer example of that than the Texans' 21-20 victory at Miami in the first game of this season.

Despite playing in South Florida against a team that was picked by many to reach the Super Bowl this season behind the NFL's returning rushing leader, Ricky Williams, the Texans were the intimidators. The temperature read 89 F, which was the hottest game the Texans have played in, but the heat was mostly on the Dolphins.

The Texans' defense played solid throughout the game, limiting Williams to 69 rushing yards, while the offense showed big-play ability with several long receptions to wide receivers Andre Johnson, Corey Bradford and Jabar Gaffney.

The Texans' latest demonstration of bucking the odds came yesterday, when the Panthers, who lead the AFC South, lost 14-10 in Reliant Stadium.

Capers' former team arrived in Houston at 6-1, tied for the best record in the NFC, and boasted the services of running back Stephen Davis, who is the NFL's second-leading rusher.

Nevertheless, the Texans, who were coming off three consecutive defeats and had QB Tony Banks make his first start as a Texan, showed no lack of confidence. They came back from a 7-0 first-half deficit to take control of the game in the second half and defeat one of the NFL's elite teams.

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Miller's touchdown gave the Texans the lead for good against the Panthers.


Considering how the Panthers controlled the tempo for much of the first half and that Davis ran for 153 yards, the Texans did a great job of getting back in the game and not shying away from the Panthers' physical style of play.

"One of the greatest challenges you have in this business is to stay the course and handle the adversity that you face," Capers said. "When you do that, it only makes you tougher. It makes you more resilient. It makes you more determined and I think you saw that determination in our team."

"I feel like our team took a real positive step yesterday. I say that because most of the good teams that I've been around throughout my career have had to deal with some adversity and they've hung together and hung tough and fought their way through some tough times and that's what enables them to come out the other end and develop into a good team."

The key for the Texans is to take the strong play that they've exhibited against some of the league's best teams and carry it on to their games against other opponents. Wins against heavily-favored teams are great, but Capers stresses that what's more important is winning games consistently, no matter the opponent. If the Texans can follow Capers' advice, they will eventually reach their ultimate goal.

"Coach Capers coached at Carolina back in the day a couple of years ago and almost took them to the championship," Texans linebacker Jamie Sharper said. "Now we have him and we hope to get there, too."

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