Ryan Mallett woke up and went through his pre-game routine exactly as he would on any other given Sunday during NFL season.
With one exception.
"I was just playing today," Mallett said. "That was the only difference."
Mallett, the Texans starter named just days before the bye week, waited four long years for his first NFL start. The end result, a dominant 23-7 win in Cleveland, was worth the wait.
"I couldn't ask for a better start to my career – I guess you could say. I got the win. We are now on to Cincinnati, if that sounds familiar," Mallett said, alluding to Bill Belichick's infamous response earlier in the season.
Seemingly emotional and fiery on the outside during the game, Mallett says he was completely calm on the inside. Even after the game at the podium, Mallett looked pleased but was quick to temper the excitement surrounding a big win on the road.
"One game doesn't get us anything," Mallett said. "We've still got six more games to go this season. If we work like we did this past week, we have a chance to compete in every one of those games but it's up to us."
Mallett completed 20-of-30 passes for 211 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception. The former backup to Tom Brady says he was able to see the game from a different perspective to be where he's at today.
"I think being in that system for those three years has helped me be at that point where those guys know that I know it, so that we can go and talk about it," Mallett said. "Sometimes, it's without the coaches and great teams, you got to meet without coaches to be good anyway. It's the extra work that has to be put in."
All the preparation in the world couldn't prepare Mallett for one key moment in Sunday's game though. Mallett's first-career touchdown, a two-yarder to J.J. Watt, even surprised him.
"Oh my gosh," Mallett said, smiling. "I never would have thought my first career touchdown pass would be to a defensive lineman. He's a pretty good player."