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Texans-Broncos ties run deep


Gary Kubiak is excited to face the Denver Broncos and his former mentor Mike Shanahan.

First of all, Gary Kubiak wants it known that this is just another game. Yeah, right. Everyone's going to believe that.

Kubiak will be staring across the field Thursday night at his former employer, the Denver Broncos, and his good friend and mentor coach Mike Shanahan, who was his boss for 11 seasons when Kubiak was offensive coordinator for the Broncos.

Kubiak was a quarterback with Denver from 1983-91 and as offensive coordinator helped the Broncos win back-to-back Super Bowls. So, it's just another game?

"Well, it's a game," Kubiak said. "It's another game and I know people find that hard to believe, but really in preparation and those things it's the same."

The second-year Texans coach does have a point. The Texans shouldn't get distracted by the media hype surrounding the personal aspects of the game or that the Texans are playing before a national television audience for the first time since 2005.

{QUOTE}The Texans are 6-7 with a chance to be 7-7 this late in the season for the first time ever. Denver has the same record, but they're on a roll. They scored 75 points in the past two weeks, including a 41-7 victory on Sunday over Kansas City.

So, yes, Xs and Os must take top priority. Still, Kubiak and Kyle Shanahan – who will be coaching against his father – acknowledge the special family atmosphere of this game.

"I'm sure it'll hit me that I'm standing across the field from the guy that I worked for, for so many years and a bunch of coaches that I spent a great deal of my pro life with," Kubiak said. "So I'm sure that'll hit me at the time, but right now we've just got work to do and we've got to get ready to play real fast."

As for Kyle, he says he's avoiding his father until after the game.

"I'm sure that's probably up to his dad, so we'll see," Kubiak said. "They're both very competitive."

Kubiak expects this to be just another game to Kyle and his dad, too.

"Well, I'm sure that puts a new twist on the game, so to speak," Kubiak said. "I knew Kyle since he was a baby running around the house, and I know him and Mike talk all the time and they're a football family, so I'm sure that's pretty special for them to be across from each other."

Several Texans players also have Denver roots, including running back Ron Dayne, tight end Jeb Putzier, tackle Ephraim Salaam and safety Curome Cox.

Texans general manager Rick Smith formerly served as assistant general manager of the Broncos. Senior defensive assistant coach Frank Bush is a Denver coaching alum.

"It's a big-time challenge," Bush said. "Mike and all those guys in Denver, they're really close to us. I really have a lot of friendships up there. It means a lot because we want to see ourselves like they see themselves one day and this is a measuring stick for us.

"They have a very high standard on how they do things and we're trying to push that standard here."

It would mean bragging rights with some of the Broncos for Bush, including Denver special teams assistant Keith Burns.

"He's one of my good friends," Bush said. "He'll talk a little smack. Other than that, there's just a lot of good friendships there and they have set the standard and we're trying to get to that standard."

Kubiak credits much of his coaching experience to Shanahan.

"The biggest thing I learned from him is when you have a plan, you stick to your plan," Kubiak said. "When you feel like you're making a mistake here or there, you don't hold on to bad decisions or mistakes, you have to cut bait and move on."

Kubiak has adjusted well since last year's 6-10 finish, his first as a pro head coach. He'd like to see another push like last year when the Texans won three of their final five games and beat eventual Super Bowl champion Indianapolis.

"It's a league that's week-to-week and the ultimate goal week-to-week is to win a football game and you have to make decisions based on that," Kubiak said. "Those are some things in general, but I learned a great deal from (Mike). Our program is very much like we ran it in Denver and it will probably be that way as long as I'm able to stick around."

Kubiak doesn't expect to gain much from familiarity with the Denver system.

"I think there's a lot made of that and that's probably not the case," Kubiak said. "I've been removed from there for a couple of years. Their defense has changed drastically. They've got a new defensive coordinator, so it's probably overrated."

Facing the Broncos isn't overrated, however, and the Texans see a chance to help out their coach.

"I think he'd like to get a win against his old team and we'd like to help him do it," tight end Owen Daniels said. "It's something like beating your brother or dad."

Defensive end N.D. Kalu feels the added electricity because of the team connections.

"Any time you play against your old team or the coach's old team you put a little extra oomph into it," Kalu said. "You know he wants to win this game and show the people in Denver what they're missing in a coach.

"So, there'll be a little something extra in the air because of coach Kubiak being from Denver."

Kalu would like to win one for the coach and also improve the Texans' national image.

"We haven't been on national television since I've been here," Kalu said. "People think we take it for granted, but we don't. It's good to know your friends on the east coast and up north get to see you play.

"Hopefully, people will tune in and watch, but truthfully we do feel we've come far and we're playing a good team. Hopefully, we'll get a chance to show the world that it's not the same old Texans."

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 sports. *

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