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Texans gearing up for rivalry game


Linebacker DeMeco Ryans returns a fumble for a touchdown in the Texans' 2007 meeting with the Titans at Reliant Stadium.

Six years of bad blood caused by history, draft controversy and nail-biting, physical games have made the Texans and Tennessee Titans fast enemies on the gridiron. It's little wonder that the Titans were named by Texans players in an offseason poll as the team's biggest rival (


The rivalry began five years before the Texans even played their first game, when Houston Oilers owner Bud Adams moved the Bayou City's beloved team to Nashville in 1997.

It heated up when the Texans swept the Titans in 2004, Houston's first and only wins against Tennessee. It intensified further when the Titans selected one of Houston's favorite sons, Vince Young, in the 2006 NFL Draft after the Texans passed on Young to take Mario Williams first overall.

The rivalry has been defined by close games – including the Texans' gut-wrenching 38-36 loss in 2007 that came after they had rallied from 28 points behind in the fourth quarter to take a fleeting lead.

Those close games have been characterized by physical play from both clubs. Last year, the Titans knocked out quarterback Matt Schaub from both of the teams' contests. The first came on an illegal hit by defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth, who later made headlines by claiming that Schaub was scared to face the Titans.

Haynesworth hasn't backed off his words, adding earlier this week that he'd rather face Schaub than backup quarterback Sage Rosenfels, but Schaub pays no mind to Haynesworth's antics.

"We're just going to go out there and play the game," Schaub said. "Guys handle things differently. We're just going to go in there, our team, and try to beat their team."

Wide receiver Andre Johnson joined the Texans in 2003 and knows that beating the Titans has extra importance because of the angst the Titans caused the city of Houston when they bolted for Tennessee.

That back story set the foundation for today's rivalry, in which the games remain every bit as important as they were in the first years the teams met.

"Playing against the Titans and Jacksonville, they feel like real rivalry games, kind of like games you played when you're in college," Johnson said. "Every time we play them, it's always a big game. It always comes down to a few plays here and there."

{QUOTE}Though the Titans hold a 10-2 all-time record against the Texans, 10 of the 12 games in series history have been decided by 10 points or fewer.

Since head coach Gary Kubiak arrived in Houston, the games have been even closer. Tennessee won in overtime in 2006 and by two points on a last-second Rob Bironas field goal in 2007. The Titans' four wins in the past two seasons have come by an average of 5.5 points.

"They aren't lopsided," linebacker DeMeco Ryans said. "Even the game when (Bironas) kicked eight field goals last year, we battled back, we kept fighting and it still ended up being a great game.

"We can beat them. It's a matter of somebody stepping up and making that one or two extra plays."

For the Texans to get over the hump against the Titans, they know they'll have to match Tennessee's physical style of play. The Titans currently boast the second-ranked defense in the NFL, anchored by a physical defensive line that includes Haynesworth and end Kyle Vanden Bosch.

"Every play, they bring it, so you have to find a way to try to match their intensity and give a little bit more," guard Chester Pitts said. "They have very good players. They play extremely hard. They're coached very well. They tend to do everything right, so you have to bring your 'A' game, plus a little something extra to find a way to beat them."

Ryans, who returned a fumble for a touchdown after sacking Titans quarterback Kerry Collins at Reliant Stadium last year, is confident the Texans can make the plays to win this weekend.

"This is huge for us," he said. "This is a huge game. We've been close in all of our games and it always come down to one or two plays and always in the fourth quarter. It always comes down (to the wire).

"It's going to be a good game, but hopefully we can end up on our side making those one or two plays to put us on the winning side this year."

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