NASHVILLE – When the Texans clinched a playoff berth last season at Cincinnati, it was a euphoric scene. When they clinched one for the second consecutive year on Sunday at Tennessee, it was expected.
The visitors' locker room at LP Field was decidedly ho-hum after the Texans beat the Tennessee Titans 24-10 on Sunday afternoon. The Texans are now 11-1 with a two-game lead for the top seed in the AFC, but they aren't celebrating anything yet.
"I think the message you'll get from our guys, which is good, is we expected it," Texans defensive end J.J. Watt said. "We're happy about it, but we're not satisfied by any means. You have to be in the dance to go win the whole thing, but we want more. We're looking for the division title. We're looking for the home-field advantage."
Said quarterback Matt Schaub: "It's a great feeling, after all the hard work put in by these guys in this locker room, to know that we're in. It's a great feeling to know that we've reached that goal, but we have a lot more to accomplish."
Last season at Cincinnati, Texans players, coaches, scouts and others huddled around a small television in the visitors' locker room minutes after a comeback victory over the Bengals. When the Titans lost to the New Orleans Saints, it clinched the Texans' first-ever AFC South title and postseason trip. The locker room erupted with a thunderous cheer.
There were hugs, handshakes and division champion hats and T-shirts all around. There was an impromptu pep rally at Reliant Stadium after the team got back to Houston that night, with approximately 2,000 fans waiting on the Texans for a raucous celebration in Budweiser Plaza.
This year, after clinching a playoff spot by beating the Titans themselves, the Texans could hardly have had a more different reaction. There were no big cheers, no players dousing each other with bottled water, no big speeches recognizing Texans chairman and CEO Bob McNair or veteran players. Coach Gary Kubiak made his usual postgame remarks in the locker room as if it were any other game.
That's because, for these Texans, it was.
"We knew coming into this season we had a great football team, that we could do some great things as a team," wide receiver Andre Johnson said. "That's why you don't see nobody really running around here going crazy about it. We have bigger goals in mind, but this is part of it. This was one of the goals, and we got one of 'em accomplished."
If the Texans beat the New England Patriots next week on Monday Night Football, they'll be assured of the top seed in the AFC with one victory in their final three games. Securing home-field advantage for the playoffs has been their stated goal since losing in the Divisional Round last season on the road at Baltimore.
"It's hard to reach the level that we've reached, and what you have to do now is find something more to reach for," defensive end Antonio Smith said. "Kub made that a point when we talked today. He was like, we've got another goal that we want to reach, and the next goal that we wanna reach is bringing the playoffs to Houston."