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Texans ride 'Dre all the way


Quarterback Matt Schaub and wide receiver Andre Johnson celebrate their touchdown together.

It was a spectacular catch to end all spectacular catches, more magic than reality, the stuff folklore is made of.

It was do or die. And Andre Johnson did.

The Texans unparalleled wide receiver went across the middle with a man all over him on fourth down and 10. And miraculously, Johnson took the ball away from Dolphins safety Yeremiah Bell for a first down at the Miami 41 with 52 seconds to play.

It was the play that kept the drive alive to the winning touchdown in a mind-boggling 29-28 come-from-behind win. To many, it was more than could have been imagined. But some people in Texans uniforms begged to differ.

"It was a great catch," defensive tackle Travis Johnson said. "But it was expected. Everybody else might have been surprised. But we know the guy. We know he makes plays like that."

Count Dolphins quarterback Chad Pennington as one player who didn't anticipate the catch.

"I thought Andre Johnson made one of the most unbelievable catches I've ever seen on fourth down," Pennington said. "That was clutch. Two defenders right there, good defense, and he made the play and it was unbelievable."

It was only one catch in a dazzling day for Johnson, who set a club record for yards with 178 on 10 receptions. But it was a play that turned the day – and perhaps the entire season. When the Texans appeared lost once again, Johnson came through.

And embattled quarterback Matt Schaub never hesitated to go to the covered-up Johnson.

{QUOTE}"Not at all," Schaub said. "I knew he could make that play. I've seen him make a lot of plays like that over the last two seasons.

"It never crossed my mind that could be a pick. I knew he had a man on him but I threw it up and knew he could come down with it. That was really the game-winner right there."

Knowing how badly the Texans needed a win after the previous week's fourth quarter collapse, coach Gary Kubiak had no doubt which player to go to in the clutch.

"Andre made the play that really gave us a chance to win the game," Kubiak said. "Just making that play was the difference in winning and losing."

As memorable as it was though, it's still a little fuzzy to Johnson.

"The play before, when they thought (Andre Goodman) intercepted the ball, he was kind of playing in between," Johnson said. "I went to the sideline and said, 'Let me just run by the guy.' But coach Kubiak said, 'Let's run the throwback.'

"Tired and all, I just said, 'If you want to run it, I'll catch it.'

"I was just like, 'Man, give me a chance.' I just wanted to make a play to redeem myself from the fumble earlier."

Johnson, who went over 400 career receptions Sunday, had fumbled the ball after a 17-yard reception to the Dolphins' seven-yard line with 55 seconds to play in the third quarter. Most fans had long forgotten that play by then. And the monumental fourth down play assured they would not think of it ever again.

And what happened when the ball came to him for the pivotal fourth quarter catch?

"I don't know how I made the play," Johnson said. "I just made it.

"I just stuck my hands up. When I stuck my hands up, he put his hands up. The ball just kind of bobbled around. I don't think he saw it and I just grabbed it."

The 178 yards were the most by anyone in the NFL this season. And those 23 yards on that one catch were the most important by the Texans in memory. If he doesn't catch it, the ball goes over on downs.

"To be honest, I didn't even know what down it was," Johnson said with a sheepish grin. "Most of the time in the two-minute drill you know you're gonna throw the ball every down. Most of us were just gassed. You just have to make some plays then."

The Texans had made all the wrong plays in the 17-point collapse during last week's loss to the Indianapolis Colts. That's what made this drive – and that play – almost surreal.

"We dodged a bullet, no doubt," tight end Owen Daniels said. "We dodged a major bullet. It looked pretty grim there. We have the sack. Then we get the pick overturned and Andre makes the fourth down catch.

"We never doubted ourselves, but it was just an unbelievable two minutes. Especially after last week. Last week is still a blur. But we all stayed pretty positive. We knew we did a lot of good things and we could still come back this week."

The 31-27 loss to Indianapolis was on many players' minds late in the game.

"That was the word of the day, to play 60 minutes," center Chris Myers said. "The offense was working the two-minute drill and in the huddle, there was nothing but confidence. We knew we could do it."

Especially when you have No. 80.

"That guy had a franchise game today," Myers said. "When you see a guy make plays like that, it gives you extra motivation. It was a gutsy catch. It made the whole drive."

The play was made by a player the Texans have grown to depend on.

"Andre is an elite receiver in this league," wide receiver Kevin Walter said. "I just said during the time out, just throw it to him. He's gonna make a play.

"He was covered pretty good. But he made an unbelievable catch. After that I said, 'We're gonna win this game.' We were all confident after that."

EDITOR'S NOTE: Jim Carley is a veteran Houston sportswriter who has covered the NFL for more than 25 years. He has worked for such newspapers as the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, The Houston Post, the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner and the National Sports Daily covering such teams as the Dallas Cowboys, the Houston Oilers, the Los Angeles Rams and the Oakland Raiders.

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