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Thursday Night Live


The Texans are excited to show the nation what they're all about Thursday against the Denver Broncos.

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The Texans have been hidden from the national television cameras for a while, but they'll make a return with plenty of theater Thursday night when they host the Denver Broncos on the NFL Network.

Plot One: Texans quarterbacks coach Kyle Shanahan will match wits with his father, Denver coach Mike Shanahan. They've carefully avoided each other this week so they won't slip up and give away team secrets.

Plot Two: Texans coach Gary Kubiak was offensive coordinator for the Broncos before taking over the Texans last season and will be coaching against Shanahan and many friends still with the Broncos.

Here's one more: The Texans are coming off a rousing 28-14 victory on Sunday night over Tampa Bay. They're 6-7 and trying not to think about a magical finish and a shot at the playoffs.

Maybe now they're ready for prime time.

"We have the spotlight on us Thursday night and we're excited about it," linebacker DeMeco Ryans said. "It's time for everyone to tune in and see what the Texans are all about. It's our shot. We have to take full advantage of it."

{QUOTE}Smitten with a huge injury list this season, the Texans have battled back from two disheartening losses against Cleveland and Tennessee to beat the playoff contending Buccaneers.

Everything seemed to click into place against Tampa Bay. Now the team has momentum going onto the national spotlight.

"We had a good victory over a playoff team like Tampa Bay and our confidence level is really high," Ryans said. "I expect our guys to pick the intensity up a little more. Let's go show people what the Houston Texans' defense is all about."

The Texans didn't get a chance to play before a national audience last season. Maybe it was better they remained in the dark as they struggled through a 6-10 season in Kubiak's first year as coach.

That's behind them now, and Kubiak doesn't even try to say this game isn't special. Going against a team full of friends has to be special. He also can't get too carried away with facing his old team on a short week.

"This is a new thing for our team," Kubiak said. "This team has never been through something like this. We've got to turn right around here. For us to continue to take steps forward, we have to learn to do all these things."

The Texans have been inconsistent this season, but their character has helped them survive too many injuries and they're starting to overcome the turnover mistakes that have plagued them all season.

Now is their chance to shine and they know it.

"We can show America what we're all about," wide receiver Kevin Walter said. "We work hard here in Houston and we don't get too many Monday night games. Hopefully, next year we will get a few of those.

"We've just got to go out there and show everyone we're for real and that we're a playoff-caliber team."

The Texans made a big debut before the big cameras with a historic 19-10 victory over the heavily favored Dallas Cowboys in the Texans' first-ever regular season game to start the 2002 season.

That's their only victory in four ESPN appearances. They lost to Green Bay, 16-13, in 2004 and had lopsided losses to Seattle and Kansas City in 2005.

They are eager for another chance.

"These guys are professional athletes and they like to be on the stage," senior defensive assistant Frank Bush said. "So it has significance because all of their peers throughout the league get to see them play. They want to play well. They have pride in what they do and they want to play well in front of their peers."

The stage is set for the Texans to continue what they started against the Buccaneers on Sunday.

"Coach said if you do it once you can do it all the time," defensive end N.D. Kalu said. "That's been our biggest problem, we haven't been consistent. But we beat a team (Tampa Bay) we're all going to see in the playoffs. We played good against them. That's what we need to do every Sunday."

The Texans played well with backup quarterback Sage Rosenfels throwing three touchdown passes and rookie Darius Walker replacing injured Ron Dayne at running back and producing 81 yards rushing and receiving.

"We were fed up not playing up to our potential week in and week out and I think yesterday we really played up to our potential," Kalu said. "If we could figure out a way to do that every week, we'd have a great team."

Tight end Owen Daniels caught a touchdown pass against the Buccaneers and then dunked the ball over the crossbar. He hopes to get a chance to perform the feat Thursday night.

"To be the only game on television, to have everyone across the country to have a chance to see us play is something that's pretty cool," Daniels said. "We're excited to go play. We had a good game against Tampa and beat a good team.

"Denver is similar to us with the same record and fighting for the same thing. It will be a chance to show how far we've come."

The Texans are careful to adhere to the greatest of clichés: one game at a time. Kalu apologies, but does it anyway.

"I hate to sound all these clichés, but that's when we start thinking, we've got to beat the Colts, we've got to beat Jacksonville," he said. "Denver has scored 75 points in the last two games, so that's enough for us to think about right now."

Still, it's so tempting to see a playoff team in the city again.

"We're in a situation we've never been in before around here this late in the season," Andre Johnson said. "We take it one step at a time and try to get that winning season. And if you win enough games, you might sneak into the playoffs."

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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