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Williams shows up huge


All you can say about the 2006 season was, he endured.

Mario Williams didn't really have a bad season as a rookie. It just wasn't up to the expectations of the world.

And the world let him know.

But all of that lifted off the big Texans defensive end when he had his best game to date Sunday, helping lead the Texans to a 20-3 victory over Kansas City.

{QUOTE}Williams, the No. 1 pick in the draft last season, had five tackles, two sacks for minus 13 yards, two quarterback hurries and returned a fumble 42 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter as the Texans held the Chiefs to the second lowest total in Texans history (behind the 21-0 win over Jacksonville in 2004).

As a rookie, Williams actually played well, setting a club rookie record with 4.5 sacks, leading the Texans' defensive linemen with 47 tackles and playing through a painful foot injury much of the year.

Still, Williams had been scrutinized with a giant microscope since the day he was drafted ahead of Reggie Bush, whom ironically Williams now has more touchdowns than this season. The pressure must be off the 6-7, 291-pounder from North Carolina State.

"Definitely," end N.D. Kalu said of Williams. "People have been waiting for him to do something big. He had two sacks and a touchdown. What more can you do?

"Hopefully, this will get the monkey off his back. People should get off him now. All the guys who had pressure on them stepped up today. Mario, Travis (Johnson), Dunta (Robinson). They all played well."

And Williams' teammates celebrated his big plays even more than he did Sunday, jumping up and down and bouncing all around after his touchdown and each sack.

"We were just all excited for him," defensive end Anthony Weaver said. "We know how hard he's worked and we know he's finally gotten to reap the rewards for all that hard work."

Williams, though, denies ever feeling any pressure to perform.

"Personally, I don't feel like I'm under any pressure," Williams said. "The pressure is from the media and I'll always be behind with them anyway. But I don't see why there would be any pressure on me.

"That doesn't matter to me anyway. There are only 11 players I bleed with and those are the only ones that matter to me. No matter what happens, the only thing that matters is us."

Not that Williams has failed to noticed what has been written and said about him. He let down his guard only briefly to admit he has heard the talk.

"If it's good or bad, it's always me," he said of the defense's past woes. "But the truth is these guys are my soldiers. The credit goes to them whether I play well or not. I'm just so thankful to all of them."

All of Williams' big day came in the second half, since he had only one first half tackle. He admits the entire defense came out fired up in the second half.

"We just started getting after it in the second half," Williams said. "We talked about it at the half. We said, 'Let's not be mechanical. Let's do something different. Let's get after them.'

"That was the whole difference today. It was just a mindset. It was our preparation during the week."

Williams' big day didn't surprise coach Gary Kubiak.

"I'll tell you something interesting," Kubiak said. "We as a coaching staff sat up here Thursday evening and we said that was the best practice we'd ever seen him have since we've been here.

"We talked to him about that. The great thing is when you're able to tell a player, 'Hey, that was progress that we saw on Thursday.' Now we can go back and say, 'See how it equated to what you did on Thursday?'

"He's been playing well. Just the fact that he got free a couple of times today is good. This game is about confidence. When a couple of good things start to go your way, you start to get a lot of confidence. I would expect him to feel real good coming out of this one and moving forward."

If there really was no pressure on Williams, perhaps there is now. Just ask cornerback Dunta Robinson.

"We're going to keep the pressure on Mario now," Robinson said smiling. "He can't be one and done. He's still got to produce. He's still got to do some work for us.

"All the pats on the back are fine. But that's over and we've got to move on to the next game."

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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