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Texans linebacker DeMeco Ryans isn’t so sure you have to fail in order to learn to succeed.
But the star linebacker knows after six seasons of going through the ups and downs and near misses with the Texans that achievement is never easy. And when it comes it often comes at a price.
“I know you have to go through some things,” Ryans said Wednesday. “I think it means more when you battle through a lot adversity. We’ve taken a lot of bumps along the road and to continue to battle and come out of it means a lot more instead of it just being easy to get.”
And finally the elusive goal that has driven this team crazy and the city to brink is finally within grasp. The magic number for the Texans to earn the franchises’ first playoff berth is two. The simplest math is the Texans need to win two of their final four games and they clinch their first AFC South title and a spot in next month’s playoffs.
But the 9-3 Texans can also lock up the division Sunday with a win at the Cincinnati Bengals combined with a loss by the Tennessee Titans at home against New Orleans.
Almost to a man Wednesday, however, the Texans all said their focus going into the weekend isn’t about making the playoffs or the scenarios that must take place to secure a spot. The sole focus is the win which would give them a string of seven straight victories.
“I don’t,” said coach Gary Kubiak when asked if his team discusses the clinching the AFC South. “They know that. The only thing I know is every time you talk about a scenario, that scenario includes us winning, so let’s worry about winning the next game. Our guys know that.”
The Texans have learned from the past when they’ve been so close like in 2009 that taking your eyes off the road can be dangerous. They went into the final week of the 2009 season needing some things to happen, namely for Cincinnati to lose and they would be in the playoffs. Things didn’t work out so the Texans’ campaign concluded with a 9-7 and hopes for the following season.
We all remember how 2010 worked out.
“It definitely fuels the fire because we’ve been close so many times,” Ryans said of the close calls in the past. “It’s just been a lot of close, almost and this and that. Then last year a lot of losses occurred on the last play of the game.
“That fuels us to go get it done. Whatever it takes, we need to win these games and winning as many as we can.”
Conceivably, the Texans could win run the table with four winnable games against the Bengals, Carolina Panthers, Indianapolis Colts and Titans remaining. But conceivably the Texans could lose two of their next three and the regular-season finale could be decided between them and the Titans on the field at Reliant.
Remember nothing can be a seen as a given with this team this season, especially its tendency to lose a key player each week.
Rookie third-string quarterback T.J. Yates played admirably in his first game as a starter during Sunday’s stunning 17-10 win over Atlanta, but you have to be concerned about what will happen once the youngster stops running on adrenaline and he has to deal with blitzes being dialed up from every direction?
Receiver Andre Johnson is likely out this week with another hamstring issue and the punting duties are now turned over to nearly acquired veteran Matt Turk after Brett Hartmann suffered a season-ending injury Sunday.
Each week it has been something like either outside linebacker Mario Williams being lost for the season with a torn pectoral muscle or lost starting quarterback Matt Schaub and his backup Matt Leinart in back to back games.
But so far none of it has seemed to matter. The Texans keep finding ways to not only remain competitive but to remain as one of the elite teams this season.
A playoff berth would be nice but there is a sense there could be something greater to play for like a top seed and the chance to go deep into the playoffs and possibly earn a trip to the – dare we say – The Super Bowl.
“This is a great opportunity we have here this week,” said outside linebacker Connor Barwin. “Hopefully we can take care of business. Our play is to keep winning the rest of the year and not just stop here.”
But there is also the real understanding of what this would mean to a city that is dying for a winner again. The enthusiasm of the city was captured during Sunday’s game when the crowd in Reliant Stadium got behind its team like never before and made it a real home field advantage.
So it’s not lost on anyone what significance Saturday could carry.
“Everywhere you go, there’s the buzz going around the city,” said running back Arian Foster. “Houston has been wanting a winning team here for a long time. We’re glad that we can finally provide that little spark, but we’ve got to go finish.”
Nose tackle Shaun Cody couldn’t agree more.
“I think if you were at the stadium on Sunday, you could feel the energy of the fans,” Cody said. “They definitely want a taste of the playoffs and we do as players too, as well. But when you’re playing, you got to put your head down and just keep grinding, keep grinding and don’t take anything for granted.”