HOUSTON (CBS Houston) – We already know the Texans are pretty special.
The rest of the nation has some idea, too. But everyone will get to judge fully for themselves when the 4-0 Texans make their return Monday Night Football to take on the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.
The Texans, the lone undefeated team in the AFC, are playing in just their fifth Monday Night game and the first since 2010.
“It’s a chance to show we’re for real,” said Texans inside linebacker Brian Cushing, who is a native of New Jersey. “The chance to play on Monday night is always a special opportunity. To be 4-0, I think a lot of America’s been watching to see if we’re legit or not but we feel that we’ll prove it.”
Right now, the Texans are one of the hottest teams in the NFL and they are taking on a 2-2 Jets team that seems to be in a bit of disarray. But the Texans, who are 1-3 in MNF games, do have the added pressure of being the national spotlight and on the biggest stage of the NFL regular season.
It will be interesting to see if they use it as motivation or if it might throw them off against a Jets team they should defeat handily.
“Anytime you’re on the national stage, it means a little something,” said running back Arian Foster, who seemed somewhat indifferent when asked Friday about playing a Monday Night game. “Once the ball gets snapped all that hype goes away and you got to just play the game.”
“The players playing in an NFL game, it’s something that lives within you that gets you ready to go,” said left tackle Duane Brown. “But to know that you’re playing Monday night, you’re the only game on TV, the whole nation is going to be watching, just that added incentive, it motivates you to want to put your best foot forward, to want to bring your ‘A’ game and put on a good show.”
The approach Texans coach Gary Kubiak and his staff have tried to take is treating the game just like any other game. They have followed pretty much their usual practice routine with the exception of moving everything back a day in the schedule.
The team practiced as their facility on Saturday and then boarded their charter flight to New Jersey on Sunday.
“The difference, like today, we’ll meet today,” Kubiak said Saturday. “We normally don’t meet on Friday afternoons when we get through with a practice, but we’ll meet today because we have to fly early in the morning to go east. Then we’ll use Monday morning to do some things we wouldn’t normally do on a Saturday morning before a Sunday game. We do the same stuff, we just kind of move it back a little bit.”
Still, the game itself takes on a special meaning. For decades, the Monday Night Football telecast took on a special meaning because it was the only game outside of the Sunday slate of games. That has changed some over the years with the NFL now featuring Sunday night and Thursday night games.
But there is still something about the Monday Night Football signature that still gets players and fans alike a little extra motivated.
Kubiak, however, is hoping that no extra motivation is needed in a season in which the Texans are seen as a team to beat.
“I could use it, but our guys are smart. They know,” said Kubiak, whose team lost 34-28 to Baltimore during their last Monday night game on Dec. 12, 2010.”They know when they’re playing. I got a bunch of guys on my team from the Jersey area so I know important it is them going home.
“We play a lot of football so you’re trying to pull from something week in and week out, but really I don’t think I need that one. I think they know what’s fixing to happen and who they’re fixing to play. They handle that stuff pretty good.”
But for a team that seems to have a growing national fan base that is beginning to pop up on the road, around their hotels this could be huge. The Texans don’t get a lot of national exposure so for a lot of the fans this will be a first chance this season to see Texans stars like defensive end J.J. Watt, quarterback Matt Schaub, receiver Andre Johnson and Foster.
“It means a lot to us,” Brown said. “It’s great that the nation is starting to recognize what kind of talent we have and giving us more primetime games. We’re taking it as a regular business week, just preparing the same but at the same time, we each know that it means a lot. It’s a big stage. You’ve got to be ready to perform.”