Texans Hope to use Win as Springboard

Houston travels to Cleveland on Sunday already proud of their progress in 2007 following a victory over the New Orleans Saints...

The Texans realize the victory over the New Orleans Saints was just one win against a sub-.500 team. They aren't throwing a party for themselves.

But couple that victory with the four previous ones, and the Texans are 5-5 for the first time in franchise history. They aren't boasting,but they are proud.

"I never thought that I'd be feeling great about being .500, but it feels tremendous and the thing about it, we gave ourselves a chance," defensive end Anthony Weaver said. "We have six games left and who knows what will happen."

Weaver arrived with the Texans in 2006 after four seasons with the Baltimore Ravens. That franchise won Super Bowl XXXV a mere two years before they drafted Weaver. Returning there was their measuring stick for success.

In Houston, the measuring stick doesn't reach quite so long yet. The Texans have experienced only losing seasons in their five-year existence. Their game-that-got-away remains the season finale of the 2004 season, when the Cleveland Browns arrived at Reliant Stadium with a nine-game losing streak.

If the Texans won, they would be 8-8 for the first time. They self-destructed, however, and lost 22-14.

These Texans are shooting for more than just 8-8 though. Many of them come from some place else these days. They know what it's like to play for a winning team. They know what it's like when more is at stake in December than just their draft position.

"I made the comment at Oakland that one thing I'd like to see happen is see this franchise and this football team play some real big games down the stretch, and see these players and people experience what that's like," coach Gary Kubiak said. "We work really hard. It didn't look good a few weeks ago, but we worked really hard to get to the point we're at. We're excited about moving forward."

It's not going to be easy though. Five of the Texans' final six games are against teams with winning records. They start with the 6-4 Cleveland Browns, who pulled out a dramatic overtime victory against the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday.

The Texans hope to use their two-game winning streak to their advantage.

"This was a big game, a huge game for us, to get back to .500, to get sort of that roll of winning back up under our belts," linebacker DeMeco Ryans said. "So it's a good feeling going into (Cleveland). We're rolling a little bit, just got to keep it up, pick it up, pick up the intensity and just keep getting better."

The Texans have a few things working in their favor heading into the final six-game stretch.

Wide receiver Andre Johnson is essentially back to his pre-injury form, racking up 120 receiving yards in his return Sunday. Quarterback Matt Schaub had arguably his strongest game of the season just one game after being sidelined with a concussion. And a completely revamped secondary held its own against Saints quarterback Drew Brees.

"Well, I think it's tremendous for us," Texans owner Bob McNair said. "We've gone through a tremendous number of injuries, and the team has just kept battling. It would have been very easy to give in to it. Instead, they just keep going, and here we are at a point where we're still in the hunt, and I just couldn't be any prouder of them."

There are only 12 teams in the NFL that boast a better record than the Texans right now. Of course, three of those teams are in their division (Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Tennessee) and two more of them (Cleveland, Tampa Bay) remain on the schedule.

They like the challenge.

"This team can do some things it has never done before, and we've just got to take it one game at a time," tight end Joel Dreessen said.

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