Texans ready for a rematch in Foxboro
Owen Daniels stood on the sideline with his arms extended.
It was the third quarter, his team still clinging to a tight lead – one they eventually held in a 19-13 win over the Bengals in an AFC wild card game on Saturday.
With the Texans' on the field, Daniels stood still, with a trainer in front of him, apparently telling the once-Pro Bowl tight end to do those arm circles we all loved so much in elementary school. So Daniels did. Then he stopped.
After a short conversation with the trainer about his stinger, Daniels grabbed his helmet, went back into the game and helped his team advance to New England.
Nothing was keeping him out of this one.
“It was one of those games where we were going to be running it, trying to stay balanced," Daniels said. “Like you said, we were grinding it out there.”
Daniels finished with nine catches (a franchise playoff record) for 91 yards, while Garrett Graham and James Casey combined for four catches and 49 yards.
“I’m so happy for him and the way he played, I think he had nine catches,” said Casey, who’s one 20-yard catch came at a huge moment in the fourth quarter. “That’s what, as a tight end group, we’re always meeting together to see Owen and Garrett play so well and for Garrett to make that big catch at the end, I’m so happy and proud for those guys. As a group, we pride ourselves on being game changers and helping the team win. Today the tight end group played pretty well, I thought.”
The Texans talked openly about the need for another player to help lessen the burden on wideout Andre Johnson, who is coming off one of the best seasons of his career. On Saturday, Daniels shouldered that load.
The 30-year-old tight end began this season on a career pace. He had at least 50 yards receiving in six of his first nine games but didn’t do it in any of his six remaining games. Daniels also missed one game and spent many playing through injuries this season.
In each of the Texans’ two playoff games last season, Daniels had just two catches and didn’t get over 30 yards receiving in either.
Before Saturday, Daniels hadn’t had a 90-yard receiving day since last Dec. 11, against Cincinnati in the regular season. He’s only had nine catches twice in his career, the last time being his 11-catch game at Minnesota in 2008.
“We were just taking what they were giving us,” Matt Schaub said. “Owen has been a big player for us all year. They were trying to take Dre out obviously with some of their coverages but we like our matchups with other guys and the ball just happened to Owen’s way a lot. He made some huge plays for us.”
Daniels’ nine catches set a new franchise playoff record, surpassing Andre Johnson’s eight from last season.
While Daniels had a great game, it was Garrett Graham’s catch late in the fourth quarter that sealed the game. On 3rd-and-2 with the Texans trying to get a first down to extend the drive and run out the clock, Schaub lofted a pass to Graham in the middle of the field. Graham made the catch, was hit hard, but held on.
“It was huge,” Kubiak said of the tight ends’ involvement. “And Owen has been a little beat up and he battled through today and made some big plays for us. And nobody makes one bigger than Garrett there at the end.”