Texans embracing newfound underdog role

Texans embracing newfound underdog role
January 11, 2013, 3:30 pm
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Schaub ready for his second playoff game

It’s almost hard to imagine.

The Texans jumped out to an 11-1 start to their season. It looked like they had the clear track to being the AFC’s top seed with home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

Oh well.

Now, as the team heads to New England for the divisional round, most people aren’t giving them a chance (the spread has hovered around 9 1/2). They went from the top seed to underdogs.

And they’re OK with it.

“Yeah, I love being the underdog. It’s my claim to fame,” Antonio Smith said. “I don’t know. I’ve just been an underdog all my life. I grew to love it, feels good.”

Does it bother Smith that seemingly no one is giving his team a chance to beat the Patriots in Foxboro?

“That’s the secret weapon of the underdog,” Smith said. “Yeah, it bothers us and you just sit there and you take it and you let it harbor and you let it fester and grow into what you need it to grow into.”

Smith knows what it’s like to be an underdog. He was in a similar situation with the Cardinals in 2008. No one gave that team a chance to make it to the playoffs. But the Cardinals beat the Falcons, Panthers and Eagles on their way to the Super Bowl after finishing the regular season with a 9-7 record.

Smith even remembers Deion Sanders saying he would sell his Super Bowl tickets if the Cardinals made it to the big game. He didn’t, Smith said.

The self-proclaimed grandfather of the team, Smith, said he hasn’t talked about that Cardinals team with these Texans too much. He said he played that card too much over the past few years.

But the Texans don’t need Smith to talk to them about that underdog scenario. They know the role all too well.

Sure, J.J. Watt is the likely candidate for Defensive Player of the Year and sure, he was as first-round pick a couple years ago out of Wisconsin. But it wasn’t always that way. He went to Central Michigan and even stepped away from football for a while before getting back on track and enrolling at Wisconsin.

“Love it. I love doing things people tell me I can’t,” Watt said. “That’s a great feeling. Right now, there are a whole lot of people telling us what we can’t do. I see a lot of guys in this locker room working hard to prove what we can do.

“Even if it’s just us 53 in there believing in it, that’s all it takes. We’re going to go up there. We’re going to have a heck of a week of practice here and we’re going to go up there and we’re going to put our best foot forward and we’re going to play one hell of a football game.”

It might seem implausible now but Watt is an underdog of sorts. So is Arian Foster.

Foster might be one of the best running backs in football now but he was undrafted out of college. The Texans took a chance on him and eventually it paid off as the All Pro has rushed for at least 1,200 yards and 10 touchdowns in each of his last three seasons. Foster said that being undrafted motivated him at one point, but that point’s long gone.

“I don’t care about that,” Foster said when asked about Sunday’s game. “I don’t know what an underdog means. We’re not supposed to score more points than (them)? I don’t (know). It’s all stories man.”

Underdog or not, the Texans have a big challenge on Sunday. And they say they’re ready for it.

“We want to do that for a long, long time and if we’re going to do that we’re going to have to go in and compete against people like this and play well,” head coach Gary Kubiak said. “That’s a big, big challenge, but we’re looking forward to it.”