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A team starved for playoff success pulls off a season-opening upset at home to break a drought of frustration against a division rival.
The Texans, who have never made the playoffs, finally dispatched the Indianapolis Colts. The Redskins, who have one playoff victory in the past decade, broke a skid against the Dallas Cowboys.
Now one of these teams is looking at 2-0 after their meeting on Sunday. And while that won't guarantee anything for January, it sure beats the alternative.
"Both teams are coming off a great win," said Redskins backup quarterback Rex Grossman, who went from Houston to Washington in the offseason, "so it's going to be another big battle. To start 2-0 is going to be a big deal for either team. And I feel like being at home gives us an advantage."
Only if the Redskins discover some offense. The defense accounted for the only touchdown in the 13-7 win over the Cowboys, and the 250 total yards generated by Donovan McNabb and the rest of the offense was barely more than Texans running back Arian Foster gained all by himself against the Colts. It was the first game under the new regime of coach Mike Shanahan, and it took a Dallas holding penalty on the last play of the game to sew up the first half of a potential sweep of the NFL's Texas teams.
"I would like to score some more points, first of all," said Redskins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, who also went from Houston to Washington in the offseason. "But our main goal is to score more then the other team, and we have done that so far. I really just want to see us be sharper."
The Texans were sharp out of the gate in their 34-24 win over the Colts, propelling undrafted second-year player Foster to national fame in an instant. Matt Schaub only had to throw 17 passes because Foster was on his way to the second-best performance ever in a season-opening game: 231 yards rushing, plus the award for AFC offensive player of the week.
Foster's emergence throws a bit of a wrinkle in the planning as two friendly coaching staffs plot their chess moves. There are 14 direct coaching connections between the teams. The Texans have the same offense that Kyle Shanahan ran while on the Houston staff for four years, and he's brought that same offense to Washington.
There will be 10 coaches on the sideline Sunday who were part of Mike Shanahan's Denver Broncos staff in 2002. Nearly all of them would have predicted Schaub or receiver Andre Johnson to be the Week 1 star. Not Foster.
"One thing about him, he doesn't play around," Washington linebacker Brian Orakpo said. "He's a guy that sees that hole, and he exploits it, and he hits it right now. He doesn't dance. He just hits it. ... We want them to pass the ball."
That's an interesting wish, given that Schaub threw for 4,770 yards and 29 touchdowns last year.
The Texans-Redskins series offers a snapshot of how the Houston franchise has grown. Washington, as expected, won easily 26-10 in Houston's expansion season of 2002. In 2006, Mark Brunell set an NFL single-game record by completing his first 22 passes in a 31-15 win over a Texans team still seeking its first winning season.
Now Houston has that grown-up feel, a team that can't be overlooked anymore.
That said, the Texans themselves don't mind wearing that chip on the shoulder just a little bit longer.
"When you're trying to accomplish something like we are, I think a lot of people still feel that we're not a proven team," Johnson said. "It's a challenge for us, we know that. We know how people feel about us. That's something that we don't let bother us. We know that in order for us to get where we want to be, we have to go out and win."
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