Oct 15, 2012, 4:29 PM EDT
Packers Deal Texans First Loss, 42-24
By Michele Tafoya
The game was dripping with story lines:
How could the Packers, who went 15-1 last season, have started this season 2-3?
Were the 5-0 (now 5-1) Texans for real?
Could the Packers be productive on offense without star WR Greg Jennings and RB Cedric Benson?
What would the Texans defense look like without Brian Cushing?
Would a Packers’ win quiet the critics?
Many of those questions were answered during the Packers’ Sunday Night thrashing of the Texans at Reliant Stadium.
The Packers are now 3-3, the same record they began with in 2010 before winning Super Bowl XLV.
The Texans didn’t look as dominant as their record indicated.
The Packers got increased production out of WRs Jordy Nelson (3 TDs), James Jones (2 TDs) and Randall Cobb (7 receptions for 102 yards).
The Texans defense didn’t live up to the hype, making some wonder how much they already miss Cushing.
And when I asked Aaron Rodgers what the win told the critics his response was, “Shhhhhh.”
Overshadowed in the lopsided Packers’ victory was a major milestone for one of the games best receivers.
ANDRE JOHNSON HITS 10,000 RECEIVING YARDS
Before Sunday night’s game, I spoke with Texans WR Andre Johnson about being just 61 yards away from 10,000 career receiving yards.
Johnson recalled that when he was drafted ten years ago he didn’t think about records or how his next ten years might go. His only thought then was, “I’m in the NFL. I’m living my childhood dream.”
But now, after so many productive years, he told me, “Man, I’m entering a place where not many people have been able to do that. It’s special. It shows all the hard work and dedication has paid off.”
With his 75 receiving yards Sunday Night, Johnson crossed the 10,000 career receiving yards milestone. He now has 10,014 covering 128 games.
Only five other players have reached that plateau in fewer games:
Torry Holt 116 games
Lance Alworth 120 games
Jerry Rice 121 games
Marvin Harrison 122 games
Randy Moss 124 games
Over his 128 games Johnson has averaged 5.7 catches per game for 78.2 yards per game to rank second all-time in each category in NFL history among players who were in at least 75 games.
The NFL’s all-time top three in both categories are:
Catches per game:
Marvin Harrison 5.80
Andre Johnson 5.71
Anquon Boldin 5.57
Receiving yards per game
Calvin Johnson 79.4
Andre Johnson 78.2
Torry Holt 77.4
Given Johnson’s injury history, the Texans have decided to cut back on his plays this season in an effort to keep their star receiver healthy for what looks to be a long and promising season.
Houston head coach Gary Kubiak told us the ideal number of plays-per-game for his ten-year vet was in the neighborhood of 45.
I asked Johnson how the decreased role is sitting with him, and he told me it’s frustrating at times. “I’m not used to it,” he said.
That doesn’t mean Johnson doesn’t understand the reasoning behind the cut back. “You have to do what’s best for the team. I’ve always been a team guy. And that’s the way I look at it. I’m doing what’s best for my team.”
“When my number’s called,” the 31-year-old continued, “I’m going to do my best to make a play on the ball.”
On Sunday night against the Packers the former Miami Hurricane had his second-most productive game of the season — 8 catches for 75 yards.
His most productive game so far this season was the opener against the Dolphins. Johnson had 8 receptions for 119 yards and a TD in the 30-10 victory.
Johnson told before the game me he thinks his production will pick up over time. “Hey, we’re 5-0,” he said. “That’s all that matters.”
Now at 5-1, the Texans still are in position to want their longest-tenured player healthy for a potential playoff run.
LOYALTY PAYS OFF
Ten years can seem like a long time, but Johnson told me his decade with the Texans has flown by.
Things have not always been fun or easy, however. The Texans weren’t winning much in the first six or seven seasons of the franchise’s young history.
Johnson told me during the early days of his career in Houston there were days “it was hard to come to work.”
But when the Texans picked him third overall in 2003, Johnson made a commitment.
“When I was drafted I said I wanted to be part of something special. I wanted to help this organization get to be what I wanted it to be,” he told me. “Right now, we’re in the position of getting that accomplished.
Johnson has seen this coming for a few seasons. After winning their first playoff game last January, Johnson said the Texans couldn’t wait to come back this season. “We found out a lot about our team last season,” he told me.
Heading into Sunday night’s game Johnson seemed gratified that he had stuck with the Texans.
The 5-0 start “Feels awesome,” he said. “If you just be patient it will all work out. I stuck with it. It’s paying off.”
After their disappointing loss Sunday night, the Texans will need to correct some problems if they want their hard work to pay off when it counts.
But Kubiak and company will be able to count on the loyalty of Johnson.
“This is a great place,” he told me. “This place has been great to me.”
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- Pro Bowl
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