Despite a dozen delirious teammates celebrating around him after the Texans' 20--10 win over the Titans in Nashville on Sunday, wideout Andre Johnson seemed like a man who had just been roused from a long nap. Betraying none of the elation expected after a victory that most in the organization called "the biggest in franchise history," Johnson calmly deflected praise after his team had evened its record at 3--3. "We don't surprise ourselves anymore," he said. "We just grow up [a little more] every week."
More than that, Houston's young receivers have come of age, as was clearly evident in their performance against Tennessee's outmatched secondary. Quarterback David Carr was particularly impressed during the Texans' final touchdown drive. It was jump-started by Jabar Gaffney's 22-yard catch (he had a team-high five, for 85 yards and a score) and kept alive by a pair of 13-yard receptions by Johnson (four catches, 66 yards). "We've battled through a lot, but I know what they can do in the clutch," said Carr, who finished 16 of 26 for 266 yards and one touchdown. "Especially Andre: Give him a shot, and he'll do the rest."
The third pick in the 2003 draft out of Miami, the 6'3", 219-pound Johnson had a quietly productive rookie season, overcoming shaky route-running to catch 66 passes for 976 yards and four touchdowns. He honed his technique in off-season workouts in Florida and with Carr, and in six games he has already caught 33 passes for 591 yards and four scores. Johnson's size and soft hands are reminiscent of another former Hurricane, Michael Irvin, who called Texans' p.r. man Tony Wyllie last week and asked him to relay the following message to Johnson: "Tell him I want to marry him because I love his game so much." --Josh Elliott