Beyond the Boxscore

With Texans-Packers tickets going for $1,300, J.J. Watt & Duane Brown are driven to put on a Sunday night party

With Texans-Packers tickets going for $1,300, J.J. Watt & Duane Brown are driven to put on a Sunday night party

Justin Forsett, Owen Daniels, Houston Texans, Jets game, October 2012
With excitement high in Houston, the Texans feel a responsibility to deliver on Sunday Night Football. Houston Texans/Facebook
Duane Brown Texans hands up
Duane Brown is reminded of how much the Sunday nighter means to Texans fans every time he goes out. Photo by © Michelle Watson/CultureMapSNAP.com
Al Michaels
Al Michaels is in the house.
Justin Forsett, Owen Daniels, Houston Texans, Jets game, October 2012
Duane Brown Texans hands up
Al Michaels

Duane Brown hears it every time he leaves his house. Whenever anyone recognizes him — and let's face it, it's hard for a 6-foot-4, 320-pound man to go unnoticed — he'll get a compliment and a pointed request.

Usually in that order.

"It doesn't matter if I'm out getting something to eat at a restaurant or just grocery shopping," Brown says. "Someone will come up to me and say we're doing a great job. Then, they'll ask me to go beat the Packers on Sunday night."

 Winning is still new enough and the bond with the fans more than strong enough that the Texans feel a commitment to throw one heck of a prime-time party. 

The big man laughs. Yes, Brown is very aware of what this Sunday Night Football showcase at Reliant Stadium against the storied Green Bay Packers means to the city of Houston.

It's no great stretch to call this the biggest regular season home game in Houston Texans history (that 2009 season finale against the New England Patriots with the Texans not in control of their playoff destiny doesn't stand up to this one, though that 19-10 Reliant stunner over the Dallas Cowboys in the franchise's first game ever in 2002 certainly does). Single tickets to Packers-Texans are listed for as high as $1,350 on StubHub and even the nose bleed, can't-see-much-but-the-scoreboards 600 level seats were running at least $182 early Sunday morning on the locally-based The Ticket Experience.

Brown and his teammates don't know the exact figures, but the left tackle swears they feel the responsibility.

"Houston's waited a long time for a team like this," he says. "They've always been ready to go crazy for us, but it took us a while to get it all together.

"We don't want to let them down now. This isn't just for us, it's for them."

This is why this notion that the 5-0 Texans are due for a letdown, that the 2-3 Packers are more desperate and therefore more motivated in this Sunday nighter, is sort of laughable. Maybe in another city, with another franchise and a different set of players that "logic" applies. But not here.

Winning is still new enough and the bond with the fans more than strong enough that the Texans feel a commitment to throw one heck of a prime-time party. Al Michaels being in the building (and he's been there since Friday) still means something. J.J. Watt might be the quarter pole favorite for NFL Defensive Player of the Year, but this is a guy who still gets excited about being featured on the cover of a game program.

Watt spent part of his Friday obsessing over his picture on that cover and specifically his elbow brace's prominent place in it. He could have been a high schooler looking over his senior yearbook.

Jaded, these Texans aren't.

The Commitment

When most professional athletes start talking about playing for the fans, a round of eye rolls is the appropriate response. But there seems to be something different about these Texans. Brown, Watt, Arian Foster, Connor Barwin and Co. seem to have a legitimate sense of just what their team means to the city.

"I haven't really noticed anything different in Houston because I don't really go out," fourth-year cornerback Brice McCain says. "But guys let you know what they're coming across.

 "Houston fans have been dying for a winner," Brown says. "But we all have too. We feel them." 

"We know how much this game means to our fans."

It's easy for sportswriters who travel with the team to forget, but many of these Texans' major moments have come on the road: The two biggest wins this season (building that 20-point lead in Denver, holding off the Jets on Monday Night Football), the playoff-berth clinching victory in Cincinnati last season. In many ways, this Sunday night at Reliant is the chance to drive the thrills home.

The fans will be beyond pumped, giving America a look at what's turned into one of the loudest stadiums in all of sports over the last 18 months. But the Texans will be beyond pumped too.

Green Bay's going to get Houston's best shot. McCain talks about being excited to go against Rodgers' "rocket arm." Running back Ben Tate talks about being too excited to imagine missing another game. Ticket brokers are delirious that the game of their dreams is still drawing big money even with the Packers below .500. Everyone's excited about something.

But in the end, it may come down to a simple truth.

"Houston fans have been dying for a winner," Brown says. "But we all have too. We feel them."

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