HOUSTON — The Texans’ red-zone woes (3 for 13 over the last four games) have been a boon for kicker Shayne Graham, who has booted 14 field goals in 16 attempts, including four in last week’s victory over the Bengals. Besides establishing a career best, his 138 points during the regular season set the franchise’s season record. This is the eighth club in 12 years for the 35-year-old Graham, including half a season with the Patriots in 2010.
“A lot of people are like, ‘You’ve had a good career. Why so many teams?’ ” he said. “But a lot of it hasn’t been, ‘You’re not good enough to be here anymore.’ “It’s just, ‘You were here while somebody else was injured. You did well but when that injury heals you played two games and you’re out.’ And that’s just the nature of the game. You saw that around the league with a few different kickers this year. You had guys fill in. That’s just how it works. Sometimes you just have to play it as you get it. If that’s the opportunity you get, that’s the opportunity that you get and you don’t look at it as a slight or you’re not good enough.’’ You just move on to the next situation.”
Graham has kept a jersey from every team he’s played for — Bills, Panthers, Bengals, Giants, Patriots, Dolphins, and Ravens. “I almost am running out of space for them in my house,” he reckoned. “Hopefully, I won’t have to deal with that too much longer.”
Graham’s last game for New England was the playoff loss to the Jets, whom the Patriots had grounded, 45-3, during the regular season. “I don’t think anyone was happy after that game, especially knowing the season was over and we had really high expectations,” he recalled. “That’s why the playoffs are a completely new season. Everything that happened during the season doesn’t matter. It’s all what happens now and how we execute now. And being with the Texans, I think we’re preparing to play our best game and not have any thoughts about what happened last game.”
While the Texans insist they’re dismissing chatterers who say they have no chance against a rival that buried them by four touchdowns in their first meeting, they’re privately irked. “Yeah, it bothers us,” said defensive end Antonio Smith. “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.”
Houston coach Gary Kubiak, who spent two decades as a player and coach with the Broncos, has told his players about why form charts mean little in the playoffs. “I’ve been part of a 13-3 team that was a 1-seed and the table looked set and we got beat by an 8-8 team,” he said. “I’ve been on a wild-card team that people didn’t think we had any chance to go on the road [and win] twice and we did that and won a Super Bowl. It’s about how good you are in the moment, so I just try to remind them of that and I think they’ve gotten that message.”
Although the Texans aren’t looking past Sunday, if they win, their next game would be decidedly more favorable than it is with New England. Houston demolished Baltimore, 43-13, in October.
Kubiak on why Patriots defensive tackle Vince Wilfork is such a super-sized handful: “The thing that is so difficult is, he plays everywhere, it’s not like you go the other way with the ball or try to avoid something. You’re going to have to deal with him all day long,” he said . . . Texans defensive end J.J. Watt was one of only two unanimous selections for the Associated Press All-Pro team, joining Vikings running back Adrian Peterson . . . Texans LB Connor Barwin on why Tom Brady performs so well under pressure: “It’s just because he’s better than the other quarterbacks. That’s all. It’s not too complicated.”John Powers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.