‘Joe Cool’: QB Joe Burrow Leads Bengals to Super Bowl With OT Upset at Chiefs – State of The Texans – DC Initiative on Racial Equity
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HOUSTON — The Houston Texans are all about “meat-and-potatoes” moves and those are ongoing. Updated by the minute, our Texans Tracker will keep you up to date with everything happening at NRG Stadium. 

JAN 30 BENGALS TO SUPER BOWL Are the Kansas City Chiefs better than the Cincinnati Bengals? Nope.

Is Patrick Mahomes better than Joe Burrow? Nope.

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The AFC title game score of 27-24 in OT, gives it to Burrow leading an improbable comeback from an 18-point deficit – the biggest rebound in championship round history. And his Bengals are going to the Super Bowl for the first time since 1989. 

The Bengals had two Super Bowl runs in the 1980s, advancing to Super Bowl XVI in 1982 and Super Bowl XXIII in 1989.

The AFC Championship has only gone into overtime once since 1970, and this one came down to the second-year kid Burrow being better in the second half that the young vet Mahomes, who’d led his team to four straight AFC title games but pushed the Chiefs to only three second-half points.

The Bengals await the winner of the NFC Championship game between the San Francisco 49ers and Los Angeles Rams.

Super Bowl LVI will be played Sunday, Feb. 13 at Los Angeles’ SoFi Stadium. And Burrow has ever reason to believe he’s the best.

JAN 29 ABSOLUTELY WRONG! A statement coming from none other than Tom Brady Sr., the quarterback’s father, should be solid enough, as on Saturday he scolded the national media for prematurely reporting on the “official” plan of his  44-year-old son to retire.

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Brady Sr. later said, “This is conjecture … Tommy has not made a decision … Anybody that says he has is absolutely wrong.”

“Anybody” is … everybody. Saturday morning was a mad media race to “finish first,” when there is really, as of the moment, no finish at all.

A shame, really, that not even someone with Brady’s level of accomplishments is allowed just a bit of decision-making elbow room here.

Later in the day Saturday, assorted national media outlets slowly acknowledged that they’d jumped the gun, most saying that the retirement is anticipated but that Brady wished to have some control over it rather than have it be leaked.

ESPN, however, spent the day continuing to run its scroll across the bottom of TVs all over the world, proclaiming its scoop, never backing down, stopping only late in the day to announce that it is “standing by our story” as originally tweeted by Adam Schefter.

JAN 22 VRABEL’S TITANS FINAL The Houston Texans’ rival in the AFC South, the Tennessee Titans, entered the playoffs as the No. 1 seed in the conference.

On Saturday, the crew coached by former Houston staffer Mike Vrabel, coming off its well-earned bye, played host to the Cincinnati Bengals.

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Final score: Bengals 19, Titans 16 … at the buzzer.

Derrick Henry’s return to the field wasn’t good enough for Tennessee, and Bengals QB Joe Burrow made a series of key plays despite high pressure from the sack-happy Titans.

A tipped Ryan Tannehill interception with 20 seconds left set up the Bengals to kick the game-winning 52-yard field goal.

JAN 17 WATT IN? The Cardinals have activated J.J. Watt from injured reserve to their 53-man roster … and of course, Arizona plays at the Rams in a Monday night playoff opener tonight. 

Watt, the former Houston superstar, has made a dramatic recovery from injuries this year in Arizona … and his maybe playing being on the horizon? That adds to the drama as well.

JAN 11 LEBLANC HEADED TO Pats: The New England Patriots are signing veteran cornerback Cre’Von LeBlanc to their practice squad as the Texans terminated his practice squad contract, according to league sources.

LeBlanc, 27, is free to join any franchise this offseason, including the Texans, once the postseason is completed.

LeBlanc (5-10, 190) is a former New England undrafted free agent from Florida Atlantic who has also played for the Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions, Philadelphia Eagles and Miami Dolphins. LeBlanc has 118 career tackles, two forced fumbles, two interceptions and two sacks with one defensive touchdown.

The Texans made it official, signing the following players to reserve-future deals: running back Darius Anderson, wide receiver Jalen Camp, wide receiver Damon Hazelton, offensive linemen Jake Eldrenkamp, Samuel Cooper, Jordan Steckler, fullback Paul Quessenberry, linebackers Connor Strachan and Josh Watson, defensive tackle Michael Dwumfour, defensive back T.J. Green, defensive end Demone Harris.

All of those players were on the Texans’ practice squad.

Anderson went undrafted out of TCU after playing in the Senior Bowl.

Cut by the Dallas Cowboys, Anderson was on the Indianapolis Colts’ practice squad and was elevated to the active roster twice. He signed a reserve-future deal with the Colts, but was cut Aug. 17.

At TCU, he rushed for 823 yards and six touchdowns as a senior, 598 yards as a junior and 768 yards and eight touchdowns as a sophomore.

He played high school football in Texas at George Ranch, winning a Class 5A state championship as a senior and rushed for 2,274 yards and 30 touchdowns.

Watson has also played for the Carolina Panthers, Denver Broncos and Los Angeles Chargers. A former New York Jets undrafted free agent from Rutgers, Dwumfour played well since joining the Texans, recording a half-sack and a tackle for a loss.

Camp (6-2, 220) is a former Jacksonville Jaguars sixth-round pick who played at Georgia Tech.

Green (6-3, 215) is a former Indianapolis Colts second-round draft pick from Clemson where he switched from wide receiver to the secondary. Green has also played for the Atlanta Falcons, New Orleans Saints and Carolina Panthers.

Hazelton (6-3, 215) was originally signed by the Texans in May and then released in August when the team signed running back Darius Jackson. Hazelton subsequently signed with the Green Bay Packers in August and then joined the Texans practice squad.

Strachan went undrafted out of Boston College. Harris has previously played for the Kansas City Chiefs, Baltimore Ravens and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The brother of former Texans offensive lineman David Quessenberry, a cancer survivor, Paul Quessenberry served five years in the Marine Corps as a rifle platoon and weapons platoon commander, and was a deputy director of the 1st Marine Division school.

Quessenberry was a physical presence as a lead blocker at fullback during the preseason.

“He’s done a good job being physical,” Texans offensive coordinator Tim Kelly said. “He’s done everything we’ve asked. He’s smart, he works his butt off, and we’re pleased with Paul. He’s done a really good job for us.”

Cooper, undrafted from Merrimack College, was previously with the Baltimore Ravens. He’s worked out for the Texans, Jacksonville Jaguars, New England Patriots and New York Jets.

Eldrenkamp, undrafted out of Washington, also played for the Los Angeles Rams, Cleveland Browns, New England Patriots and Indianapolis Colts.

Steckler is a former undrafted free agent from Northern Illinois.

JAN 8 TITANS RULE OUT HENRY Not yet.

The Tennessee Titans figure to get a boost whenever rushing champ Derrick Henry actually returns to the field; this week, before taking on the Houston Texans on Sunday at noon CT at NRG Stadium, they designated to return him from IR, opening up his 21-day window.

“It doesn’t change anything,” Texans coach David Culley said of whether King Henry plays or not. “Obviously, he’s a different challenge for anybody when you play them, and he is in there. They’ve been having three guys do what one guy had been doing but no, they are going to be the same. It’s no different challenge for us.”

Well, OK. But the Titans are in the playoffs. It seems a smart bet that their opponent might feel differently.

JAN 6 LINEBACKER ACTIVATED The Texans have activated veteran linebacker Kevin Pierre-Louis from the reserve-COVID-19 list. Pierre-Louis has been limited to eight games and one start due to a positive test for the coronavirus in addition to a hamstring injury that forced him to be placed on injured reserve. He has 10 tackles this season.

JAN 6 SEVERAL TEXANS SNAGGING AWARDS, HONORS Kamu Grugier-Hill, Justin Britt, Brandin Cooks and former star Andre Johnson are all receiving accolades as the Texans wind down their season.

Veteran linebacker Grugier-Hill has been named the annual Good Guy award winner in balloting from the Houston chapter of the Pro Football Writers of America.

“Awesome, thank you,” said Grugier-Hill, a former New England Patriots sixth-round draft pick who has recorded a career-high 101 tackles, three sacks, 12 tackles for losses, five quarterback hits, two forced fumble and one interception he returned 82 yards, after being told he had won the award. “That’s always a good rep, appreciate that.”

Johnson, a  finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, has been named the Texans’ Homefield Advantage Captain for their season finale against the Tennessee Titans. This is the Texans’ designated Fan Appreciation Day.

“I’m thrilled that Andre is getting the recognition he deserves,” Texans chairman and CEO Cal McNair said. “From the day we drafted him in 2003 throughout his entire career, Andre was everything we could have asked for in a player and person. Every week it seemed like opposing defenses would focus their game plan around stopping him, but he was always able to produce and deliver for us. Andre was at his best during our biggest moments and electrified our stadium and fan base like very few players ever have. We are excited to continue to celebrate Andre’s career and everything he has accomplished.”

On Sunday, the Texans will present checks for $400,000 in grant funds from the Texans, ConocoPhillips, Coca-Cola Southwest Beverages and Miller Lite as part of the team’s Inspire Change initiative to to aid programs, seed projects and create partnerships that support social justice and racial equity efforts.

Veteran receiver Brandin Cooks has been named the Pro Football Writers of America Houston chapter’s annual Most Valuable Player. The balloting was unanimous for Cooks, who has been instrumental as one of the only dangerous and explosive deep threats on the 4-12 Texans’ offense and one of the most consistent players on the team overall.

“As a team, we didn’t accomplish what we wanted to,” Cooks said. “I’m thankful and happy about that (MVP) and blessed to be able to accomplish that goal.”

The former New Orleans Saints first-round draft pick has eclipsed the 1,000-yard receiving mark for the sixth time in eight NFL seasons, making him the third player in franchise history to record consecutive 1,000-yard receiving seasons and one of eight active NFL players with at least six 1,000-yard receiving seasons.

“He’s great,” Texans offensive coordinator Tim Kelly said. “He does everything that we ask him to do and he’s always willing to come and allow us to move him around and do different things. It’s been good being able to work with Brandin again this year.”

Cooks has also been named a finalist for the annual Art Rooney sportsmanship award. The award recognizes an NFL player who demonstrates qualities of sportsmanship, respect for the game, fair play and integrity in competition.

The other finalists are Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen, Miami Dolphins safety Jason McCourty, New England Patriots special teams ace Matthew Slater, Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Lavonte David, New Orleans Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan, San Francisco 49ers fullback Kyle Juszczyk and Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen.

Veteran center Britt was named the Texans’ annual Ed Block Courage Award winner Thursday morning. The voting is from teammates to recognize extra efforts on and off the field and an ability to overcome adversity.

Signed to a one-year, $5 million contract this offseason, Britt battled through a lingering knee injury and was activated from injured reserve to regain his role as a starter. Britt established himself as a strong leader who provided a gritty, technically sound presence for an overhauled offense.

Britt missed the entire 2020 season to recover from a torn anterior cruciate ligament suffered with the Seattle Seahawks in 2019. 

Meanwhile, the Texans honored three players with IMPACT awards given out by director of team development Dylan Thompson and his team for players’ work in the community. That includes naming tight end Jeff Driskel the Newcomer of the Year, linebacker Garret Wallow named Rookie of the Year and quarterback Tyrod Taylor was named the Community MVP. The Texans’ strength and conditioning staff was given the staff award for their department’s work in the community.

JAN 5 SEVERAL TEXANS, REID (?) RETURNING FOR FINALE: The Texans haven’t ruled out veteran safety Justin Reid for Sunday’s season finale against the Tennessee Titans at NRG Stadium. Reid tested positive Monday and was placed on the reserve-COVID-19 list. He could potentially return, though, under the NFL’s modified coronavirus protocols.

“There’s a chance he could play,” Texans coach David Culley said Wednesday.

There’s also a chance that last Sunday’s loss to the San Francisco 49ers marks Reid’s final game as a Texan.

A former third-round draft pick from Stanford, Reid is in the final year of his contract and not expected to return as a free agent with a strong market expected to await the Louisiana native. Reid has two interceptions and one forced fumble in 11 games this season.

“It’s up in the air if I’ll play the season finale this year,” Reid wrote on his Instagram this week. “Just wanna say THANK YOU to all the incredible fans for an amazing journey this year. It’s been a hell a ride to play for you guys the past 4 years. I love you Houston!”

Several players who tested positive for the coronavirus returned to practice Wednesday and were activated from the COVID-19 reserve list

That includes left offensive tackle Tytus Howard, running back David Johnson, wide receiver Danny Amendola, cornerback Lonnie Johnson Jr., wide receiver Chris Moore, tight end Antony Auclair and defensive end Ron’Dell Carter.

The Texans also activated kicker Dominik Eberle and fullback Paul Quessenberry from the COVID list. Eberle was subsequently released along with practice squad running back Darius Jackson.

Linebacker Kevin Pierre-Louis remains on the COVID-19 reserve list.

JAN 5: KING HENRY BACK? The Titans, who are playoff-bound and playing at the Texans this week, have designated perennial rushing-champ contender Derrick Henry to return, opening his 21-day window and clearing his way to practice today.

JAN 3 OWENS SUFFERS SEASON-ENDING INJURY Texans’ safety Jonathan Owens dislocated his wrist and tore ligaments Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers, according to a league source not authorized to speak publicly. He was placed on injured reserve Monday and will undergo surgery Thursday to repair the damage.

Owens had an interception and a fumble recovery last week during a 41-29 win over the Los Angeles Chargers. In seven games and two starts, he made 18 tackles.

Signed in 2019 by the Texans to their practice squad after being cut by the Cardinals, Owens was signed to a new contract through the 2022 season to the active roster earlier this month.

JAN 2 STARTERS QUESTIONABLE Texans starting defensive end Jon Greenard injured his shoulder Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers and is questionable for return.

Greenard leads the Texans with eight sacks.

He was recently activated from the reserve-COVID-19 list.

One week after intercepting his first NFL pass, Texans safety Jonathan Owens injured his wrist Sunday.

He is questionable to return, according to the Texans.

Owens was replaced by Eric Murray.

Owens also had a fumble recovery last week during a 41-29 win over the Los Angeles Chargers.

Signed in 2019 by the Texans to their practice squad after being cut by the Cardinals, Owens was signed to a new contract through the 2022 season to the active roster earlier this month.

Texans reserve safety Grayland Arnold injured his ankle and is also questionable to return.

The Niners lead Houston 10-7 early in the fourth quarter.

JAN 2 Collins Inactive for Texans; Garoppolo Out for 49ers Houston Texans starting defensive tackle Maliek Collins is inactive Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers.

Texans coach David Culley had indicated that Collins, activated Friday from the COVID-19 reserve list, could still be out due to conditioning issues after testing positive and missing time.

Collins returned to practice last week and should be able to play in the season finale against the Tennessee Titans.

Signed to a one-year, $5 million contract, the former Dallas Cowboys and Las Vegas Raiders starter has recorded a career-high 26 tackles and eight for losses. He also has 1 1/2 sacks and is one of the most disruptive players on the Texans’ defense. Collins has five quarterback hits and one interception.

The Texans ruled out defensive ends Derek Rivers and Chris Smith with the return of Jon Greenard along with cornerbacks Jimmy Moreland (illness) and Cre’Von LeBlanc and quarterback Deshaun Watson (non-injury reasons-personal matter).

Meanwhile, the 49ers officially ruled out starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo due to a torn ligament and a fracture in his right thumb.

The 49ers also ruled out Talanga Hufanga, Azeez Al-Shaair, Dre Greenlaw, Colton McKivitz, Tanner Hudson and Maurice Hurst.

JAN 1 TEXANS ELEVATE SEVEN PLAYERS The Texans elevated seven players from their practice squad to their active roster Saturday in advance of Sunday’s road game against the San Francisco 49ers.

They elevated wide receiver Jalen Camp, offensive lineman Jordan Steckler, cornerback Cre’Von LeBlanc, running back Jaylen Samuels, wide receiver Jordan Veasy, defensive tackle Michael Dwumfour and linebacker Josh Watson. Dwumfour recorded a half-sack during a 41-29 upset win over the Los Angeles Chargers last week. LeBlanc was previously on the COVID-19 practice squad reserve list after testing positive before being activated.

DEC 31 SOURCE: TEXANS CUT DT XAVIER WILLIAMS The Texans are cutting defensive tackle Xavier Williams on Friday with the return of multiple defensive linemen from the reserve-COVID-19 list, according to a league source not authorized to speak publicly.

Williams was signed last week when the Texans had an outbreak of coronavirus cases that sidelined defensive tackles Jaleel Johnson, Maliek Collins, Roy Lopez, defensive ends Jon Greenard, Jordan Jenkins, Derek Rivers and Jacob Martin.

He played 27 snaps in a 41-29 win over the Los Angeles Chargers and ha


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