Originally posted on Fox Sports Houston  |  Last updated 1/7/12
HOUSTON At 3:36 p.m. at Reliant Stadium on Saturday, Arian Foster was handed the ball in his first playoff game. He was living his dream. "It's a beautiful feeling," Foster said. "It's hard to describe. You feel like you were meant for it." And then he fumbled. The ball popped out of Foster's hands on the first play from scrimmage. It popped forward, though, right back into his path, going down as a simple five-yard gain. Nightmare averted. On the next play, he jumped offside. On the next series, he ran into a teammate and fell down for a two-yard loss and was replaced by Ben Tate. He was jittery, he said. Well, not jittery, he corrected. That wasn't quite the right word. Excitement was part of it, but everybody understands excitement. This was different. Foster, standing in front of reporters after his Texans beat the Cincinnati Bengals 31-10 in the AFC wild-card playoffs, realized this was going to be difficult to explain to anybody who hadn't been where he was. He said he had to control his breathing. Then he found it. "A lot of us are on our seconds careers," he said. "I'm fortunate enough to be on my first dream. I'm very fortunate. I never take that for granted. These moments I've been waiting on since I was a child." Foster wasn't the only one dealing with all this overcoming nervousness to help his team win on Saturday. Andre Johnson, the Texans' star receiver, had played eight NFL seasons without making the playoffs. "I was kind of antsy out there today," Johnson said, "and that's not me." Johnson didn't catch two passes he thought he should have, including one in the end zone. He said people on the Texans sideline kept telling him to be patient. But that wasn't easy. "You just want to make something happen so bad," he said. Eventually, both Foster and Johnson did make things happen. Foster ran for 153 yards and two touchdowns on 24 attempts, while Johnson caught five passes for 90 yards, including a 40-yard touchdown catch on which he beat Bengals cornerback Adam Jones with a double move. There was so much newness to it all. It was the first playoff game in franchise history, and all but seven Texans were making their playoff debuts, including Foster, Johnson and quarterback T.J. Yates, who completed 11 of 20 passes with a touchdown and no interceptions. He admitted to being jittery himself, even though nobody could see it. "The kid does a great job of hiding everything," Johnson said. "If he's nervous, he doesn't show it." He was nervous. "It took me a while to get those jitters out," Yates said. That could have been said for the entire city, which hadn't seen an NFL playoff game since 1994. It had been a yearning city and in many times a cynical one, the kind of city that would have somehow simultaneously felt (a) incredulous and (b) proven right if Foster had lost that fumble. But he did not lose the fumble, and Johnson and Yates got over their nerves, too. The Texans' defense was really the star against the Bengals, which will be the case whenever a defensive lineman returns an interception for a touchdown. Nobody on defense ever looked nervous. But defense is different. It doesn't show over there. After it was over, Foster took his time describing how he felt, and what it made him think. It made him think about his childhood, and meals he missed as a kid. It made him think about his daughter. It made him think about how he wasn't drafted, how people told him that first dream of his just wasn't going to happen. "Sometimes in life, things knock you off your course," he said. "You have to stay on your course."
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