Texans run over Bengals

Houston Texans' Andre Johnson celebrates with fans in the stands after scoring a touchdown against...

Houston Texans' Andre Johnson celebrates with fans in the stands after scoring a touchdown against the Cincinnati Bengals in the third quarter during their NFL AFC wildcard playoff football game in Houston, Texas, January 7, 2012. (REUTERS/Mike Stone)

Mike Zeisberger, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:19 PM ET

HOUSTON - With the antiquated Astrodome looming in the background, the dude lined up to get into Reliant Stadium wearing the retro power blue jersey gave the city of Houston a reminder of it’s football history on Saturday.

A Houston Oilers jersey.

One with the No. 34 stitched on the back.

And the name Campbell on the front.

Earl Campbell.

With apologies to the likes of Bum Phillips, Warren Moon, Dan Pastorini and the legendary Billy (White Shoes) Johnson, the face of pro football in Houston will always be Earl Campbell, whose bruising battering runs at the Astrodome will forever be part of NFL lore.

Unfortunately, for far too long, such memories were all the pigskin-loving citizens here had to latch on to.

The Oilers, after all, bolted for Tennessee in 1996.

And even though the expansion Texans came on the scene six years later, the team had never enjoyed the type of success that could capture the imaginations of the fourth-largest city in the U.S.

Until Saturday, that is.

Now, some 28 years after Campbell played his final game for Houston, there is another running back who has rumbled his way into the collective hearts of this community.

His name is Arian Foster. He’s a kid who admits he’s fantasized all his life of one day playing in an NFL post-season game.

And, on an electric wild card Saturday afternoon at Reliant Stadium, he did exactly that.

In the first post-season game in Texans franchise history, Foster ripped around, through and over a porous Cincinnati Bengals defence for 153 yards and a pair of touchdowns, giving Houston an impressive 31-10 wildcard victory in front of a record Reliant Stadium throng of 71,725.

Of course, even Foster admitted it wasn’t as easy as it looked.

With the likes of Pastorini, Bum Phillips and Houston native Dennis Quaid looking on, Foster almost fumbled on the first play from scrimmage.

Sensing that his star running back still had butterflies churning around deep in his gut, Texans coach Gary Kubiak quickly yanked Foster out of the game in order to help him get his composure.

He found it, all right ... and then some.

“I’m just elated and excited to bring a playoff win to a city that has been thirsting for a playoff victory for a long time,” Foster said, admitting he “had some jitters at first.”

Foster’s rags-to-riches story is one that certainly will be more publicized in the coming days. An undrafted free agent out of the University of Tennessee, he was signed by the Texans in 2009 and went on to rush for more than 1,000 yards in both 2010 and 2011.

Even with those impressive numbers, what Foster was able to accomplish on Saturday afternoon meant more. Much more.

“To do it on this stage, in the playoffs, in front of all these fans, is just so special,” Foster said.

Asked what has motivated him to keep on chugging ahead even after being passed over in his draft year, Foster pointed to his family situation.

“I had daughter during training camp during my rookie year,” he explained. “I didn’t want her wondering one day where her next meal would come from like I did growing up.”

Foster need not worry about that anymore. If he keeps this up, restaurateurs throughout Houston will be lining up offering to provide free dinners for the Foster clan.

Of course, he did have some help from his friends. Rookie quarterback T.J. Yates tossed for 159 yards and a score. Star wideout Andre Johnson made five grabs for 90 yards and a touchdown. And rookie defensive lineman J.J. Watt changed the momentum of the game with a 29-yard interception return for a touchdown in the final minute of the first half that put the Texans up 17-10, a lead they would not relinquish.

Now it’s on to Baltimore for a date with the Ravens on Sunday, Jan. 15. The Ravens defeated the Texans 29-14 in Maryland back on Oct. 16 but Johnson couldn’t care less about that result.

“Right now I think we can play with anyone,” Johnson said.

Especially when Arian Foster is on your side.


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