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Amid Coaching Reunion, A Game to Play

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When the Redskins and Houston Texans meet Sunday at FedExField, expect a reunion of sorts

Texans head coach Gary Kubiak played and coached for Mike Shanahan with the Denver Broncos and before that with the San Francisco 49ers. Offensive coordinator Rick Dennison played and coached for Shanahan. Defensive coordinator Frank Bush coached for Shanahan.

And Kyle Shanahan, the Redskins offensive coordinator, held that same post the last two seasons with the Texans on Kubiak's staff.

"On game day, when you see a bunch of guys that you know, that's probably when it will hit and your emotions turn up a little but once the ball's snapped, it's just football," Kyle Shanahan says.

Maybe this game could be called the Gratitude Bowl.

"About everything I've learned in the National Football League came through Mike," Kubiak says. "He coached me as a player, he brought me to San Francisco as a young coach and got me started as a quarterback coach there, and of course took me to Denver and made me a coordinator when I had no business being one at a very young age. I owe him a great deal of gratitude and respect."

He well remembers watching Kyle play high school football and having Kyle and his sister baby-sit his sons. Kyle Shanahan returns the compliments to Kubiak.

"I've known Gary since he was a player and I was a ballboy. He brought me in as receiver coach, moved me to quarterback coach and then to coordinator and really treated me well when I was there (in Houston)," Kyle Shanahan says.

The good will vanishes at game time. The Texans (1-0) come off a 34-24 drubbing of their long-time tormentors, the Indianapolis Colts. The Redskins (1-0) snapped a three-game hex by beating the Dallas Cowboys 13-7.

The Redskins' rushing defense, which has yet to solidify, gets a stern but surprising test in this game from Arian Foster, who rushed for a club-record 231 yards against the Colts.

A little over a year ago, Foster was simply a body on the practice squad. He signed with the Texans as undrafted free agent despite ranking second all-time in rushing at the University of Tennessee. A sour senior season didn't help him.

"As a little kid," Foster said, "you want to get your name called. That's what you dream about. That didn't happen, so I thought that my career was over."

Hamstring injuries slowed him in training camp but the Texans kept him around, given an uncertain group of backs that included Steve Slaton and Ryan Moats. With Slaton fumbling and then felled by a neck injury, the Texans moved Foster up to the active roster and he finished the 2009 season with 257 rushing yards, 218 in the last two games.

"He had a big week last week so he gets a lot of attention from that standpoint but it's been a gradual climb, so to speak," Kubiak says. "Undrafted player with talent, a lot of knocks coming out of school, had to overcome those knocks, had to figure out how to be a pro, how to work.

"He had to come up the hard way. Was he willing to do it or not? That was the question. He's off to a good start but this game's about consistency and you've got to turn around and do it week in and week out."

He seems to fit the Texans' style of attack.

"He's a legit back. He's really good at seeing the holes, making that cut and getting up the field," linebacker London Fletcher says.

The Texans led the NFL in passing yardage last year, unable to generate much on the ground. Now they sport a more balanced look as they pursue their first-ever playoff berth.

"We have a young team that's kind of been growing up together. We've had enough highs and lows," Kubiak says. "Hopefully we'll figure out the consistency of this thing. I think that's the challenge for every team in this league, not just ours. It's coming back after a big win or regrouping after getting beat."

How much will inside information and knowledge of tendencies factor into the strategy?

"I don't think either team has the advantage," Mike Shanahan said.

Still, his son has had a few things to tell the Redskins defensive players and there may be more to come.

"He was their coordinator the last few years so we've got inside knowledge of their scheme and their personnel," Fletcher says. "We'll definitely ask Kyle some questions."

AROUND THE NFL: Arizona Cardinals safety Adrian Wilson seems to fly under the radar when people discuss the top defensive players in the NFL. Catch his opening day numbers against the St. Louis Rams? Two interceptions, a sack and a blocked field goal. That earned him NFC Defensive Player of the Week honors. Odd stat: 7½ of his 21½ career sacks have come against the Rams. ... Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson's streak of consecutive 100-yard rushing games stands at 12, second longest in history to Hall of Famer Barry Sanders' 14 (1997). Johnson goes for that lucky 13th at home on Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Steelers held the Atlanta Falcons to 58 rushing yards on 25 attempts in defeating them 15-9 in overtime. ... Terrell Owens became the third receiver in NFL history to surpass 15,000 receiving yards when he caught seven passes for 53 yards in Week One. In his first season with the Cincinnati Bengals and his 15th in the NFL, Owens has 15,004 yards. Isaac Bruce, who retired this summer, is second on the all-time list with 15,208. Jerry Rice sits way atop the mountain with 22,895. ... Old friend Jason Campbell got off to a rough start in the Oakland Raiders' opening-day loss to the Tennessee Titans. He was sacked four times in the first half of a 38-13 beating. "We just came out flat and we could never get it going in any kind of way possible," Campbell says. "It was frustrating." He passed for 180 yards, with one interception and a late touchdown. The Raiders play at home Sunday against the Rams.

QUOTABLE: "Yeah, I know him. He's my brother." – New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning, when asked (semi-seriously) if he was familiar with this week's opposing passer. The Giants play the Indianapolis Colts and Peyton Manning, Eli's older sibling, on Sunday night.


Larry Weisman, an award-winning journalist during 25 years with USA TODAY, writes for Redskins.com and appears nightly on Redskins Nation on Comcast SportsNet. Read his Redskinsblitz blog at Redskinsrule.com and follow him on Twitter.com/LarryWeisman.

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