Excellent WRs on display when Texans face Arizona

Oct 10, 2009 - 4:01 AM By BOB BAUM AP Sports Writer

GLENDALE, Ariz.(AP) -- When Larry Fitzgerald was making one great play after another in last year's playoffs, good friend and mentor Cris Carter reminded him he wasn't the best wide receiver in the NFL.

That honor, Carter said then, goes to Andre Johnson.

Johnson and Fitzgerald will make a rare appearance on the same field Sunday when Johnson leads the Houston Texans into Arizona, where the rested Cardinals look to avoid going 0-3 at home. Arizona was 8-2, counting the playoffs, at home last season.

"This is a more important game for us because we want to win at home," Arizona coach Ken Whisenhunt said. "We feel an obligation to our fans because of the way they've supported us and re-establish our home-field advantage."

Together, Fitzgerald (1,431) and Johnson (1,575) topped 3,000 yards receiving last season. Both are 6-foot-3 and often tower over smaller cornerbacks.

"The bottom line is they are great players, and great players usually feed off each other and challenge each other," Houston coach Gary Kubiak said. "They are paying attention to each other week in and week out."

Both are driven to be the best.

"Football is something I have done, something I have loved all my life," Johnson said. "I like to see other wide receivers go out and play well. I think it makes it more challenging to you when you go out there on Sundays. If I see Larry or Randy (Moss) or Chad (Ochocinco) go out and have big days, I want to have a big day, too."

Johnson said Fitzgerald is as good as there is in the league at leaping and being at his highest point when the ball arrives. But asked who the best receiver in the NFL is, Johnson thought for a moment, then said Randy Moss.

Fitzgerald calls Johnson "one of the great guys in the business and someone you can expect big things from every week."

Both teams have plenty of other talent at receiver, though. Houston has another go-to receiver in Kevin Walter. Arizona had two other 1,000-yard wideouts in three-time Pro Bowler Anquan Boldin and Steve Breaston.

"There'll be some plays made by some receivers in this game," Whisenhunt said. "I just want our receivers to make more plays than their receivers."

With the Cardinals (1-2) off last Sunday, Boldin had a chance to rest his sore hamstring. The time off, he said, "helped me a lot."

A healthy Boldin will be handy if the Texans (2-2) defend the Cardinals the way other teams have this season, double-teaming Fitzgerald and taking away deep threats.

"Making us dink and dunk down the field," Boldin said.

The Texans and Cardinals, meeting for only the second time, have shown many similarities through the early part of the season. Both have been inconsistent, both have self-destructed at crucial times. Both are good at stopping the run and not so good against the pass, and both have a horrible time running the ball.

Houston ranks 30th (105 yards in four games) and Arizona 31st (57 yards in three games) out of 32 teams.

"We can't run away from the run," Texans running back Steve Slaton insisted. "We've got to stick with it all four quarters."

Arizona quarterback Kurt Warner said developing a running game will open things up for what's been an up-and-down passing game.

"I think they go hand in hand," Warner said. "We really have to start doing everything well, especially with the state we are in right now, to get that confidence back and start feeling better about ourselves."

Whisenhunt believes his team has played "a little bit tight" in response to the high expectations that followed last season's unexpected run to the Super Bowl.

"Our focus this week is to get back to playing with confidence, not so much wrapped up in every play that you have to make," he said. "When things haven't gone well, we didn't respond to it very well this year. That's something we're going to have to correct."

While Arizona rested last weekend, the Texans beat Oakland 29-6 despite a flu outbreak that hit several players.

The illness lingered into this week. Standout rookie linebacker Brian Cushing stayed home from practice with flu-like symptoms on Wednesday, but he was a full participant in workouts on Thursday. Defensive end Mario Williams, however, did not practice Wednesday or Thursday because of a bruised shoulder.

The Cardinals were as healthy as they've been all season going into the game.

An exception would be starting cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who fractured his right index finger in the team's 31-10 loss to Indianapolis. He was limited in practice with a brace on the finger.

It will be a homecoming for Houston defensive end Antonio Smith. The Cardinals lost their popular teammate when he signed with the Texans as a free agent after last season. He is motivated, to say the least.

"It's going to be a fun game, an exciting game, finally getting to go back and see my boys, see some of my friends, play against them and show them that what happened in practice wasn't a fluke," Smith said. "I'm coming to get em."

No one has shouted yet.
Be the first!