Johnson standing tall for the Texans

Normally doggedly reserved and deadly serious, Houston Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson couldn't help but break out in laughter at the sheer absurdity of the suggestion.

"So, Andre, do you own a sombrero?"

The reference was to Cincinnati wideout Chad Ochocinco, who donned the Mexican headwear and a poncho after scoring a touchdown Dec. 7 vs. Detroit. Ochocinco's latest antic resulted in a $30,000 fine by the NFL.

Unlike Ochocinco, Terrell Owens, Randy Moss and several others, Johnson doesn't qualify for the league's stable of diva receivers. He goes about his business with as little fanfare as possible.

"That's just me," Johnson said. "I really don't care about all the attention and things like that. I think the biggest thing is just having the respect among your peers, the guys you play against in the NFL. Me being talked about on TV every day or being on the cover of a magazine, that really doesn't matter to me."

What does matter to Johnson, who is rolling toward his second consecutive season as the league's leading receiver, is the playoffs. At 6-7, the Texans still have a shot — a very long shot, though. They'd have to win their final three games, starting Sunday vs. the Rams at the Edward Jones Dome, and get considerable help from others along the way.

"It gets frustrating," acknowledged Johnson, a seven-year veteran from Miami. "I want to be a part of helping the Texans get to their first playoff berth and hopefully win their first Super Bowl. That's something that drives me."

Johnson, 28, has been doing his part since the Texans made him the third overall pick in the 2003 draft.

He's already topped 1,000 receiving yards for the fourth time; at 1,237, he's just off the pace of his career best, 1,575, established last year. He has 81 catches; he's reached triple figures twice previously.

A fourth Pro Bowl invitation should be arriving just before New Year's for Johnson, a big-game specialist. Consider that:

Hall of Famer Jerry Rice has more 10-catch, 100-yard games (15) than any receiver since the NFL merged with the American Football League in 1970. He did it in 303 games. Marvin Harrison has 14 such outings in 190 games. Johnson and Tim Brown are tied at 13. It took Brown 255 games.

On Sunday, Johnson will be playing in just his 100th contest.

"Andre's been fighting the good fight here in Houston ever since he was drafted," Texans coach Gary Kubiak said. "He's been the one constant here on this team, and he's as hard a worker as we have. Great young man, very quiet, doesn't say much, just works very hard at his trade.

"You're going to get his best, week in and week out."

Only three teams have logged more passing yards than Houston. That doesn't portend well for the injury-plagued, flu-ridden Rams, who sport the league's sixth-worst defense.

The 6-foot-3, 225-pound Johnson is "a rare combination of size and speed," Rams defensive coordinator Ken Flajole said. "He plays very physical, very much like Larry Fitzgerald at Arizona. ... (The Texans) have a lot of confidence in him, and they find different ways in their offense to get him the football. ...

"You have to game-plan for a guy like that. He's special."

Johnson and quarterback Matt Schaub, who came to Houston in a trade from Atlanta in May 2007, have developed into one of the NFL's most prolific combos. Schaub already has established a career high with 3,814 passing yards, and his 68.5 completion percentage trails only Indianapolis' Peyton Manning (68.6).

"When Matt first got here, he called me and told me how excited he was to be a part of the Texans. He was ready to get to work," Johnson said. "He's definitely a good leader, and he's a tough guy. ... I really like Matt."

You can be sure that the feeling is mutual.

Click here to order Andre Johnson’s proCane Rookie Card.

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