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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, January 1, 2006

Texans in favorable position at Bush Bowl

By GREG BEACHAM
Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO Don't shudder at this ugly matchup on the last day of the NFL schedule. At the close of another miserable season, this could turn out to be the biggest day in franchise history for the Houston Texans.

Just imagine: With the Texans hopelessly behind in the final seconds, the few players with long-term futures in Houston lift coach Dom Capers on their shoulders, where he unfurls a red-white-and-blue No. 5 jersey with "BUSH" stitched on it.

Sure, that will only happen in the minds of fans wishing helpful harm on their beleaguered Texans (2-13), who can clinch the top choice in April's draft and the chance to pick USC running back Reggie Bush if he declares for the draft with one more defeat today.

The players and coaches would rather take one last shot at a win against the San Francisco 49ers (3-12), who have been nearly as terrible all season.

"Outside of the stadium here, we might be the only people that want us to win this game, and (the 49ers) might be in the same situation," Houston quarterback David Carr said. "It's a very different feeling when people are telling you, 'Good luck. Go get 'em, but make sure you don't win.' "

Carr says it's important to focus on the game.

"You can't go into (it) and not play to your full potential," he said. "You're going to get hurt, beat up, slapped around out there."

The 49ers have been slapped around several times in coach Mike Nolan's first season, and they couldn't even lose enough to set up a proper Bush Bowl in the first meeting with Houston in franchise history. Instead, San Francisco beat St. Louis last week, essentially ending its chances to re-team Bush with Alex Smith, his high-school quarterback.

Nolan has bigger goals than improving his draft position, which could drop as low as No. 7 with another win. But just to keep 49ers fans interested in losing, there's a tiny mathematical chance they still could drop low enough to get into a coin flip with Houston for the chance to pick Bush.

"I think it happens every time you get to the end of the season and you haven't won many games," Nolan said of his fans' desire for more losses. "(Speculation) starts with the coach's job, and then it does go to the pick. It gives the fans an opportunity to talk about two different things. Certainly until we won (against St. Louis), the discussion was the top pick."