IRVING, Texas -- Like it or not, the Houston Texans are still looking for validation that only comes with playoff success. They opened Reliant Stadium with great fanfare and a win over the Dallas Cowboys in 2002. But No. 1 overall pick David Carr was ultimately a bust and the organization traded for a Falcons quarterback who had languished behind Michael Vick.
Houston has always had an inferiority complex to Dallas based on its lack of non-chain restaurants and the 610 loop to nowhere. There's reportedly something called the Governor's Cup that is on the line each time the Texans and Cowboys play in the preseason, but no one's seen it in years.
On Wednesday, I asked Cowboys rookie Dez Bryant if he was familiar with the Governor's Cup. The Lufkin, Texas, native responded with a blank stare and then resumed telling me why Oklahoma State was going to beat Texas in Austin this season. I then asked Martellus Bennett, a Houston native, what he thought about this storied rivalry that features a game every four years.
"I'm a Houstonian, but I didn't grow up rooting for certain teams," Bennett said. "But I've always been a fan of [Texans receiver] Andre Johnson, so maybe that counts for something."
On a dry erase board outside the locker room, Bennett has requested 20 tickets to the sold-out game for friends and family. He said he had to represent "S.W.A.T.," which stands for Southwest Alief Texas, Bennett's old stomping grounds. He plans to invite 16 of his teammates to his mother's house for red beans and rice Saturday night, but Miles Austin will be left off the list.
"I won't let Miles go because my little sister likes him," Bennett told me. "She wanted to know if he broke up with Kim Kardashian the other night, so I put her on the phone with him."
Cowboys fans don't really distinguish the Texans from any other AFC team. This is the most important game of the season based on the fact an 0-3 record would be nearly impossible to overcome and likely cause Wade Phillips to tell more random stories about Hank Stram and Jack Buck during news conferences.
At 2-0, the Texans can afford to lose this game and still be in the thick of the AFC South race. But that's not something linebacker DeMeco Ryans wants to hear right now. He apparently became sick of all the questions about the Cowboys and wanted local reporters to focus on his team. I wish I had the audio to go along with this quote because it might have some Herm Edwards "we play to win the game" quality.
Asked if there was any extra energy on the sideline when the Texans are playing the Cowboys, Ryans said: "Nope. I'm not getting all pumped up just because it's the Cowboys and this and that. It's about the Texans; it's not about the Cowboys. A lot of people try to make a big deal about the Cowboys coming in here and this and that. Well, what about us? What about our team? What about the Texans? I'm not worried about the Cowboys."
The Cowboys will face one of the most "enhanced" organizations in the league Sunday afternoon. Left tackle Duane Brown trotted out the tried and true "didn't read the label" excuse for his violation of the league's policy on performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) and linebacker Brian Cushing apparently worked out so hard that it caused a female fertility drug to show up in his bloodstream. As far as we know, he's not showing yet. This is one of the reasons I avoid weightlifting in general. I've always suspected that the military press could open the door for HCG.
Hopefully Texans fans will realize I'm just needling them a bit. Have a pleasant afternoon.
Matt Mosley covers the NFC East for ESPN.com and the Dallas-Fort Worth sports scene for ESPNDallas.com.