On Tuesday, the Houston Texans players voted and named linebacker Brian Cushing as the team's 2011 MVP. Cushing led the league's second-ranked defense in tackles with 114 including four sacks and two forced fumbles. He also intercepted two passes. The third-year linebacker had the second best stats of his career, but he was still unable to receive enough votes to get into the pro bowl.
On being named the Texans' 2011 MVP, head coach Gary Kubiak said:
"I wasn’t surprised," Texans head coach Gary Kubiak said. "He’s been a leader all year long, and statistically what he’s done has been tremendous. If you throw away the statistics, what he’s done for our defense has been exceptional. There’s no doubt from a player’s standpoint. I think we’ve had a lot of guys that have had some great years, but he’s really stood out in our room all year long."
Cushing was also called a "holy phenom" at one point this season by defensive coordinator Wade Phillips.
Along with the team's MVP award, defensive end J.J. Watt, the team's first-round pick from the 2011 draft, was named Rookie of the Year. He had 56 tackles on the year, including 5.5 sacks, a team-high 7.5 tackles for loss and he recovered two fumbles.
Inside linebacker DeMeco Ryans was given the team's Ed Block Courage Award. He bounced back from a season-ending Achilles injury and played in all 16 games for the Texans in 2011. He finished third on the Texans' second-ranked defense with 64 tackles.
These three players will need to step up on Saturday as they host the Cincinnati Bengals in their first playoff game in franchise history. Both teams struggled down the stretch but the Texans beat the Bengals in Cincinnati in Week 14 by one point.