By Simon Evans

MIAMI (Reuters) - There has been little joy in the Houston Texans' short history but if their surprise win over the Indianapolis Colts is any indicator, they just might be on the path to their first appearance in the postseason.

Last season's 9-7 record was the Texans' first winning season since entering the league in 2002 and becoming part of the new AFC South.

After a 34-24 opening-day triumph over the AFC champion Colts there is cause for optimism.

"We made a statement to ourselves. Now people know on this team that we can get it done. We can be winners and we can be champions. You've got to expect to be a winner," said defensive end Antonio Smith.

Being in the same division as the Colts and the league's top quarterback, Peyton Manning, has not helped Houston's chances of reaching the playoffs but that is no excuse for finishing last in the division on five occasions.

On Sunday at Reliant Stadium, the Texans, who had been 1-15 in their previous meetings with the Colts, produced a brand of old-fashioned running football that was impressive.

Running back Arian Foster, who spent most of 2009 on the practice team, carried 33 times for 231 yards and three touchdowns in what was the highlight individual performance of the league's opening weekend.

Foster's approach has not always been appreciated - he went undrafted after playing for the University of Tennessee but the Texans took a chance on him last year, offering him a two-year deal.

He was cut at the end of the 2009 training camp but worked his way back through the practice team despite some reported attitude problems.

"I always like to walk to the beat of a different drum," Foster said after the win. "That's always been my style. I'm sort of a rebel.

"It kind of hurt me earlier on, but I guess when you do well, it becomes an attribute and not a flaw."

"He's a kid that basically came from nowhere. He's had some struggles and he sat around one place and figured out there is only one way to do it in this league to be successful and somehow the light went on about week 15 or 16, and he's taken advantage of a great opportunity," he said.

"Guys change; players change. He's really changed the way he goes about being a player and a pro. I'm very proud of him."

The win will fuel optimism that Kubiak's tough, physical team could produce the franchise's best-ever season but with a trip to an upbeat Washington Redskins, fresh from their win over the Dallas Cowboys, coming up next, defensive end Mario Williams urged caution.

"It's just one game," he said. "We've got a lot more to go. We'll enjoy this one, but then we've got to look to the next opponent."

(Editing by Steve Ginsburg)