Home is Where the Loss Is

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  Ricky Williams   Dolphin Ricky Williams scores the first-ever touchdown at Reliant Stadium

August 24, 2002
Home is Where the Loss Is

by Bob Hulsey and Ric Sweeney

Texan officials worked overtime this week to ensure Reliant Stadium would be ready in time for Saturday night’s unveiling. Unfortunately, the team that will call the stadium home remains a work in progress.

The Dolphins dominated the Texans, 24-3, in the first professional football game inside Houston city limits since December 15, 1996.

The Texans’ offense once again struggled, failing to score an offensive touchdown. (Quick stat intervention: they’ve now gone nine consecutive quarters without one.) And penalties were once again at the root of the reason why. Last week against the Chiefs, Houston committed 19 infractions, all but stalling their offense en route to an ugly 19-9 loss. Against the Dolphins, the number dropped to eight, but they were still the kind that kill and/or sustain drives.

The biggest was on TE Billy Miller, whose holding penalty wiped out an 82-yard touchdown from QB David Carr to WR Corey Bradford. It should have cut the Dolphin’s lead in half, 14-7. Instead, the Texans were forced to punt, and Miami was able to drive 59 yards in 2:17 to kick a 39-yard field goal with :08 left in the half, giving the Dolphins a 17-0 lead. DL Seth Payne helped sustain the drive with a 15-yard taunting penalty that gave the Dolphins a first down at their own 36 after LB Keith Mitchell had made two plays to force what should have been a 3rd-and-8 from the 22.

Miami built their first half lead on the legs of Ricky Williams. The former Longhorn rushed 20 yards on the Dolphins’ opening series, including the final one for the game’s first touchdown as the Dolphins converted 3 first downs to keep the 13-play drive alive.

After Houston’s second three-and-out series, Williams rushed for 16 yards and QB Jay Fiedler was a perfect 3-3, including a 28-yard pass to Omar Gadsden, leading to a 4-yard touchdown run by FB Rob Konard.

Houston finally earned its first first down of the half with 11:06 remaining when Carr hit WR Jabar Gaffney for 19 yards on 3-and-10 from their own 12-yard line. The Texans would eventually punt.

On the plus side, the Texans’ defense continued to make plays. S Matt Stevens intercepted a Fielder pass in the second quarter and DB Kenny Wright forced a fumble on the Dolphins’ opening drive of the second half that S Kevin Williams recovered. And LB Jeff Posey also continued to impress, recording a sack and two tackles.

The Texans’ offensive line was again missing three starters (Tony Boselli, Ryan Young and Fred Weary), and the unit struggled. They allowed five sacks and the running game averaged a paltry 2.2 yards a carry. Carr was 6 of 15 for 69 yards, no touchdowns (for the third consecutive week) and two interceptions. He played into the third quarter.

The Texans will wrap up the preseason next Friday night against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

What Went Right?

Gary Walker and Keith Mitchell
The former Pro Bowlers and projected starters made their first appearances this preseason and got in on some stops. One can tell they will help the defense in weeks to come. Walker came close to a couple of sacks and Mitchell was in on some tackles, although he obviously needs to play stronger against the run than he showed tonight.

Penalties Decreased
Texans didn’t have the penalty parade they suffered in Kansas City. Now they’ll need to work on cutting out costly penalties like the ones that sustain drives and the ones that kill them.

Reliant Stadium
Maybe they just want to be polite but practically every one speaks in awe of the place. And while points should be deducted for the lame time-out music like Kung Fu Fighting and Y.M.C.A, the cheerleaders appeared to be in midseason form. Huuuh!

What Went Wrong?

The Offense
David Carr was clearly fed up with his receivers dropping the ball so he started overthrowing them, resulting in turnovers. Jermaine LewOOPS and Corey BradOOPS need to hold onto those fastballs, particularly the ones that hit between the numbers, if they want to remain starters. The running game looked a lot like a truck stuck in a mudhole. Maybe Charley Casserly can trade rookie Jonathan Wells back to Ohio State for the freshman tailback the Buckeyes showcased today. That kid is Jerome Bettis with breakaway speed.

The Defense
Other than LB Jeff Posey, the defense showed very little team speed. They aren’t strong enough to stop the point of attack and they aren’t fast enough to get there before the offense does. Whether inside or outside, the Texans are vulnerable against the run. It’s never a good sign when the slow white boy at safety is making half the tackles. The Dolphins stopped themselves a few times but the Texans never really stopped them.

Field Position
The Texans got little to work with all night in terms of field position. The Dolphins have a splendid defense without also having to gain 70 or 80 yards of converted parking lot just to put some points on the board.

Key Play of the Game

Ooh! Ooh! Ooh! How about that beautiful 82-yard David Carr bomb to Corey Bradford in the second quarter that cut the Dolphins’ lead in half? Bradford did his Lambeau Leap into the first row, Carr sprinted 90 yards to celebrate, the crowd went nuts… and the officials whistled Billy Miller for holding. It all came back.

In Miller’s defense, why was he locked up one-on-one against a Pro Bowl lineman like Jason Taylor? RT Jimmy Herndon eventually came over to help out but not until Miller had to use Kung Fu Holding to keep Taylor away from Carr. After that, the Texans were never close to being in the game.

Players of the Game

Since none of the Texans distinguished themselves, how about HPF.com’s very own Ric predicting a 21-3 Miami win in Thursday’s GameDay Preview, huh?

Too self-serving? You’d rather see a player win the award? OK, how about Dolphin running back Robert Edwards. This guy was a stud for the Patriots as a rookie only to see his career collapse in a meaningless flag football exhibition on a Hawaiian beach just before his first Pro Bowl. He didn’t play a down the next two seasons; with doctors telling him his knee was so blown out, he would never play again. To score a touchdown, even in a meaningless exhibition game, has to have meant something huge for the man. Good for him.

Matt Stevens
was around the ball a lot in the first half. Unfortunately, it was usually five or more yards downfield. But at least he was sticking his nose in the pile rather than standing around. Chris Carter, Gary Walker, Jeff Posey and Jimmy McClain had their moments, too. Posey sacked Jay Fiedler once with a leg-whipping tackle that looked eerily similar to the play where Lawrence Taylor broke Joe Theismann’s leg. The Fins were fortunate that Fiedler was able to get back up.

Special Teams
Tony Simmons
will make the ball club on special teams, even if he’s odd man out at wide receiver. He made the tackle on the first two punt coverages and was in position to down the third punt if it had not bounced high and into the end zone. Some say he’s on the bubble but, after tonight, maybe not.

Score By Quarters Final 1 2 3 4 F Dolphins 7 10 7 0 24 Texans 0 0 0 3 3   Statistical Leaders PASS ATT CMP YDS TD/IN Carr 15 6 69 0/2 Fiedler 20 13 136 0/1 RUSH ATT YDS AVG TD Wells 8 21 3 0 Williams 15 50 3.3 1 REC NO YDS AVG TD Lewis 2 22 11 0 Gadsen 4 65 11 0   Next Week Miami Dolphins

Tampa Bay Bucs
8.30.02 | 7pm
Houston, TX

  2002 Schedule PRESEASON 8.05 GIANTS 17-34 8.10 @ Saints 13-10 8.17 @Chiefs 9-19 8.24 DOLPHINS 3-24 8.30 BUCCANEERS 13-17 REGULAR SEASON 9.08 COWBOYS 19-10 9.15 @ Chargers 3-24 9.22


3-23 9.29 @ Eagles 17-35 10.06 OPEN 10.13 BILLS 24-31 10.20 @ Browns 17-34 10.27 @ Jaguars 21-19 11.03 BENGALS 3-38 11.10 @ Titans 10-17 11.17 JAGUARS 21-24 11.24 GIANTS 16-14 12.01 @ Colts 3-19 12.08 @ Steelers 24-6 12.15 RAVENS 19-23 12.22 @ Redskins 10-26 12.29 TITANS 3-13 OVERALL 4-12 click on a team to read the GameDay Preview; click on the score to read the GameDay Review