September 8, 2002
Texans’ Big D Dominates
by Ric Sweeney
Take heart, Cowboy fans: the Laker season is right around the corner, you bandwagon-hopping frauds!
The Houston Texans demoralized the Dallas Cowboys’ franchise Sunday night by winning their first regular season game in franchise history, 19-10. Houston is just the second expansion team EVER to win its inaugural game and the first since 1961. And you kind of knew early on it might be the Texans’ night.
Jermaine Lewis returned the opening kick 31 yards, setting Houston up at their own 36. On the first play from scrimmage, David Carr went deep to WR Corey Bradford, who was held on the play by CB Bryant Westbrook. The 38-yard penalty moved Houston to the Cowboy 21. Two plays later, Carr hit TE Billy Miller, who stretched across the goal line for the first score in franchise history. Houston’s defense then set the night’s tone.
The Texans forced three consecutive 3-and-outs from the Cowboys’ anemic offense on their first three possessions. Dallas did not record their first first down until the 3:20 mark of the opening quarter and Quincy Carter (who might make Cowboy fans pine for Ryan Leaf before the year is done) did not complete a pass until the second quarter.
With 12:11 left in the half, CB Aaron Glenn, who the Cowboys tried to pick on all night, intercepted Carter at the Dallas 26. But Houston’s offense stalled and the Texans had to settle for a 42-yard field goal from Kris Brown, increasing their lead, 10-0.
But late in the half, the Texans nearly let Dallas back into the game when two preseason problems reared their ugly heads: penalties and dropped passes.
DB Jason Simmons hit Cowboy punt returner Joey Galloway out of bounds, setting the Cowboys up at the Texans’ 48-yard line with 2:13 to go in the half. Three plays later, a horribly overthrown Carter pass was wiped out when S Matt Stevens nailed WR Ken-Yon Rambo, putting Dallas at the Houston 18. But Carter proved ineffective during the Cowboys’ lone trip inside the red zone, and the team settled for a 33-yard field goal from Billy Cundiff.
The Texans then missed a golden opportunity to bury the Cowboys when Carr’s perfect bomb glanced off the arms of a wide-open Lewis inside the Cowboys’ five yard line. And when we say, “wide open,” we mean W-I-D-E O-P-E-N. The play seemed to really take the wind out of the Texans’ sails, even though they still led, 10-3, at the half.
Dallas opened the third quarter by driving to the Texans’ 24, but Cundiff missed a 42-yard field goal. Though they failed to score, Dallas began to run the ball more effectively, and that carried over to their next series. Emmitt Smith rushed twice for 31 yards before Michael Wiley broke a 46-yarder to tie the score, 10-10, with 5:21 to go in the third quarter.
But Houston continued to win the field position battle, as punter Chad Stanley stuck Dallas inside their own 20 on both of his third quarter punts. With Carter unable to move the football, and everyone but the Dallas coaches acutely aware of it, the Texans were able to keep the pressure on the Cowboys.
After another costly Westbrook penalty wiped out a big sack of Carr, the rookie found Bradford deep, who snatched the ball from Darren Woodson and out ran him to finish off the 65-yard bomb for the decisive score, 17-10, with 12:28 left in the game.
On the ensuing kickoff, S Chris Carter knocked the ball loose from Rambo and Houston recovered at the Dallas 21. But an ill-conceived screen pass to James Allen was intercepted, and Dallas momentarily stayed alive. But Houston’s defense forced two consecutive three-and-out’s. Unfortunately, Dallas’ defense was just as tough, forcing two punts from Houston, who could not run the clock out.
The Texans’ final punt of the night, with 2:56 remaining, was a 48-yarder that was downed at the Dallas 4. Two plays later, DL Seth Payne and Gary Walker wrapped Carter up in the end zone for the night’s exclamation point, a safety that increased the lead, 19-10, with 2:42 remaining.
The Texans next travel to San Diego to face the 1-0 Chargers.
The opening drive
You want to talk about setting the tone early? As ESPN’s Mike Patrick put it, “The Texans could not have scripted a better opening.” Damn straight. Jermaine Lewis returned the opening kick 31 yards; David Carr and Corey Bradford burned Bryant Westbrook deep for a big penalty and Billy Miller made the most out of Carr’s first completion by stretching into the end zone to give Houston a stunning 7-0 lead just 1:06 into the game.
How big does the expansion draft look now? Gary Walker, Seth Payne, Jamie Sharper, Aaron Glenn and Marcus Coleman all played very, very well, holding Dallas to 286 total yards (46 on one play) and just 10 points. They were magnificent all night.
Helping the defensive cause was punter Chad Stanley, who averaged 41.2 yards for his 10 punts, but that’s not even half the story. He pinned Dallas inside their own 20 six times and his punts were booming, giving Houston’s coverage teams plenty of time to make plays. Dallas averaged less than 2 yards on their seven punt returns. And Stanley’s final punt, which died at the Cowboy 4, was an absolute thing of beauty.
The offensive Line
Their effort was commendable, no question, but five sacks, countless hurries and 2.2 yards per rush ain’t gonna win very many football games in the NFL. It’s not like we get to play Dallas every week.
The Texans committed 11; two of which, late in the first half (on Simmons and Stevens), nearly let the Cowboys back into the game after the Texans had thoroughly dominated the first 28 minutes of play.
Now we know why he couldn’t crack the Ravens’ receiving corps. Late in the first half, Lewis dropped a sure touchdown from Carr that likely would’ve killed the Cowboys’ will and sent the 69,604 fans at Reliant off to a mass orgy. It was a kick to the gut kind of drop.
To pick just one is damn-near impossible. There was Westbrook’s penalty on the game’s first play; Miller’s touchdown; Stanley’s final punt of the night… but the choice has to be the game-winner.
With 12:28 left in the game, David Carr found speedster Corey Bradford one-on-one downfield with safety Darren Woodson and drilled a perfect strike to the former Packer, who snatched the pass away from Woodsen and took it in for the 65-yard score, putting Houston ahead for good, 17-10.
The numbers may look somewhat pedestrian, but for a rookie playing in his first game, David Carr had the poise and confidence of a veteran. He consistently threw passes that only his receivers could catch, stood up to a relentless pass rush and made 4 or 5 “Canton on line 2” throws, including the beauty to Bradford for the game winner.
There were plenty of great performances, but it seemed like Aaron Glenn was all over the field. Dallas tested the veteran all night, and he consistently made plays. Antonio Bryant, his main man, made four fairly insignificant catches and Glenn’s interception, the first in franchise history, set up Kris Brown‘s field goal.
Dom Capers wanted the Texans to win the field position battle, and thanks to Chad Stanley, they did. His 41.2 yard average might not jump off the page, but his kicks had terrific hang times and six of them pinned Dallas inside their 20.
Final 1 2 3 4 F Cowboys 0 7 3 0 10 Texans 7 3 0 9 19 PASS ATT CMP YDS TD/IN Carr 21 10 145 2/1 Carter 30 13 131 0/1 RUSH ATT YDS AVG TD Allen 19 56 2.9 0 Smith 17 67 2.9 0 REC NO YDS AVG TD Bradford 4 99 25 1 Galloway 6 69 12 0
San Diego Chargers
2002 Record: (1-0)
9.15.02 | 3:15pm
San Diego, CA
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