State Champs Once Again

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August 15, 2004
State Champs Once Again

by Keith Weiland

When the home team shuts out their in-state rivals, erasing the memory of a lopsided loss to the same team a year ago, it’s hard to keep the perspective that this is only the preseason. Still, there was plenty of optimism as the Texans jumped out early and cruised to a 18-0 victory over the Cowboys on Saturday night.

In front of a raucous sellout crowd, quarterback David Carr set the tone for the Texans offense, completing 8 of his 9 passes for 89 yards, including the game’s only touchdown. On target all night, Carr moved his offense with ease against the league’s top-ranked defense of a year ago.

In just one quarter and seven seconds of play, the first team offense racked up an impressive 134 yards and 6 first downs. They also kept the ball away from the Cowboys, scoring on both of their possessions.

Carr boosted the lead to 10-0 when he rolled out of the pocket to the right, waited for his receivers to adjust, then fired a 12-yard bullet pass to Jabar Gaffney in the endzone. The score capped off an 8-play drive in which Carr completed all four of his pass attempts, finishing his day with a 152.6 QB rating.

The Texans offense got the scoring started in the first quarter when they moved 56 yards in 10 plays to set up Kris Brown for a 36-yard field goal and a 3-0 lead. Brown and fellow kicker Todd Sievers would each add another field goal later in the game to increase the lead to 16-0.

The victory wasn’t all offense, however, as the defense made plays when it needed it to in order to protect the team’s first shutout in franchise history.

Safety Jason Simmons made the first of two goalline interceptions late in the first half to prevent a Cowboys touchdown. Another safety, Marlon McCree later picked off a pass as well.

Rookie Jason Babin spun around a Cowboys blocker to force quarterback Vinny Testaverde to fumble, and linebacker Antwan Peek fell on the loose football to set up a Texans score. Rookie Jammal Lord created the last of the defense’s five takeaways when he intercepted a Tony Romo pass near the end of the game.

And not unlike the Texans’ first win against the Cowboys, the defense scored a safety late in the fourth quarter. Romo was unable to corral an errant snap, and defensive lineman Jeremey Slechta tackled the Cowboys reserve quarterback in the endzone for the game’s final two points.

Next up, the undefeated Texans travel to Pittsbugh to face the Steelers. The starters are expected to play the first half.

What Went Right?

David Carr’s Accuracy A career 54.1% passer, David Carr led the way on 8/9 passing for 89 yards and a touchdown. He might have been perfect on the day had a Cowboys defensive end not deflected a short screen pass intended for Tony Hollings. His scoring throw to Jabar Gaffney showed his maturation as a quarterback, as he rolled away from pressure and patiently waited for his receiver to adjust his route. Carr then launched a rocket into a tight space where only Gaffney could make the reception.

Opportunistic Defense The Texans preached all offseason that they needed to make more plays on defense, and true to their word, they made it happen. Five takeways, four sacks, and a safety kept the Cowboys offense scoreless, highlighted by the two goalline interceptions, one late in the first half by Jason Simmons, then one later by Marlon McCree.

The Rookies All eyes were on the rookies as they made their professional debuts in front of a soldout crowd. RCB Dunte Robinson lined up early against former first overall pick Keyshawn Johnson, taking an earful but giving up very little. Robinson started off receiving a tacky illegal contact penalty, but he showed off his aggressive hands and closing speed. The other first rounder, Jason Babin, forced a fumble in the second quarter that led to a Texans’ field goal. Vontez Duff showed some ability to break tackles returning punts, and Jammal Lord was also active on special teams making a big tackle early. Lord later came up with an interception near the end of the game.

What Went Wrong?

Hollings’ Fumbles Tony Hollings was very productive, especially as a receiver, but he lost the handle on the football three times on Saturday night. His first fumble came as he was gaining big yards on a screen pass, but took a helmet from Cowboys’ DB Pete Hunter right on his arm. Hollings later lost the ball on a handoff from QB Tony Banks, then again deep inside Cowboy territory as the team was driving for a late score. While only one fumble was lost to the Cowboys, Hollings will need to learn to do a much better job protecting the football.

Injuries Arguably, the worst thing that can happen in the first preseason game is losing a player to an injury. The Texans were unable to escape Saturday’s win without injury, as RB Jason Anderson had to be helped off the field in the second half with a fractured right fibula, which could shelve him for a very long time. Fellow RB Jonathan Wells also hyperextended his knee in the contest, meaning the team will be looking for another running back to join camp this week.

Penalties It’s hard to find too much wrong when the Texans shutout their state rivals, so this may be a little harsh. Right guard Fred Weary, filling in for injured starter Zach Wiegert, jumped a snap count on the Texans’ first drive of the game. The five yard penalty pushed the offense back into a third down and 13 yards situation, a much more difficult conversion than had it been third-and-8. The Texans came up short on the ensuing play, forcing the team to instead kick a field goal for the early 3-0 lead.

Key Play Of The Game

Fighting for one of the remaining spots at defensive back, Jason Simmons keeps proving to the coaching staff that he shouldn’t be a forgotten man in the secondary. Capable of plugging in just about anywhere back there, Simmons found himself once again in the right place at the right time.

With 26 seconds left in the first half, the Texans were up 13-0 but backed deep into the their own territory. Trying to erase the goose egg, Cowboys QB Drew Henson drove his team to within 9 yards of the endzone.

Simmons never took his eyes off of the first-year quarterback. When the safety saw Henson reading a slant route for a score, he stepped into the passing lane and robbed the former Texans draft pick of touchdown that would have cut the deficit by almost half. The drive would prove to be the Cowboys’ best scoring opportunity of the game, and by making the play, Simmons helped lead his team to a franchise-first shutout.

Preseason Week 1 Recap Jabar Gaffney shows off the ball he caught for a touchdown. Final Score Houston Texans 18 Dallas Cowboys 0 Lookin’ Good

Seth Wand
He made a spectacle of himself trying to pass protect against Miami’s Jason Taylor, but he was appropriately inconspicuous against Greg Ellis of the Cowboys. Wand was solid on running plays, but more importantly, he didn’t let anyone near QB David Carr.

Oh, my eyes!

Kendrick Starling
It’s not easy trying to run block when you’re a wide receiver, and Starling got a reminder of just that in the second quarter. Lining up to the left, Starling trailed his cornerback and missed the block. Adding insult to injury, he ran straight into the oncoming ballcarrier, getting a faceful of RB Tony Hollings.

2004 Schedule Date Opponent Result 08.14 Dallas 18-0 08.21 at Pittsburgh 3-38 08.27 at Denver 17-31 09.02 Tampa Bay 9-17 Regular Season 09.12 San Diego 20-27  09.19 at Detroit 16-28  09.26 at Kansas City 24-21  10.03 Oakland 30-17  10.10 Minnesota 28-34  10.17 at Tennessee 20-10 10.24 Bye   10.31 Jacksonville 20-6  11.07 at Denver 13-31  11.14 at Indianapolis 14-49 11.21 Green Bay 13-16 11.28 Tennessee 31-21 12.05 at New York Jets 7-29 12.12 Indianapolis 14-23 12.19 at Chicago 24-5 12.26 at Jacksonville 21-0 01.02 Cleveland 14-22   Overall Record 7-9