September 12, 2004
‘Texans’ Beat Texans 27-20
by Bob Hulsey
You can go home again. At least that’s true if you are TCU alumnus LaDanian Tomlinson, Austin-raised Drew Brees or former Houston Texan Steve Foley. They were among the key players who helped San Diego kick the Texans in the season opener, 27-20.
The Chargers cashed in on four Houston turnovers to spoil the Texans’ undefeated streak in season debuts. Foley was responsible for the last one, forcing Domanick Davis to fumble at the Charger 13 with 3:55 remaining, snuffing out Houston’s last chance to salvage a happy ending before a sellout crowd at Reliant Stadium. Earlier, Foley picked off a David Carr deflected pass that led to six points and also contributed one of two fourth-quarter sacks.
Tomlinson provided a constant running threat, carrying 26 times for 118 yards. Brees shook off an early slump to finish 17-of-24 for 209 yards and two scores. The second one, a 19-yard-strike to Eric Parker on the back line of the end zone, proved to be the winning margin.
The weapon that Brees chose most often was tight end Antonio Gates, who grabbed eight passes for 123 yards and exposed weaknesses in the Texans’ coverage all day long.
The season began with a trade of field goals from Kris Brown (37 yds) and Nate Kaeding (48). The Texans had a second drive stall in the red zone, almost suffering a pick. This time, Brown converted a 20-yard chip shot when Dom Capers passed up a fourth-and-goal at the two-yard-line.
The first turnover of the game came when Davis caught a swing pass to the left, trying to exploit an isolation in the flat against safety Jerry Wilson, but Wilson forced a fumble that San Diego recovered at the Houston 45. The defense lost containment of Tomlinson, giving up a 32-yard jaunt. Tomlinson scored three plays later on a one-yard plunge to give the Chargers their first lead.
Houston responded as Carr, who was 13-of-18 in the first half, led the Texans down the field until he faced a third-and-one at the Charger 27. Davis busted off the right side for 23 yards but it was called back on a holding penalty. Unfazed, Carr beat the blitz with a quick screen to Tony Hollings that worked to the Charger two. Davis then followed a devastating block by fullback Jarrod Baxter into the end zone to give the Texans a 13-10 lead at the half.
San Diego reclaimed the lead to open the second half when Foley snagged a jump ball after Donnie Edwards deflected a Carr pass high into the air. From there, Brees found Reche Caldwell w-i-d-e open in the end zone for a 36-yard score. Caldwell’s double move on corner Dunta Robinson caused the rookie to fall down leaving Caldwell all alone for six.
The Texans answered with a one-yard Davis plunge that capped an eight-play, 52-yard drive. Carr completed three straight passes to get the drive going then let Davis do the rest with four carries for 13 yards. For the day, Davis would rush for 88 yards and add 71 yards receiving to lead Houston in both categories.
That was the last time the Houston crowd could smile comfortably. The Chargers overcame a third-and-15 then reached deep into Texan territory when Robinson was called for a 40-yard pass interference penalty. Robinson had good position on the play but had locked arms with the receiver to draw the flag. The drive resulted in a tying field goal from Kaeding as the third quarter ended.
Brees’ resiliency was evident on the game-winning drive. Overcoming a fumble, a holding call and two third-and-longs, Brees hit Parker, who had beaten Aaron Glenn and tapped both feet down at the end line for the go-ahead score. Houston challenged the call but no replay was clear enough to overturn the play. The touchdown stood and, suddenly, Marty Schottenheimer’s team could sense the upset.
San Diego’s defense stiffened, forcing two three-and-outs as Chad Stanley made his first two punts of the game. After the second one, Kailee Wong sacked Brees on a critical third-and-four with under six minutes left.
Then the lights went out.
A power surge caused a delay as it took time for lights, cameras, scoreboards and such to power back up. The refs gave the okay to open the roof as a way to improve the lighting. The fans hoped the delay might reverse Houston’s fortunes.
It looked like it might after J.J. Moses took the ensuing punt and floated 21 yards into Charger territory. A nine-yard run by Davis and a eight-yard catch by Bradford to the San Diego 17 built up the momentum but it all came crashing down on the next play as the ball slipped out of Davis’ arms.
The Texans, a five-point favorite, will have to regroup and take to the road next week. David Carr will have his first head-to-head test against Detroit’s Joey Harrington, the quarterback some scouts said was a better option in the 2002 draft than Carr. David and his team will be out to prove something next Sunday at Ford Field.
Between the 20s The Texans offense had a good day moving the ball. They outgained the Chargers in net yards, 338-313 and was effective generating first downs. The problems came in the red zone and with flukish turnovers. For three quarters, Houston had no need for Chad Stanley other than to hold on place kicks. It seemed the offense would eventually break out but could not come up with the big play.
Using Their Weapons The offense was diverse, utilizing seven receivers and four runners. Davis led both categories but Andre Johnson, Corey Bradford, Tony Hollings and especially Jabar Gaffney were making plays. Gaffney showed up as a dependable short receiving target who looks much improved over his rookie year.
Run Defense Keeping the Bolts to 111 yards rushing on the day and a 3.5 average was a decent effort against one of the league’s top running backs. Tomlinson didn’t run down our throats as he might have last season. True, he got his hundred but he wasn’t the factor you would expect for the numbers he produced.
Red Zone Mistakes Houston blew momentum on their first two drives with either bad passes or bad routes. The Chargers had their hands on two passes in their own end zone that they couldn’t hang onto. That was more hands than Houston had touching the ball in the end zone. Then, of course, the final turnover was another red zone disaster.
No Pass Rush Despite San Diego starting two rookies on the offensive line, the Texans could put no pressure on Brees until Wong’s sack late in the game. For the most part, Brees could stand there and pick apart the Houston secondary which he did quite skillfully. The Texans will simply need to find a pass rush if they want to win more games this season.
Third Down Efficiency No, this won’t be a roasting of David Carr who was 6-for-10 in that department. Rather, the defense gave up 9-of-15 plays on third down including 3rd-and-7, 3rd-and-5, 3rd-and-goal, 3rd-and-15, 3rd-and-8, 3rd-and-14 and a pair of 3rd-and-4’s when the Chargers needed to run out the clock.
Clearly, the Texans had a final chance to get back into the game and possibly force overtime when the Texans had a first down at the Charger 17, down by seven with under four minutes left. Carr handed off to Davis for the 22nd time of the game, and the halfback squeezed through the line for four yards but the ball popped free as Foley reached in for the tackle. Davis made a desperate lunge for the ball as he was reaching the ground but it was swatted out of his grasp and recovered by San Diego at the 13. Given the Texans’ troubles holding the Chargers on third downs, it was "game over" at that point.
Week 1 Recap Eric Parker beats Aaron Glenn to make the deciding touchdown reception. Final Score Houston Texans 20 San Diego Chargers 27 Lookin’ Good
Playing like a man with something to prove, Little Man Moses had six kickoff returns for a 25.4 average, including returns of 49, 31 and 28 yards and a punt return of 21 yards that almost put Houston back into the game. He got better as the game went along.
Oh, my eyes!
It’s not easy being a rookie corner and Robinson was responsible for 10 Charger points, whiffing on Caldwell’s touchdown and interfering to set up a field goal. Dunta made some good plays too, as did fellow rookie Jason Babin, but late in the game Demarcus Faggins had taken his spot. Welcome to the NFL, rook.
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