The Houston Texans began the quest for a Super Bowl appearance in New Orleans in February at Reliant Stadium in Houston on Sunday, taking on the new-look Miami Dolphins. Former Texas A & M quarterback Ryan Tannehill earned the starting nod under first year head Coach Joe Philbin. Tannehill made some good plays during the game, but the Houston defense forced four turnovers on consecutive possessions in the second quarter, and scored 24 points off the three interceptions and one fumble recovery, on their way to a 30-10 blowout win.
Houston’s defense looked a little sluggish at the outset, particularly against the run, but they pulled things together when it counted and held Miami to a field goal after a 35-yard drive on their second offensive possession.
On their next possession, the Texans moved methodically down the field, and appeared to have scored a touchdown on a toss from quarterback Matt Schaub to Lestar Jean, but the official on the spot ruled Jean didn’t get both feet down in bounds. Coach Gary Kubiak challenged the call, but after a review of the play, it stood as called, and the Dolphins led the favored Texans 3-0 at the end of the first quarter of play.
The teams looked rather lackluster through the middle of the second quarter until Jonathan Joseph intercepted Tannehill after a tip by J.J. Watt. He returned the pick to the Miami 14. The ‘Fins were called for a late hit on Joseph out of bounds, moving the ball to the 7. Houston was guilty of a false start, taking the ball back to the 12, and then Schaub was sacked on a poor play by the line back at the 20. After a short gain on third down, the Texans got on the board with a 35–yard field goal by Shayne Graham, and with 6:12 left in the first half the score was knotted at 3-3 in what could only be described as a very disappointing and boring contest.
Fortunately, for fans in the stadium, Houston got into the end zone with 1:53 left in the half, capping a 54-yard, 7-play drive that took 2:07. Graham added the PAT, and the home team took the lead, 10-3.
It didn’t take long for the Texans to get the ball back. On the first Dolphin play from scrimmage, J.J. Watt tipped his second ball of the day into the arms of Kareem Jackson, who returned the pick to the 27. On the first play of the drive, Miami was called for defensive pass interference in the end zone, moving the ball down to the 1. Two plays later Arian Foster crossed the goal line and after Graham’s point after the Texans lead extended to 17-3 with 43 seconds left in the first half of play.
On the first play of their next possession, the Dolphins fumbled the ball at their 31 and Danieal Manning recovered for Houston. The Texans scored once again on a 14-yard pass from Schaub to Andre Johnson with 7 seconds left in the half, effectively putting the game away at 24-3 after Graham added the extra point.
Houston received the opening kickoff of the second half and went three-and-out. Donnie Jones hit a 49-yard punt, but the special team wasn’t ready for the return. Marcus Thigpen took the kick at his 26 and didn’t stop until he ran into the end zone 74 yards later. Dan Carpenter nailed the PAT and Miami cut the lead to 24-10.
The Houston offense came back onto the field and took 6:42 to move the ball 64 yards in 11 plays before the drive stalled out. Graham came in and booted a 40-yard field goal with 6:30 left in the 3rd quarter, putting the hosts up 27-10.
The defense did the job on the next possession and the offense picked up where it left off on the previous possession, but once again the offense sputtered and the drive died on the one. Graham nailed a 19-yard field goal with 12:22 left in the game, capping a 72-yard, 12-play drive that consumed 6:59, pushing the lead to 30-10.
Miami had their best drive of the game on their ensuing possession, driving into the red zone. The defense stifled a fourth down pass, making a play at the Houston 6, and the Texans offense took back over from there with 8:16 left in the game.
They were unable to sustain a drive and punted back to Miami. After a short 30-yard Donnie Jones kick, the Dolphins set up shop at the Houston 41. The visitors moved the ball down to the Houston 6, but a fourth down pass was batted down at the line of scrimmage and Houston took back over on offense with exactly four minutes left in the contest.
Texans Coach Gary Kubiak, while pleased with the win, found plenty of room for improvement with his team. “I thought we were a little shaky as a team. Opening day I don’t think you really know what you are. You think you do but until you get out there and get going. I thought we played a little shaky on both sides of the ball. Just not real clean. We kept battling and battling but then we were explosive. We got, what, three turnovers in a row. We scored 24 points there in the second quarter if I’m right, is that right? 21? Something like that. We were explosive as a team in that period of the second quarter. That third quarter I did not like. We come out of the locker room, we go three-and-out and we let them right back in the game. We put together a great drive, we’ve go first-and –goal in our stadium, on the one and we don’t get the ball in the end zone. I didn’t like the close factor from that standpoint. I didn’t like the fact that we couldn’t run the ball. We’re playing a speed offensive football team, so trying to control the clock and not being able to run the ball, that’s an issue as a coach that I haven’t got solved yet. But, good win. One and 0 after one week. We’ve got to move forward.”
The Texans hit the road on Sunday to take on the Jacksonville Jaguars, as they try to go to 2-0 on the season. They follow that game with a trip to Denver to take on their old AFC South Division nemesis Peyton Manning and the Broncos before returning to Reliant Stadium September 30 to take on the Tennessee Titans.