After a horrific first half, the Houston Texans came together in just enough time to make the biggest comeback in franchise history. Down by 21 points, the Texans rally to beat the San Diego Chargers 31-28.
The Chargers got off to a dynamite start under new coach Mike McCoy. They were able to intercept Matt Schaub’s first pass of the game and then scored a touchdown on their first offensive play. Quarterback Phillip Rivers hit Ryan Matthews for the 14-yard touchdown. The Chargers continued to roll through the first half, with Rivers throwing two more touchdowns. The Chargers were up 21-7 at halftime.
With a 28-7 lead, 4:18 into the third quarter, San Diego appeared to be well on its way to a season-opening victory. The Texans weren’t having it, however, and Houston scored 21 straight points to tie the game.
The comeback began when Schaub hit Garrett Graham for a 7-yard score. San Diego stopped Houston on a key third down early in the fourth quarter, but the Chargers were flagged for a penalty on the field-goal attempt. Houston took advantage and Owen Daniels found the end zone on the next play.
The Houston defense aided in the comeback when Brian Cushing intercepted Rivers and returned it 18 yards for the tying touchdown with 9:30 remaining in the game. The touchdown was the first of Cushing’s NFL career and came in his first game returning from a serious knee injury. It was the only interception Rivers threw in the game, and up until then, one of the few errant throws he made.
San Diego had a chance to take the lead back, but Houston’s defense forced a punt, setting up the game-winning drive. Cushing’s great play aside, the entire Houston defense solidified in the second half after some very shaky moments early on. The Texans did not allow a first down on San Diego’s final five offensive possessions.
“There was no doubt in my mind that we were going to win that game,” said Johnson, who had 12 catches for 146 yards. “Even in the third quarter, we didn’t come out playing that great, but we got it together and made it happen.” Johnson holds the NFL record with 19 career games with 10 or more receptions and 100 or more yards.
“I expected us to be in a dogfight,” Houston coach Gary Kubiak said. “I’m disappointed with the way we played early, but we did not give up. ... We were mature enough to hang in there and get the win, so we have to be mature enough to know that we didn’t play very well.”
Houston’s star player J.J. Watt was held silent through the first three quarters, recording just one tackle and two quarterback hits, failing to make a difference while going against a rookie right tackle and regular extra attention. However, Watt and Cushing upped their attacks, with Watt recording a tackle for loss and pass deflection in the same series early during the fourth quarter.
Schaub completed 34-of-45 for 346 yards and three touchdowns. He overcame an early interception that was tipped at the line of scrimmage. Tight end Owen Daniels caught five passes for 67 yards and two touchdowns.
Rookie wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins had 5 catches for 66 yards and made a big time catch on a broken 3rd down play in the 3rd quarter for a 30 yard gain. That drive ended up with a touchdown which brought the Texans within seven.
The Texans star running back Arian Foster’s average day was overshadowed by Ben Tate. Kubiak decided to stick with Tate’s running late in the game. Foster was not very happy about the decision and showed his disgust on the sideline. Tate carried the ball nine times for 55 yards, an average of 6.1 a carry.
“We’re a resilient group of guys. We’ve dealt with a lot of adversity over the last few years. Guys never gave up,” said Schaub, who guided back-to-back touchdown drives to start the third quarter and finished with a nine-play, 38-yard drive in 3 minutes, 53 seconds that peaked with Randy Bullock’s game-winning 41-year field goal as time expired. “The momentum keeps building. You feel that energy and it’s contagious,” said Schaub, who was 22-of-27 for 199 yards and two touchdowns in the second half.
“He’s our quarterback. He’s the leader of this team — the guy that all eyes are on,” Cushing said. “We know that he can get it done and the kind of caliber player he is. Maybe around the country some guys feel differently about him, but inside our locker room he’s our guy. He’s the first guy that makes a speech when it needs to be made. He’s the first guy into work every single day. He’s our quarterback and we’re going to stand by him 100 percent.”
With Schaub showing them the way by spreading the ball all over the field, they averted disaster by finally performing the way Super Bowl contenders are supposed to play.