The Houston Texans fell 28-3 to the Miami Dolphins in their preseason home opener Saturday. In the red zone, Houston was 0-for-4 while the Dolphins were 4-for-4 on the day, outgaining Houston 398 to 186 total net yards on offense.
"I think overall as a team where we struggled is situational football," Head Coach DeMeco Ryans said. "If you want to win games, defensively you have to get off the field on third down. We didn't. Offensively you've got to convert on third down. We didn't. When you do that, you stall out drives. Offense can't continue to make plays, and that hurts us."
All starters saw action in the second preseason matchup, with quarterbacks C.J. Stroud and Davis Mills each playing a half of football. Stroud was 7-of-12 for 60 yards, while Mills completed 10-of-22 passes for 94 yards. Neither quarterback threw a touchdown or interception against the Dolphins.
"I think overall just with the operation of the offense, I thought C.J. was more efficient," Ryans said. "He felt more comfortable, and I think just everyone around him played better, which allowed him to play better. So I'm proud of the progression that C.J. took this week. That's what we want to see."
Rookie WR Tank Dell, who caught a touchdown pass last week, did not play after suffering some tightness following pregame warmups, according to Ryans.
For the Dolphins, Tua Tagovailoa started the game but QB Skylar Thompson threw three touchdown passes. LB Denzel Perryman recorded an interception and rookie DE Will Anderson Jr. had a tackle and strip sack in his home debut.
Despite a hot start, the Texans defense otherwise struggled against the run, allowing 205 net yards on the ground.
"With the run defense overall, it's not representative of who we need to be on defense," Ryans said. "It all starts with the fundamentals first. First we have to set the edge. The ball got outside way too many times, and it comes down to tackling. The tackling was not good enough. If we want to be a good defense, we have to tackle, and that showed up tonight that it wasn't good enough. That starts with me of getting that corrected."
On the first play from scrimmage, Tagovailoa's pass was intercepted by Perryman and returned 19 yards deep in Miami territory.
"Just going through my keys, just read play action," Perryman said. "I kind of froze for a second, to be honest with you. I was reading the quarterback and got in the window, and I just had a feel for it."
Stroud and the Texans offense had first-and-goal at the Miami seven-yard line, but emerged empty-handed after an incomplete pass on fourth down to TE Dalton Schultz.
Tagovailoa responded with a 14-play, 93-yard scoring drive that ended in a two-yard touchdown run by RB Raheem Mostert. The Dolphins took a 7-0 lead with 5:30 left in the first quarter.
Stroud found success on his second offensive series, completing passes to Nico Collins, Noah Brown, Dalton Schultz and Robert Woods. Ka'imi Fairbairn added a 35-yard field goal to cap off the 11-play, 61-yard drive.
"I think that drive just showed us that we can be explosive and we can move the ball down the field the way we want," Stroud said. "I definitely think that that was a step towards where we want to go. We've just got to keep going."
Thompson threw two touchdown passes in the second quarter to give Miami a 21-3 lead. Stroud and the Texans offensive starters remained in the game until the end of the second quarter, but were unable to put together another scoring drive.
After halftime, Mills took over under center for the Texans. Thompson, who would finish out the game for Miami, threw his third touchdown pass of the day to RB Chris Brooks for a 28-3 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
Both teams were scoreless in the final quarter of the game.
Mill began his final two drives inside the Houston 10-yard line. Despite converting a fourth-and-10 with a 20-yard completion to Johnny Johnson, Mills was unable to extend the drive to get into scoring range.
With the loss, the Texans fall to 1-1 in the preseason and will travel to New Orleans for their third and final preseason game on Aug. 27.