It was déjà vu all over again.
If it's Sunday in Reliant Stadium, that must mean the Texans were locked in a down-to-the-wire struggle. And unfortunately for a raucous crowd of 70,255, the end result was painfully familiar.
The Chargers defeated the Texans 27-20 to end Houston's modest win streak of two consecutive season-opening wins.
The Texans racked up 336 total yards but were done in by four turnovers, two of which led to touchdowns and the last ending a potential game-tying drive. Last season, Houston's last seven home games were decided in the final seconds, with the Texans winning three of them.
This time around running back Domanick Davis scored two touchdowns, but had two fumbles in a game that featured two ties and five lead changes. The Chargers didn't have any turnovers.
"Today's loss was obviously very disappointing," head coach Dom Capers said. "The thing I was disappointed in was our execution. You don't have to look very far to see why we lost the football game. Anytime you're minus-four in the takeaway/giveaway, you have very little chance, no matter what else you do.
"I thought out offense moved the ball well at times, but it doesn't matter how well you move the ball if you can't hold onto it."
Quarterback David Carr accounted for the other two turnovers, throwing two interceptions. He completed 19 of 25 passes (76 percent) to seven different receivers for 229 yards.
But Houston's offense wasn't entirely to blame. Chargers running back LaDainian Tomlinson rushed for 121 yards and quarterback Drew Brees threw for two scores, posting a 125.2 passer rating. Perhaps most alarming was San Diego converted 9 of 15 third-down situations, a trend against the Texans that continued from preseason.
"Their offense came out and made plays on third down to keep their drives going," linebacker Jamie Sharper said. "They made some big plays, but we never gave up. They were able to make the plays that we couldn't make. We couldn't create a turnover."
Houston elected to start on offense and running back Davis proved that's he ready
for a banner sophomore campaign. Davis touched the ball on the Texans' first four
snaps, accounting for 57 yards, including a career-long 38-yard reception down
to the Chargers 19.
But the drive stalled there and the Texans settled for a 37-yard field goal by Kris Brown.
The Chargers answered right back as quarterback Drew Brees converted a 3rd and 7 with 20-yard pass to tight end Antonio Gates. Brees then connected with Gates again on a 29-yarder down to the Houston 24.
A holding penalty hampered the drive and forced the Chargers to settle for a 48-yard field goal by Nate Kaeding.
Carr got great protection on Houston's second drive, helping him find wide receiver Andre Johnson for 12 yards and Jabar Gaffney for 14 yards on a 3rd and 10. Carr then fired another third-down pass to Gaffney to move the ball to the Chargers 24.
Johnson found himself wide open in the flat on the next snap and dove to the seven-yard line.
But after two Davis runs, fullback Jarrod Baxter dropped a pass in the end zone and Brown kicked a 20-yard field goal for a 6-3 Texans lead.
"We have to clean that up," Carr said. "We should score TDs whenever we get in the red zone."
The Texans stopped San Diego on its next possession and were moving again before Davis fumbled trying to get some extra yards after a reception. Chargers strong safety Terrence Kiel recovered at the Texans 45.
Two plays later, Tomlinson rumbled 43 yards all the way to the Texans 5. Linebacker Jason Babin knocked Tomlinson after he was out of bounds to push the ball to the two-yard line. Tomlinson scored three plays later to give San Diego its first lead of the day.
But Carr went right back to work, hitting Johnson for 17 yards before finding Davis on the same play he fumbled on. This one went for nine yards and a first down at the Chargers 36.
Three plays later, Davis easily picked up a 3rd and 1 but tight end Mark Bruener was flagged for holding. That made it 3rd and 11 and the Chargers brought the house with Carr in the shotgun. But he calmly found running back Tony Hollings on a 27-yard screen pass down to the two-yard line. Davis scored on the next play -- his ninth career touchdown -- to give the Texans a 13-10 lead.
The Texans stopped the Chargers again, thanks in large part to Babin, who stopped
Tomlinson dead in his tracks on a screen pass and pressured Brees on 3rd and 12.
Houston got the ball back at its 29 with 1:20 left.
Carr drove the Texans down to the Chargers 43, but floated a pass that was picked off by free safety Jerry Wilson with 21 seconds left, essentially ending the half.
It was a half that saw the Texans gain 259 yards. And Chad Stanley, normally the busiest punter in the league, didn't take the field once.
The Chargers got the ball to open the second half and Babin tripped up Tomlinson for a six-yard loss. Defensive end Robaire Smith tipped a pass by Brees and the Texans' defense had its first three-and-out.
But Chargers linebacker Donnie Edwards tipped a pass from Carr high into the air and former Texan Steve Foley came down with it at the Chargers 49 -- Houston's third turnover of the day.
And once again, the turnover cost the Texans. Brees found wide receiver Reche Caldwell -- who beat cornerback Dunta Robinson -- wide open in the end zone for a 36-yard touchdown. San Diego had regained the lead.
J.J. Moses returned the ensuing kickoff to the Texans 48. Carr then hit Johnson for 12 yards and Wilson was flagged for a 15-yard personal foul, pushing the ball all the way to the Chargers 20.
Davis finally pushed it in from a yard out to give the Texans a 20-17 lead with 4:36 left in the third quarter. It was Davis' fourth multi-touchdown game of his career.
But Brees went right back at Robinson, drawing a 40-yard pass interference penalty on a throw to Caldwell. That put the ball at the Texans 19. Houston's defense held from there, forcing a 29-yard field goal by Kaeding that tied it to end the third quarter.
The Chargers got the ball back and Brees found Gates on consecutive plays for 42 yards, moving the ball all the way to the Texans 15. Another holding call pushed the ball back to the 24-yard line, but Brees found Parker in the back of the end zone for an apparent 19-yard touchdown.
Enter Capers' red flag -- the first of the season. But referee Bill Leavy upheld the call and the Chargers had their biggest lead of the day.
After a lengthy power-outage delay (which some of us endured in a crowded elevator), the Texans got the ball back and were moving towards a game-tying touchdown. But Davis coughed up the ball and Foley pounced on it at the Chargers 14.
It capped a huge day for Foley, who also had six tackles and an interception. San Diego ran out the clock from there.
"I had a rhythm going, but I can honestly say I was trying to make things happen too much," Davis said. "It cost me."
The Texans next head to Detroit, which ended its league-record road losing streak at Chicago today.