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Texans beat Panthers 34-21




CHARLOTTE - A 14-0 first quarter deficit on the road would've been a death sentence for the old Texans. Might as well start the buses, people would say.

But there's nothing old about this new-and-improved version of the Texans. That much was evident Sunday in front of 67,503 disgruntled fans at Bank of America Stadium, where the Texans put on a clinic in a 34-21 come-from-behind road win over the Carolina Panthers.

"I think (the win) was about them and them believing in themselves," coach Gary Kubiak said of his players. "They're very hard on themselves. They never lose confidence in what they're doing. They get after each other. I kind of told you that as we went through training camp. We've got some very hungry players in there and we're going to give what they've got every week."

The victory marked the first time in team history that the Texans have begun the season 2-0, and it was the most points the team ever has scored. Quarterback Matt Schaub finished the game completing 20 of 28 passes for 227 yards and two touchdowns to Andre Johnson, who scored his team-record 19th career touchdown.

{QUOTE}Meanwhile, on defense, rookie Amobi Okoye collected two sacks - a Texans' single-game rookie record - and forced a fumble in the process, while cornerback Dunta Robinson intercepted his second pass of the season.

"He's got the ability to go get the passer," Kubiak said of Okoye. "And I think he's playing the run better than we thought he would. They're just coming together as a group. It's about the whole group playing ball."

The Texans' 34 unanswered points was most promising, though, because it shows just how far the team's mental toughness has come in one offseason.

Trailing 14-0 in the first quarter, courtesy of two touchdown catches by Pro Bowl receiver Steve Smith, the Texans clawed back on their third possession. Johnson caught a 33-yard pass from Schaub to the Carolina 32 on the first play of the series. Two plays later, Schaub caught the Panthers on a blitz for a 31-yard touchdown pass, which cut Carolina's lead to 14-7 after Kris Brown's extra point.

The Texans' offense started its fourth series at their 21-yard line following Carolina's first punt of the game. Tight end Jeb Putzier's six-yard catch and Owen Daniels' leaping 14-yard grab gave Houston a first down near midfield early in the second quarter. On third-and-three from the Carolina 36, Schaub's pass to rookie Jacoby Jones fell incomplete, but Daniels' 10-yard gain on fourth down extended the drive.

Later in the drive, Schaub's pass to Johnson was underthrown, and cornerback Ken Lucas intercepted the throw at the Panthers' four-yard line. Coach Gary Kubiak challenged the interception, and the officials overturned the call on the field, giving Houston a second down on the Panthers' 26-yard line.

"When you're on the road, it's very difficult to get a replay," Kubiak said. "Most home stadiums are not going to show that replay too many times when it affects the visiting team. It was a very hard call for us, but our players were convinced that (Lucas) did not have the ball, so that was our last challenge – we're done for the day.

"But those are huge points right there. You really have to trust your players. You can have guys looking up in the booth all you want, but when your players tell you something, you have to trust them. And that's what we were doing right there."

Ahman Green proceeded to gain 17 yards on his next two carries through the teeth of the Panthers' defense, and Schaub capped the drive with a nine-yard touchdown pass to Johnson to help tie the score with 8:27 left in the first half.

Okoye collected his first-career sack on Delhomme for an eight-yard loss to force a punt on Carolina's next possession. A 29-yard punt gave the Texans' offense a first down on the Carolina 43. Schaub completed five of six passes on the series for 41 yards. He was penalized for intentional grounding, though, which led to Brown's 25-yard field goal that gave Houston a 17-14 lead with 2:17 remaining before halftime.

Okoye's second sack helped force another punt with 39 seconds left in the second quarter, and the Texans downed the ball to run out the remainder of the first half.

After Carolina punted on their first drive of the second half and Schaub connected on his first three passes for 38 yards, the Panthers' crowd began booing. The jeers escalated exponentially once Green jogged into the end zone for a 13-yard touchdown run to cap the five-play, 56-yard scoring drive over 2:33.

On the ensuing kickoff return, running back Nick Goings was tackled by cornerback Demarcus Faggins and fumbled at the seven-yard line. Wide receiver Kevin Walter recovered the ball in the end zone for a touchdown, but Panthers coach John Fox challenged the ruling on the field that it was a touchdown. Fortunately, the play stood, and Brown's extra point gave Houston a 31-14 lead with 11:16 remaining in the third quarter.

Later, Robinson picked off Delhomme and returned it six yards to the Carolina 45 for the Texans' second takeaway of the game. But the offense was stopped after a five-play drive, forcing Matt Turk to punt 24 yards to the Carolina 10.

The Panthers turned the ball over again on the following drive when running back DeAngelo Williams was stripped by safety Will Demps. Safety C.C. Brown recovered the loose ball at the Carolina 45 for no gain with 14:46 left in the game. Brown's 33-yard field goal capped the nine-play drive and extended the Texans' lead to 34-14. The kick was followed by a stream of fans heading to the exit gates.

Anthony Maddox's sack for a six-yard loss forced the Panthers' sixth punt of the game, and Jones returned it 33 yards to the Carolina 33. A few running plays later, Turk punted to the Carolina one-yard line.

The Panthers dug themselves out of a hole, and scored their first points since the first quarter, when Smith broke free from several defenders for an improbable 74-yard touchdown reception that cut the lead to 34-21 with 4:41 left in the contest. The ensuing onside kick bounced out of play to give the Texans possession near midfield.

One more Carolina drive proved unsuccessful, giving Houston its second win of the season and tremendous momentum heading into the Deep Steel Sunday game this coming weekend against the Indianapolis Colts.

Injury report

  • The Texans attempted only one pass in the fourth quarter, and it was to Johnson, who was tackled awkwardly and left the game after some trainers helped him to the sideline.
 "The biggest concern right now is Andre (Johnson)," Kubiak said of his team's injuries after the game. "He has a sprained knee, and we'll look at it when we get home. He'll be day-to-day."  
  • Also, Green played sparingly in the fourth quarter, giving way to Ron Dayne.
 "He's been cramping a little bit, and Ronnie is a big pounder at the end of the game," Kubiak said of Green. "We were playing the game smart at the end, trying to do nothing to beat ourselves. So we were just smart right there and went running." 
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