LANDOVER, Md. – The Texans saved their best for last on Sunday, which has them carrying a 2-0 record for only the second time in team history.
Houston rebounded from a 17-point deficit in the second half to record their first-ever overtime victory, 30-27, over the Washington Redskins. Kicker Neil Rackers' 35-yard field goal soared over the cross bars with 3:24 left in overtime, and his teammates swarmed him at midfield to celebrate one of the best comebacks in team annals.
"That's one of the greatest football games that I've ever been in," coach Gary Kubiak said. "The thing that I told the team is there probably wasn't a guy on our team that didn't have a bonehead play in the game, but there probably wasn't a guy on our team who didn't make a great play in the game."
The Texans benefited from a franchise-record rushing performance from Arian Foster to beat the Indianapolis Colts in Week 1. This week, it was quarterback Matt Schaub's club-record 497 yards on 38-of-52 passing with three touchdowns that paced the team.
Trailing by a touchdown with 2:11 left in regulation, Schaub stepped up in the pocket on fourth-and-10 and lofted a high pass toward wide receiver Andre Johnson. The four-time Pro Bowler leapt over safety Reed Doughty for a 34-yard touchdown that quieted the 88,240 in attendance at FedEx Field.
"We had put that play in for a desperation situation," Kubiak said. "The key to that play was protection and Matt giving himself time to just throw it up."
Johnson called it one of his biggest catches ever, slightly edging out his fourth down grab against Miami in 2008.
"I just knew that we needed a play to win," he said. "I did a good job of using my body. I had him walled off pretty good and I was able to get my hands on it and I was just trying to come down with it."
The reception was even more impressive considering Johnson left the game earlier in the fourth quarter with a right ankle injury. His outlook appeared grim as he limped into the locker room with a member of the team's training staff. Once his ankle was re-taped, though, Johnson returned to the field.
"I was just going to go out there and see if I could continue playing," said Johnson, who will get an MRI Monday morning. "When I went out there and ran the first play, it felt fine. So I just kept playing."
In the first half, the Redskins dictated the tempo behind quarterback Donovan McNabb's 239 passing yards. He led Washington on four scoring drives in five possessions through the first two quarters to give Washington a 20-7 lead.
The atmosphere inside the Texans' locker room at halftime gave Kubiak an indication of his team's resolve.
"There was no panic at halftime," he said. "There were a lot of mad football players and coaches, but there was no panic. It was just about doing the job and staying after it, and we did."
The Redskins extended their lead to 27-10 with 3:51 left in the third quarter before the Texans' turnaround began.
Wide receiver Kevin Walter, who caught 11 balls for 144 yards (11.1 avg.), made a six-yard touchdown reception to cap a six-play, 78-yard drive.
Following the Redskins' punt on their ensuing series, Rackers booted a 43-yard field goal to cut the deficit to 27-20 with 11:15 remaining in the game.
Just as the momentum started to shift, Johnson left the field. But safety Bernard Pollard lifted his team's spirits by blocking kicker Graham Gano's 29-yard field goal attempt to keep the game within a score.
With 3:16 on the game clock, Schaub rallied the offense with Johnson in tow by making three long completions. Johnson caught a 29-yard pass, which Jacoby Jones followed with an 18-yard reception. Four plays later, Johnson provided the Texans' signature moment.
"He had two guys on him," Schaub said. "I don't even know how he caught it. I know he caught it in the end zone. We'll see it tomorrow. But a heck of a play by a heck of a player."
The Redskins still had time to work just inside the two-minute warning, but defensive end Mario Williams sacked McNabb for a 14-yard loss and drew a penalty on offensive lineman Stephon Heyer to bring the game to overtime.
Houston won the toss and had an opportunity to close the game out from the Washington 34, but Kubiak opted to punt instead of Rackers attempting a 52-yard field goal. At the time, a breeze was facing Houston.
The Redskins responded by driving to the Houston 34, where Gano converted a 52-yard field goal, but it came after Kubiak called a timeout. On his second try, Gano's kick sailed right.
"That was great," Williams said of the call. "I wasn't even thinking about (the timeout). But I'm glad he did call it."
On the next possession, Schaub set up Rackers' game-winner by completing a 28-yard pass to tight end Joel Dreessen in the middle of the field. The same play didn't work earlier in the game.
"We had some variations of that play with the routes and everything based on the coverage, and they didn't give us the coverage we were wanting for it, so it never showed itself," Schaub said. "Then we got the coverage we wanted there at the end."