HOUSTON --The Texans returned home in front of 70,741 fans at Reliant Stadium today hungry for the first set of back-to-back wins in the franchise's young history.
Turnovers have so far told the story of the Texans first four games. This time around, Houston turned the tables on their previous turnover bug, scoring on three of the team's five turnovers that included three interceptions and two fumble recoveries.
The turnover margin paid dividends, leading Houston to a 30-17 home victory, the first Reliant Stadium fans have been a part of this season as the team posted the largest amount of points in club history.
"You can't win games if you can't win the turnover battle," head coach Dom Capers said after the game. "Today we won it and we won it significantly."
Numerous players on both Houston's offense and defense chipped in with impressive performances to catapult the team to its second win of the season.
QB David Carr finished the day completing 14 of 23 passes for 228 yards and one
touchdown. RB Jonathan Wells finished with a career-high 105 yards on the ground
and one score to pace Houston's rushers while WR Andre Johnson hauled in six catches
totaling 115 yards including a 15-yard touchdown grab.
On defense, rookie CB Dunta Robinson had his breakthrough performance of the
season, intercepting two Kerry Collins passes for 86 return yards including a
61-yarder to put the game away.
Fellow CB Demarcus Faggins made his first career interception in the fourth quarter, coming in between a Collins to Doug Gabriel passing attempt at the Houston 1.
And LB Jamie Sharper left his mark in Texans history with a quadruple play when he sacked Collins, forced a fumble, recovered the loose ball and ran 16 yards into the end zone to give Houston a 10-3 lead in the second quarter.
"Our defense did an outstanding job of getting us the ball," TE Mark Bruener said. "In the first three games, our opponents didn't really turn the ball over. Today, our defense changed that, by taking the football away and giving the offense an opportunity to put up points."
The Texans defense set the tone right out of the gate, quickly stopping Oakland's offensive efforts. Collins found WR Ronald Curry for a five-yarder to start things off but it was the furthest the Raiders would get on their opening drive. Texans SS Glenn Earl broke through the Oakland offensive line to hit RB Tyrone Wheatley for a two-yard loss. A false start and incomplete pass to Jerry Rice forced the Raiders to punt.
Houston didn't produce much more on offense and quickly called on P Chad Stanley to boot the ball back to the Raiders.
Oakland began a mad dash towards the end zone as Collins found WR Jerry Porter on a 33-yard strike down the Raiders sideline. But five plays later the Raiders had to settle for a 35-yard field goal try. K Sebastian Janikowski tailed the kick wide right, turning the ball back over to the Texans at their own 25.
Wells rambled 14 yards for a first as Houston inched towards the midway mark on the field. Carr found Johnson down the middle for an additional 16. Houston's offense wasn't able to get any further than Oakland's 28 and on 4th and 6, Brown came in to manhandle the uprights from 46 yards out, giving Houston an early 3-0 advantage with 3:01 remaining in the first quarter.
Gabriel brought the ball out to the Oakland 32 on a 21-yard return and Collins quickly found WR Courtney Anderson on a 22-yard strike to move into Houston territory. But once again, Oakland's offensive unit was unable to punch the ball into the end zone after being stopped on third down for the third time in the first quarter.
Janikowski came in and redeemed himself, chipping in a 50-yarder to tie the score at three-all.
Houston's offense gained some spark at the start of the second quarter. RB Tony Hollings notched a seven-yard scamper which was followed by a 12-yard gain by Wells. Carr then found a wide-open Billy Miller for another 27-yard gain to place Houston in the red zone. But Wells took a blow by S Ray Buchanan on his next carry that sent the ball loose and CB Phillip Buchanon jumped on the fumble at the three-yard line.
Raiders RB Tyrone Wheatley got his troops out of the danger zone on a 47-yard run as Oakland began to take advantage of the turnover.
But Sharper had different plans for his opponent. Three plays later, the Texans defender pummeled Collins, sending the ball loose at Oakland's own 16. Sharper quickly reacted, scooping up the pigskin and trotting 16 yards into the end zone to give Houston a 10-3 lead.
The Raiders challenged the score but the officials ruled that the play was good as Sharper recorded his second career touchdown.
Houston's defense did their part again, forcing the Raiders to punt the ball back into their offensive teammates' hands just two minutes later. The Texans offense was only able to muster five yards on a Wells run. Carr set off running two plays later but came up a yard short. Carr hand-off to Wells on 4th and 1 was pushed back for a negative yard and Houston turned the ball over to Oakland at their 45.
In one swift play, the Raiders tied the score at 10 when RB Amos Zeroeue shed the Texans blockers and made some impressive cuts to run 55 yards into the end zone.
Carr was determined to re-gain the lead, sailing a lofty pass to Johnson, who shed Phillip Buchanon's intrusive hands and came up with the ball for a 33-yard stunning catch down the sideline. Carr found Gaffney soon after for a 29-yard connection to place Houston at the one-yard line. Wells punched the ball in to seal the 70-yard scoring drive and give Houston a 17-10 lead. It was Wells' fourth career touchdown.
Oakland wasn't satisfied and set off on a 61-yard, nine-play scoring drive. Zeroeue gave the Texans defense more headaches, catching an 18-yarder to put the Raiders offense at the 13-yard line. Five plays later he ran the ball in from three-yards out to tie the score at 17.
The Texans got the ball back with under 50 seconds remaining and gave Brown a shot at a 57-yard field goal but the kick fell short and the score remained tied at the half.
Houston took over to start off the third quarter and punted on the first series. Texans CB Demarcus Faggins' near interception closed out Oakland's ensuing possession and Houston again searched for more points to regain the ever-changing lead.
Stanley came in and hung a 45-yard punt and Oakland was pushed back to their own 10 to begin the drive after a 10-yard penalty. Collins advanced his unit 16 additional yards but the drive was stopped short by Robinson, who picked off Collins for his first career interception.
Robinson returned the ball 25 yards and the Texans offense went to work from the Oakland 19. Carr found Gaffney on a seven-yard pickup and Wells carried four time for nine yards but Houston had to settle for a 21-yard Brown field goal to give the Texans a 20-17 advantage.
A turnover again plagued the Raiders offense as Adam Treu and Collins fumbled the center-to-quarterback exchange. Texans LB Jay Foreman pounced on the loose ball, recovering his fourth career fumble while giving the Texans offense another scoring opportunity from the Oakland 30.
Carr escaped around the outside for an 11-yard run to start off the drive. Hollings added another four and after the next play, Carr called for timeout to gather his troops together. The break paid off and the offense came back on fire as Carr found Johnson on a 15-yard touchdown strike, Johnson's second of the season and Carr's fourth as Houston extended its lead 27-17.
"I was running an underneath route," Johnson explained. "I saw Carr take off scrambling, and we always talk about the scramble drill. I found an open spot, Carr saw me, and I got into the end zone."
Oakland got into Houston territory but once again, a turnover stopped the drive short as Faggins stepped in front of Collins' pass intended for Gabriel at the Houston 1.
Wells began to chip away downfield with 17 yards on four runs. Carr then fournd a reliable target in Johnson who knocked down defenders for anothner 10. The Carr to Johnson connection came through big again with strikes of 27 and 14 yards. Brown came in to split the uprights from 44 yards out to extend the Texans lead 30-17.
Though Houston wasn't able to find the end zone, the Texans offense was able to chew 7:33 seconds off of the play clock on the 73-yard scoring drive.
The Oakland offense was able to drive to Houston's 26-yard line but Robinson struck again, snuffing out any hopes the Raiders had of closing the scoring gap. Robinson caught the ball before it ever made it near Porter and returned it 61 yards to the Oakland 33, giving the Texans fans another thrilling turnover, his second of the day.
"It feels like a dream; to come out here against the Oakland Raiders, having watched Jerry Rice all my life and to get two picks against a team like this," Robinson smiled. "I am happy right now."* *
Robinson's interception put the game away and Carr took a knee to run down the clock as Houston earned a 30-17 win. The Texans lifted their record to 2-2 as they prepare for another home contest next week against Minnesota (2-1).
"The most important thing to our team right now is not where we are, but where we're headed," Caper said. "I like the direction we've been heading in the last two weeks. This was an outstanding team win today against a talented Raider team. Every week in this game there is a different challenge and the challenge is to improve and the most encouraging thing about our football team is we are improving and getting better.
"We have a lot of young guys in a lot of areas, three rookies starting on defense. Today was an outstanding win. I thought our team played with a lot of heart, stamina, and persistency in the second half."