A tough afternoon in Charlotte put the Texans at 0-2 for the first time since 2008 with a truckload of work to do before they face their next opponent.
Carolina prevailed 24-17 on a sticky Southern day as Cam Newton made enough plays to win and Houston's offense failed to find the consistency that Bill O'Brien covets.
The Texans survived a shaky first half and were down just seven at intermission. Then Ryan Mallett came out firing on an 80-yard drive that ended with Garrett Graham's 'toe-tapper' in the back of the end zone. Tie game, 10-10.
But, Carolina answered with an 80-yard beauty of their own and would eventually go up two scores after Mallett got picked by A.J. Klein and Newton found Corey Brown in the end zone for what turned out to be the winning score. Credit the Texans for fighting back. Jared Crick's blocked field goal gave them new life as they took the ball down to the Panthers' 14 with a chance to tie before fizzling out.
Playing with a revamped offensive line didn't help a running game that racked up only 61 yards on less than three yards per carry. Meanwhile, the Panthers put up 172 yards on the ground thanks in large part to Newton's 76 yards on keepers. The team got its first take away on Rahim Moore's first half interception but gave one back on the Klein pick. Houston got pressure on Newton with two sacks but his running ability is a tremendous antidote to a strong pass rush.
Mallett's 58 passing attempts are the most for a Texans quarterback since Matt Schaub went for over 60 in 2010 in a wild overtime loss to Baltimore. There will be better days ahead for him as this is only his third career start.
But the Texans find themselves in an 0-2 ditch and they need to get out fast. After Tampa Bay next week they have a trip to Atlanta and a prime time tilt with Indy.
Whether Arian Foster plays next week or if Duane Brown can return remains to be seen. One way or another the Texans have to figure out a way to get the ground game going, play clean and grab a second half lead. Then the defense can really do its thing.
Check out these snapshots from the Texans' Week 2 matchup with the Panthers.