It has been more than two years, but it really feels like yesterday. The Texans franchise took its first steps toward the field by acquiring quarterback David Carr with the first pick of the 2002 draft.
But he was not the team's only choice when it came to franchise quarterbacks.
Quarterback Joey Harrington was one of many players on the Texans watch list, but he ended up going third to the Detroit Lions.
"We liked everything about David," Texans head coach Dom Capers said. "We certainly spent an awful lot of time with him because we didn't have a team to coach that year, so I would look at an awful lot of tapes, spend a lot of time with he and his family. As all of those decisions are when you're talking about the first player picked in the draft, they are difficult decisions … We just had a gut feeling on David and decided to go with him. We certainly held Joey Harrington in very high regard – same thing with (Carolina defensive end) Julius Peppers.
"We just felt that the right thing to do was to pick a quarterback to start your franchise with. David happened to be that guy."
Since that time the quarterbacks and the Texans and Lions franchises have taken steps toward winning. The Texans are growing, the Lions rebuilding.
It has taken two years, but the teams will meet for the first time Sunday in Detroit. It's not really a litmus test, but it is a game filled with storylines.
According to Carr, it's not a competition between quarterbacks.
"If he played strong safety, I'd probably notice him a little bit more," he said
of Harrington. "It is going to be a little different because I'm not going to
get a chance to see him on film. It is going to be fun to play against a guy like
that. He's a competitor.
"I've seen him on TV a couple of times, a couple of highlights and whatever. It is going to be fun to get out there and compete against a guy that likes to win."
So let the fun begin.
LAST WEEK:The Lions beat the Chicago Bears 20-16 Sept. 12, ending one of the worst streaks in all of professional sports. It was the Lions' first road win since Dec. 17, 2000. The last road win was a 10-7 victory over the New York Jets.
The season opener wasn't pretty, but it was effective and gave the Lions an undeniable boost of confidence entering Sunday's game.
Strong safety Bracy Walker returned a blocked field goal for a touchdown and intercepted a pass with under a minute to go to seal the Lions victory.
Harrington completed 14 of 26 passes with a touchdown and an interception.
The Lions however did lose wide receiver Charles Rogers for the season with a broken collar bone – the same type of break that ended his 2003 season.
Pro-Bowl cornerback Dre' Bly sprained his knee and will miss at least the next two games.
"What was interesting was the demeanor of the team," Lions head coach Steve Mariucci said. "I was watching the team when (Rogers) went down and when Dre' Bly went down on the next series. What I saw was guys playing right through it."
Running back Domanick Davis led the team in both receptions and rushing for a total of 157 yards, but the Texans were limited by four turnovers.
Houston settled for two Kris Brown field goals in the red zone. Davis fumbled twice, including on the team's final possession.
"It wasn't the way we wanted to start," Capers said. "We've got an awful lot of work to do.
"We've got plenty of things to build on, we just know we've got to do a better job of taking care of the ball on offense and we've got to perform a little bit better in the critical situations of the game and we've got to eliminate the big plays on defense."
THE SERIES:Sunday's game will be the first meeting between the Texans and Lions.
TEXANS ON DEFENSE:The Texans go from seeing a team with key offensive veterans to one notable for its rookie contributions.
After one week of play the Texans are 15 th in the league in total defense. The numbers are not flashy, but good considering the Chargers dynamic rushing attack and a 121 yard game by LaDainian Tomlinson.
Sunday will also be the Texans first taste of a West Coast offense – a system Mariucci has been running for his entire career.
Rogers' season-ending injury is painful for the Lions, but they have depth at wide receiver, including former Texas standout and first-round draft pick Roy Williams.
Longhorns remember Williams fondly. He left Texas with a school record 241 catches for 3,866 yards and 36 touchdowns. He made a one-handed catch against the Bears that earned him instant NFL credibility.
And he'll need it. He has big shoes to fill.
Williams assumes Rogers starting position and will line up opposite the tight end in most of the Lions formations. The West Coast offense is based around timing routes including slants and other double-move plays.
Williams uses his 6-foot-3, 212 pound frame to throw cornerbacks off the line and has the speed to run away from coverage.
Mariucci likes the ability of wide receivers Tai Streets and Az-Zahir Hakim as well and doesn't expect Williams to get all the keys to the offense right away.
Williams played 60 snaps the entire preseason, so much of his focus remains on learning the game, not immediately replacing Rogers, who still holds a place in his team's heart.
"I can't say enough good things about how hard Charles worked to get back this year and to see this happen again on his first pass this year, you feel terrible for the guy," Harrington said Wednesday morning. "As far as our team dropping off, I don't see us missing a step to be honest because that is why we brought Tai Streets in.
"Tai Streets has been the starting receiver for a playoff team the last five years. He's shown all through training camp and all through his career that he is very capable of being a starting receiver in this league and he's done it. I'm not only very happy to have Roy (Williams) but with Tai coming in … (Az-Zahir Hakim) is no slouch himself. He's proven on many occasions to be a very quality receiver."
Harrington and Carr haven't had many chances to talk to each other and develop a relationship off the field. Instead, their relationship has been played out through analysis and the media.
They have followed similar yet different paths.
Carr was sacked a league-high 76 times in his rookie season. Harrington has been sacked 19 times in three years. The Lions have allowed 32 sacks over the last 33 games.
Harrington started every game last season, leading first and second-year quarterbacks in completions, touchdowns and passing yards.
"I think he's a decent quarterback," Texans free safety Marcus Coleman said. "He's good at improvising. A lot of times when he's scrambling, he's scrambling to throw. He's looking down field. He's always looking to make the big play."
A so-so running game helped the Lions win in Week One, but it must improve as the season progresses. Rookie running back Kevin Jones rushed for 36 yards in the season opener.
He and backup Artose Pinner have limited rushing attempts in their NFL careers. Pinner played 42 snaps in three games last season.
Still, Harrington expects to put up strong numbers against the Texans defense.
"I'm sure I will see something new, especially from this defense," Harrington said. "I would be surprised if I didn't. The 3-4 isn't something that's too common in the NFL but we've had the luxury of playing and practicing against it for two weeks during the preseason. Of the teams around the league I think we might be one of the most prepared to see this type of defense, but I'm sure they'll have a new wrinkle for us."
TEXANS ON OFFENSE:The Lions didn't put up flashy numbers against the Bears, allowing 342 yards of offense in the season opener, but they stood strong when it counted.
The defense forced three fumbles, recovering two and picked off Bears quarterback Rex Grossman twice. In a slash of creativity, the Lions took a safety near the end of the game to play field position.
The secondary will be hurt by Bly's absence. The question is, how much.
Detroit still has cornerback Fernando Bryant and safeties Brock Marion and Walker. They are solid players, but look for the Texans to try and take advantage of Bly's replacement, Andre' Goodman.
Goodman spent 13 games on injured reserve last season. The Lions other reserve cornerback, Chris Kern is a rookie out of Mount Union.
"Andre' is a good young player," Carr said. "He's got great athletic ability. He's similar to Fernando (Bryant) on the other side. They're going to play good football. It is not really like he's going to get extra attention, but obviously with Dré being out, it is an advantage for us a little bit because he's a great football player."
Up front the Lions are equally solid.
Minus two fumbles – Davis performed well in Sunday's game against the Chargers. But the Lions defensive line and linebackers are older and less forgiving.
The defensive line has a combined 22-years pro experience.
The linebackers, while unrecognizable in name, pack a punch. James Davis, Earl Holmes and rookie Teddy Lehman will start. Linebacker Boss Bailey will miss the game with a knee injury.
Lehman was drafted in the second round out of Oklahoma. He left the school with the Butkus Award given to the best college linebacker. Former Sooner and current Tennessee Titans linebacer Rocky Calmus also won the award.
Lehman had 209 solo tackles in his career, including 47 tackles for loss.
The Lions allowed 128 rushing yards against the Bears, but had eight players with five or more tackles.