Houston Texans rally from 21 down to win wild opener

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After an absolutely embarrassing start, the Texans staged a furious comeback to take down the Chargers on Monday Night Football. After trailing by 21 points early in the third quarter, the Texans scored 24 straight points to beat the Chargers 31-28 in a thriller.

The comeback was capped by a clutch 41-yard field goal by Randy Bullock to give the Texans the win. It was their first lead of the game. It was also the first win the Texans have ever had against the Chargers.

Brian Cushing, in his first regular season game since Oct. 8 of last year, made a spectacular diving interception that he returned for a touchdown to tie the game at 28. Cushing’s big play came shortly after J.J. Watt made a tackle for loss and batted a pass on the previous defensive stand. Both players were non-factors early in the game, when San Diego was seemingly cruising to a victory.

Matt Schaub, after a rough start, completed 34-of-45 passes for 346 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. He helped orchestrate the comeback. Shiloh Keo also made an enormous play with a big hit that resulted in an incompletion on a third down late in the third quarter. The Texans finished strong, but the game didn’t start that way. Not even close.

It would have been almost impossible for the Texans to start the game in a worse fashion than they did on Monday night. Keshawn Martin bobbled the opening kickoff to give the offense field position at the 15-yard line. Then Schaub made matters much worse. His first pass of the game – and the Texans' first offensive play – was batted at the line of scrimmage and intercepted by Cam Thomas.

The Chargers scored on the very next play on a pass to running back Ryan Mathews, who simply beat OLB Brooks Reed. The Texans trailed 21-7 heading into the second half.

The defense was consistently roasted early by the oft-criticized Phillip Rivers, who threw for 195 yards and four touchdowns against the Texans. But he finished completing just 14-of-29 passes.

Texans offensive stud: Andre Johnson is like a fine wine. Getting better with age. He had 12 catches for 146 yards. When the rest of the Texans offense was struggling, Johnson wasn’t. He made some big catches in the final drives too.

Chargers offensive stud: Eddie Royal had just three catches for 24 yards but did catch two of Rivers’ four touchdown passes. He was a big reason the Chargers took a big early lead.

Texans offensive dud: Duane Brown, who is considered by many to be the best left guard in football, didn’t look like it on Monday night. He was beaten handily by Dwight Freeney. While Brown wasn’t good, the rest of the offensive line was solid. And that included the much-talked-about right-side combination of Derek Newton and Brandon Brooks.

Chargers offensive dud: Ryan Mathews never got much going on Monday night. He had 13 carries for 33 yards.

Texans defensive stud: Cushing barely had his name spoken aloud before his interception but that one play more than made up for it. Just an enormous interception that really gave the Texans a win. It was also his first-career touchdown.

Texans defensive dud: Welcome to the NFL, D.J. Swearinger. Meet, Antonio Gates. Gates had just two catches on Monday but both came for long gains against the rookie.

Reed watch: Ed Reed was in San Diego but he was inactive, missing his first game as a Texan. The focus will now shift to trying to getting him ready for Week 2. QB Case Keenum, LB Darryl Sharpton, LB Sam Montgomery, OL Andrew Gardner, OL Cody White and OL David Quessenberry were also inactive.

Up next: The Texans’ home opener is next Sunday against the Titans. This game looks more difficult now than a week ago. The Titans upset the Steelers 16-9 in their season opener. They allowed just 195 yards to Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers’ offense.

After the Titans game, the Texas are at Baltimore, home against Seattle, at San Francisco, home against St. Louis and at Kansas City before the bye week in Week 8.

- Dave Zangaro, CSN Houston

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