SAN DIEGO -- The silence near the end of the third quarter spoke volumes.
San Diego Chargers fans had watched this nightmare before. Last October, they sat in shock as the Denver Broncos rallied from 24 points down at halftime and scored an 11-point win on Monday Night Football.
This time, the Houston Texans were stars of the horror flick. The Texans wiped out a three-touchdown deficit in the second half to earn a 31-28 victory over the Chargers in the season opener at Qualcomm Stadium on Monday night.
Randy Bullock's 41-yard field goal on the game's final play clinched the win for the Texans and handed the Chargers a bitter defeat.
The decisive drive went 38 yards on nine plays.
"We're a resilient group of guys," said quarterback Matt Schaub, who completed 34 of 45 passes for 346 yards with three touchdowns and an interception. "We've dealt with a lot of adversity over the last few years. Guys never gave up. We just kept battling, kept playing, taking it one play at a time. We found a way to make the plays."
Brian Cushing made one of the biggest, picking off a Philip Rivers pass and returning it 18 yards for the tying score with 9:30 left. Chargers fans sensed what was coming next.
"This was a tough one, obviously," said Mike McCoy, who was making his debut as San Diego's coach. "When you play a good team like the Houston Texans, you have an opportunity when you're up 28-7. You have to put the game away. You can't give away any plays. You get a couple of big plays here and there, and we kind of stubbed our toes a couple of times.
"We had great energy in the stadium today, and we need to just keep on building off that. But we have to move on."
The Chargers led by 21 after Rivers hooked up with Eddie Royal on a 1-yard touchdown pass with 10:46 left in the third quarter, but the Texans roared back, blanking San Diego the rest of the way.
Schaub led Houston on a 70-yard drive in 11 plays, hitting Garrett Graham for a 7-yard scoring pass to cut the lead to 28-14 with 5:02 left in the third.
The Chargers began to self-destruct from that point. They stopped a Houston drive at their 19 and forced the Texans to settle for a 37-yard field goal by Bullock. However, an unnecessary roughness penalty on Cam Thomas gave the Texans new life and a first down.
Schaub threw a 9-yard touchdown to Owen Daniels on the next play to pull the Texans to within 28-21 with 14:44 left in the game. One could hear the moans and groans by Chargers fans throughout the stadium.
"I expected this to be a dogfight," Houston coach Gary Kubiak said. "Obviously, I was really disappointed with how we played early. Maybe I talked about it too much. I warned our guys before the game."
Rivers threw four touchdown passes, three in the first half, but completed only 14 of 29 passes for 195 yards and the one costly interception.
Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson made 12 catches for 146 yards, both game-high totals.
"He's a good receiver," Chargers cornerback Shareece Wright said. "It's the reason why he's been in the league as long as he has. He did his job tonight, and we've got to do a better job on defense."
The Texans outgained the Chargers 120-80 on the ground, with Arian Foster producing 57 yards on 18 carries. Ryan Mathews led the San Diego ground attack with 33 yards on 13 attempts.
The start couldn't have been a biggest contrast than the finish, as it took the Chargers only 15 seconds to score a touchdown.
On the Texans' first play from scrimmage, Thomas intercepted a Schaub pass that was tipped by linebacker Jarret Johnson.
On the next play, Rivers hit Ryan Mathews on a 14-yard touchdown pass.
The Texans, though, stringed together a 10-play, 71-yard drive, and Schaub connected with Daniels on a 1-yard scoring pass with 3:11 remaining in the first to tie the score at 7.
A pass-interference penalty on Houston's Brice McCain, who was defending Royal, gave the Chargers a first-and-goal. Rivers found Royal in the corner of the end zone on the next play for a 6-yard touchdown pass for a 14-7 advantage. The 12-play drive went 80 yards in 5:40.
After Bullock missed a 51-yard field goal late in the first half, the Chargers marched 59 yards in eight plays in 1:43 for a score. Vincent Brown nudged the ball into the pylon to complete a 10-yard touchdown reception and give a 21-7 San Diego lead with 18 seconds remaining in the second quarter.
NOTES: The Chargers won the four previous meetings between the two clubs, beating the Texans twice each at Qualcomm Stadium and Reliant Stadium. ... The teams opened the season against each other for the second time. The other time occurred in 2004, when San Diego recorded a 27-20 victory in Houston. ... The Texans' inactives: QB Case Keenum, FS Ed Reed, ILB Darryl Sharpton, OLB Sam Montgomery, T Andrew Gardner, G Cody White and T David Quessenberry. ... The Chargers' inactives: QB Brad Sorensen, WR Seyi Ajirotutu, SS Brandon Taylor, ILB Manti Te'o, OLB Tourek Williams, G Johnnie Troutman and DE Drake Nevis. ... The game drew an announced crowd of 59,522.