MIAMI — By the second quarter, the
Houston Texans were running up the score. By the fourth quarter, they
were struggling to run out the clock.
Houston raced to an early 27-point lead Sunday, then held on to beat the Miami Dolphins 27-20.
The Texans (8-7) scored on their
first five possessions and won despite being outscored 20-0 in the
final 31 minutes. Houston kept alive its slim hopes of making the
playoffs for the first time, while defending AFC East champion Miami
(7-8) was all but eliminated.
Given the stakes, Miami seemed
shockingly listless at the outset. The ball bounced off Dolphins
receivers, Texans bounced off Miami tacklers, and Houston's Matt Schaub
repeatedly found receivers wide open.
Boos began midway through the first
quarter, and the Texans made sure the jeers grew louder. At one point
Houston enjoyed advantages of 15-2 in first downs and 307-46 in yards.
Miami linebacker Jason Taylor stood
in front of the bench screaming at several teammates, and maybe the
rant helped. The Dolphins rallied, and a field goal cut the deficit to
27-20 with 2:30 left before Houston recovered an onside kick and ran
out the clock.
The Dolphins' comeback might have
been complete if not for a tripping penalty on Lousaka Polite, which
negated a 62-yard touchdown pass from Chad Henne to Ted Ginn Jr. in the
Houston remained the only NFL team
the Dolphins have never defeated. The Texans' other four wins in the
series were decided by a field goal or less.
The result bruised more than the
Dolphins' pride. They lost linebacker Channing Crowder on the second
play with a right foot injury, and running back Ricky Williams played
only one snap after hurting his right shoulder in the third quarter.
Schaub went 20 for 31 for 286 yards
and two scores. Andre Johnson scored once and made five catches for 71
yards for his second consecutive 1,500-yard season.
The victory left the Texans on the
verge of their first winning season. They play host to New England in
the regular-season finale next Sunday.
A gamble by coach Gary Kubiak
contributed to their fast start. With a fourth-and-1 at the Miami 10,
he decided against a field goal try, and Johnson made the call pay off
with a touchdown catch to cap an 80-yard drive for a 10-0 lead.
Then came a 94-yard drive capped by
another TD, with Jacoby Jones juking a defender to turn a short pass
into a 44-yard score. That made it 17-0 as the boos grew louder.
When a pass deflected off Williams'
shoulder pads, Brian Cushing intercepted, and three plays later Arian
Foster scored untouched up the middle on a 17-yard run for a 24-0 lead.
The Dolphins mounted scoring drives
of 61, 79, 74 and 58 yards in the second half. With Williams sidelined,
Lex Hilliard scored on a 2-yard run and a 10-yard pass from Henne.