Talk about making a grand entrance
By FRAN BLINEBURY
Copyright 2002 Houston Chronicle
LOUDER than standing next to a roaring jet engine. That’s how it sounded. Brighter and more glittering than a Fourth of July fireworks display. That’s how it looked. Hotter than five-alarm chili. More fiery than a mouthful of jalapeños. That’s how it felt.
David Carr took a knee, the clock ran out and the scene inside Reliant Stadium was the stuff of pure fantasy. Because nobody ever dreamed it could really happen. Texans 19, Cowboys 10.
It concluded with the rookie quarterback Carr pumping his fist into the air and leaping up and down as if somebody had put hot coals inside his shoes, with club owner Bob McNair smiling broadly, with general manager Charley Casserly grinning triumphantly, with 69,604 fans celebrating the official return of the NFL to Houston.
And, oh yes, it ended with Cowboys owner Jerry Jones standing on the opposite sideline looking like somebody just ran over his dog with an 18-wheeler.
This is the way you make an entrance. By coming out of the gate bucking like the powerful bull that is the logo of the franchise — snorting, stomping, breathing fire and determination, holding nothing back. It was huge, bigger than all of Texas and even bolder than anyone could have imagined. The Texans came out like old-time gunslingers, their six-shooters blazing and served notice there was a new marshal in town.
They were the poised, confident Carr dropping back on the very play of the game to throw a deep ball to Corey Bradford down the right sideline that took your breath away. The pass wasn’t caught, but it drew a 43-yard pass-interference penalty from Dallas’ Bryant Westbrook and served notice of the kind of night it was going to be.
“That was just letting them know we were here,” Carr said.
High noon. High stakes. High anxiety. The latter especially for the Cowboys. The Texans went at this one like the poker player who always draws to an inside straight. They had come to gamble, to attack, to not leave anything in their pockets or their game plan.
On offense, on defense, they took everything straight at the Cowboys, from play-calling to execution, simply to attitude.
There was the amazing Carr who finished with numbers that said only 10-for-22 passing for 145 yards, but looked and performed for much of the way like everything that he’s been built up to be. “I can’t explain it,” he said. “It’s a great team effort. I don’t think I have ever been a part of a football game where all three phases of the team contributed so much. It’s a lot of fun to be a part of.”
There was Carr’s 19-yard strike to Billy Miller that scored the first touchdown in Texans’ history only 1:14 into the first quarter of their very first game. There was Carr’s perfectly thrown 65-yard spiral down the right sideline to Bradford with 12:18 left in the fourth quarter that came when the score was tied and it looked like the Cowboys might be working their way back.
There was the 3-4 defense of head coach Dom Capers and defensive coordinator Vic Fangio that stifled Dallas quarterback Quincy Carter and smothered the Dallas running game better than cream gravy on a chicken fried steak.
This was a hard-hitting, helmet-on-helmet, buckle-your-chinstrap-and-let-it-fly, hoop-de-doo football rodeo, Texan-style.
All night long, there was the defense applying the big plays from the likes of Aaron Glenn with his tight coverage and one interception, there were crunching stops by Seth Payne, there were Gary Walker and Kailee Wong and Matt Stevens pinning their ears back and going straight forward.
This was so much more than an expansion team coming out of the box and trying not to make mistakes. Nothing tentative. It was a combination of young players and veterans coming together and saying why not?
They beat the Cowboys to the end zone. They beat the Cowboys in the war of field position. They just beat the Cowboys.
They were Kenny Wright coming in on the blitz to nail Carter when he tried to pass in the third quarter, and they were Payne and Walker coming together to nail Carter in the end zone for a safety late in the fourth quarter to seal the win.
They were hot and heavy, they were big and physical, they were young and so full of promise.
This is how you make an entrance. Loud, bright and hot.