HOUSTON -- The San Diego Chargers' backups spoiled the coming-out party for what the Texans believe will be their starring tandem for years to come.
|Houston's J.J. Moses returns the opening kickoff 50 yards against the Chargers.(AP)|
The ending was a downer on an otherwise big night for Houston quarterback David Carr, last year's top draft pick, and receiver Andre Johnson, this year's third overall choice. Carr found Johnson five times for 81 yards and a touchdown, mostly against San Diego's best defenders.
"It's good to see Andre and David connect," coach Dom Capers said. "I think the more they work together, the more you're going to see them develop into a really good tandem."
Despite the Carr-to-Johnson pairing, the Texans (0-3) trailed 13-10 heading into the fourth quarter with the first-string offense still in the game as planned. Playing the Chargers' reserves, Carr engineered a 13-play, 83-yard drive that ended with a 27-yard touchdown pass to Jabar Gaffney.
But Gaffney was flagged for taunting, forcing the Texans to kick from their own 15, giving San Diego just enough improved field position to allow Hoambrecker to kick a 53-yarder that brought San Diego (1-2) to 17-16 with less than 4:45 remaining.
"I told them before the game that we needed to start fast, and at halftime I said we didn't start fast so we need to finish strong," coach Marty Schottenheimer said.
Carr finished 15-of-22 for 205 yards and his first two TD passes of the preseason. His first four completions went to Johnson, including a 24-yard touchdown toss on a slant over the middle midway into the first quarter to give Houston a 10-0 lead.
"When a guy is hot like that, you've got to keep feeding him," Carr said. "We know he is talented enough. He just stepped up and did it in a game. Hopefully, we can keep this going."
The Chargers' first-team offense rebounded from a slow start with a sustained drive that ended with a 46-yard field goal by Steve Christie at the beginning of the second quarter.
San Diego was without star running back LaDainian Tomlinson, who sat out to nurse a bruised left heel. However, Chargers defensive tackle Leonardo Carson did start despite his arrest Thursday in Mobile, Ala., on charges of breaking into an apartment and kidnapping a woman.
When the Houston offense faltered after San Diego's field goal, the Chargers appeared to tie it on Eric Parker's 88-yard punt return. But teammate Quentin Jammer was flagged for holding a would-be tackler.
It didn't matter to Drew Brees, who drove the Chargers back down the field mixing passes with runs by Tomlinson's backup, Dahrran Diedrick. Brees finished the drive, as well as his evening of work, midway into the quarter with a 3-yard TD pass to fellow Texas native David Boston.
Boston, a former Ohio State star, was happy to return to the Houston area for the first time since starring at high school in nearby Humble.
"It feels good," said Boston, one of 11 Chargers to catch a pass. "I've never played (professionally) in Houston, and I have a lot of family that was here to watch me play."
Brees, 10-of-18 for 118 yards and the score, received high marks from his coach but saw room for improvement.
"The way I look at it, we could have been better and I could have been better," said Brees, entering his third season. "I feel more comfortable than I did last year, and I'm hoping that as this year goes on, my confidence zone will increase."
Christie tacked on a 36-yarder before halftime to give San Diego its 13-10 lead.
The Texans revamped offensive line, under scrutiny this year after Carr was sacked a record 76 times last season, consistently gave him time to throw and yielded only one sack on a play in which Carr tried to scramble on fourth down. It also opened up enough room to help Stacey Mack to 59 yards rushing and rookie Tony Hollings to get 40 as they split carries.
The Associated Press News Service
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