HOUSTON -- Dom Capers decided the game was going to end in 2 seconds. David Carr made it the right choice.
Down by three with the ball inside the Jacksonville 1-yard-line, Capers kept the Texans' offense on the field rather than send the game into overtime with a short field goal. Carr took the snap and immediately stretched the ball over the goal line as time expired for a 24-20 Houston victory.
"When I saw how close we were, I thought, 'Let's go for it. Let's try to win the game and end this thing right now,'" Capers said.
The Texans (2-2) had to wait a few anxious moments while officials reviewed whether Carr got the ball over the line before it was swatted away.
"You go on instincts," Capers said. "If we don't make that, you guys are asking me about it for the next year. I had a gut feeling."
The play sent Jacksonville to 0-4, its worst start since the franchise's inaugural year in 1995, but coach Jack Del Rio initially was glad to see the Texans go for broke.
"I thought that gave us an opportunity to win the game right there," Del Rio said. "The quarterback fumbled the ball, but it's one of many rules that are tilted offensively. He did a nice job jumping over the line before he lost control of it."
Del Rio conceded the officials were correct.
"It was a gutsy call. If they don't make it, they lose the game," Del Rio said.
Until then, it appeared it might be rookie quarterback Byron Leftwich's day.
Leftwich, making his first start in relief of an injured Mark Brunell, threw three interceptions but had the Jaguars ahead late in the fourth quarter and got the ball back when the Texans' Stacey Mack threw an ill-advised halfback pass to a double-covered Andre Johnson, and Jason Craft came down with the interception.
The game turned with 2:42 remaining when Leftwich scrambled around the right end for 9 yards and fumbled during an Eric Brown tackle.
The Texans' Matt Stevens fell on the ball at the Jacksonville 41, forcing Leftwich to watch from the sidelines as Carr and running back Domanick Davis marched the down the field. The Texans had six chances to score from inside the Jacksonville 5, and the Jaguars committed three penalties in that time before Carr's game-winner.
"When you're six inches away from the goal line you can't give that up," Carr said. "I'd rather take my shot right there. It was a great call by the coaching staff, and I am glad that I just got up with the touchdown."
Leftwich tied the game at 17 with a franchise-record 84-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter to Troy Edwards, who only signed with Jacksonville on Tuesday.
Leftwich, officially announced as the starter shortly before the game, was 17-of-36 for 231 yards. The second-year Carr was 23-of-36 for 234 yards.
"I think I could have been a whole lot better," Leftwich said. "We did everything you could ask for. I just can't make that mistake at the end."
The Texans started quickly as Carr and Mack drove steadily downfield to the Jacksonville 5-yard line, where Mack galloped in with little resistance for a 7-0 lead.
Leftwich's first drive as a pro appeared to stall on fourth-and-10 at the Houston 36 when Del Rio decided to go for it. Leftwich made the move pay off when he found Jimmy Redmond on the right side and Redmond ran for a 22-yard gain.
The Jaguars stalled again, however, but this time they were close enough for Seth Marler to hit a 29-yard field goal.
J.J. Moses' 46-yard return on the ensuing kickoff set up a short drive capped by a 24-yard Carr-to-Jabar Gaffney scoring pass early in the second quarter. It was the first time in the Texans' 20-game history they scored on their first two possessions.
Fred Taylor sprinted around the left side from a yard out midway into the second quarter to cut Houston's lead to 14-10.
- Stacey Mack's streak of carries without a fumble ended at 330, when he lost a ball that Jacksonville recovered in the first half. Then he dropped a pitch on his next play from scrimmage.
- Texans cornerback Aaron Glenn did not return after sustaining a sprained groin in the first quarter.
- Brunell was out because of a deep cut he suffered on his throwing elbow last weekend in Indianapolis. He was inactive Sunday but was listed as the emergency quarterback if Leftwich and backup David Garrard had been knocked out.
The Associated Press News Service
Copyright 2003, The Associated Press, All Rights Reserved