HOUSTON -- With the Houston Texans relying on backups at quarterback and tailback, tight end Billy Miller lent a hand.
Miller split two defenders for a one-handed touchdown catch early in the fourth quarter -- just his second score of the season -- and the Texans shut down the Carolina Panthers 14-10 Sunday.
Carolina, which has lost two of three games after a 5-0 start, took a 10-7 lead on John Kasay's 23-yard field goal at the end of a third quarter in which each team had one possession.
But Houston's Tony Banks connected with Miller for the winning points on a second-down play from the Panthers 20 with 9½ minutes left. Banks' precision pass traveled between Carolina's Ricky Manning and Greg Favors, and Miller cradled the ball as he strode 4 yards into the end zone.
Banks, playing because starting quarterback David Carr sat out with a sprained right ankle, was 10-of-15 for 121 yards and did not throw an interception or lose a fumble.
Houston also lost rookie tailback Domanick Davis to a strained chest in the second half after a 74-yard day. Davis was trying to become the first player to run for 100 yards in each of his first three NFL starts. Stacey Mack replaced him in the Texans' backfield and tied the game at 7 halfway through the third quarter with a 1-yard scoring lunge.
After Miller's TD in the final period, Carolina did move to Houston's 31 on its next series.
But the drive stalled when receiver Steve Smith, who scored the Panthers' touchdown, kicked defensive tackle Jerry Deloach after a catch and was flagged for a 15-yard personal foul. Carolina punted and never threatened again.
The Panthers fed the Texans (3-5) a steady diet of Stephen Davis on the game's opening drive, rushing him eight times for 20 yards to set up the occasional throw by Jake Delhomme. One of those passes, a 24-yarder to Smith over the middle, put Carolina up 7-0 midway through the first quarter.
Carolina's Davis, the NFC's leading rusher, finished with 153 yards on 30 carries.
The rest of the opening half was marked by a Carolina offense that gained plenty of yards but couldn't score again, and an officiating crew that had two gaffes reversed by replay in four minutes.
In the second quarter, Chad Stanley punted from near midfield to Smith, who waved for a fair catch. But Smith was knocked off the play by Houston's Derrick Vaughn, who was blocked into the returner. Officials initially ruled the ball touched Smith, giving the Texans possession at Carolina's 4. But replays showed the ball did not hit Smith and belonged to Carolina.
Moments later, Stephen Davis lost the ball after being tackled by Jay Foreman, and cornerback Aaron Glenn picked it up and dashed 48 yards for an apparent score. Carolina coach John Fox threw his red flag a second time, and again referee Ron Blum reversed the call after seeing the ground clearly caused the fumble.
|Texans tight end Billy Miller cradles the ball after making the game-winning touchdown catch.(AP)|
|TD||Steve Smith, 24 Yd pass from Jake Delhomme (John Kasay kick is good), 7:47. Drive: 12 plays, 68 yards in 7:13.|
|TD||Stacey Mack, 1 Yd run (Kris Brown kick is good), 6:43. Drive: 13 plays, 73 yards in 8:17.|
|FG||John Kasay 23 Yd, 0:05. Drive: 14 plays, 68 yards in 6:38.|
|TD||Billy Miller, 20 Yd pass from Tony Banks (Kris Brown kick is good), 9:30. Drive: 9 plays, 67 yards in 5:35.|
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