September 9, 2002
HOUSTON -- The Texans didn't just win their opener. They won their Super Bowl.
Rookie quarterback David Carr came out with a touchdown on his first completion, then hit Corey Bradford for a 65-yard touchdown early in the fourth quarter to beat the Cowboys 19-10 on Sunday night in the first game in franchise history.
"I wouldn't say we ambushed them," Houston nose guard Seth Payne said, "but I don't think they expected what they got."
The Texans became only the second expansion team to start 1-0. Minnesota did it in 1961, beating the division rival Bears.
This one, though, was for Texas bragging rights in a state where football is king.
NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue called the game "the Texas Super Bowl," and it felt that way to 69,604 who had waited since the Oilers left for Tennessee after the 1996 season. They started arriving 41/2 hours early, many with their faces painted and carrying anti-Dallas signs.
Carr spoke for all of them on draft day when he said he wanted "to beat up on the Cowboys more than anyone else." That certainly was the sentiment of owner Bob McNair, who got the expansion rights for $700-million in October 1999 and made it clear he wanted to open against his northern neighbors.
Playing with the roof of their $449-million stadium closed because of threatening clouds, the Texans got the decibel level going when Carr took the first snap of franchise history and threw long down the right sideline to Bradford.
"We wanted to come out and set a tone," Texans coach Dom Capers said.
Dallas cornerback Bryant Westbrook was flagged for pass interference, moving Houston 43 yards to the Cowboys 21. Three plays later, Carr hit tight end Billy Miller at the 6 and Miller dove for the first touchdown 1:14 in.
Penalties plagued Dallas all night, making the Cowboys look like the expansion team. Through three quarters, they had been penalized eight times for 112 yards, while the Texans had gained only 106.
Dallas got a 33-yard field goal by Billy Cundiff with 56 seconds left in the second quarter and a 46-yard touchdown run by Michael Wiley in the third to tie it at 10.
On the first drive of the fourth quarter, Carr threw deep to Bradford, who reached behind his body in the air and hauled it in and outran two Cowboys to the end zone.
With 2:37 left, Payne sacked Dallas quarterback Quincy Carter for a safety.
As the Texans celebrated, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones picked up a towel and used it to wipe his hands in disgust.
"We did nothing good," said Dallas running back Emmitt Smith. "We have a long way to go and a short time to get there."