Texans sink Dolphins
The Houston Texans got their campaign off to a solid start as they emerged as convincing 30-10 winners over the Miami Dolphins on Sunday.
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The Texans' defence overwhelmed Miami's rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill, the eighth overall pick in the draft, who threw three interceptions in a game-turning six-minute stretch late in the first half.
From that point the Texans - for whom Arian Foster had two touchdown runs and Andre Johnson a TD reception - were always in control and marched to an impressive opening win in what they believe can be a Super Bowl season.
Texans defensive end J.J. Watt deflected two passes that resulted in interceptions and also had one sack - Watt missed most of training camp with a dislocated left elbow.
Tannehill finished 20 of 36 for 219 yards while Texans counterpart Matt Schaub threw for 266 yards in his first action since fracturing his right foot in Week 10 last year, and Johnson finished with 119 yards receiving.
Marcus Thigpen returned a punt 72 yards for Miami's touchdown as the Dolphins gained only 275 total yards.
The Texans, who've boldly adopted a "Super Bowl or Bust" mantra, started in sluggish fashion as they dropped passes and missed tackles early and trailed 3-0 midway through the second quarter.
That's when Houston's defense, the catalyst of last year's play-off drive, came alive.
Pro Bowl cornerback Johnathan Joseph started the flurry of Miami turnovers when he intercepted Tannehill and weaved 36 yards down the sideline. Mike Pouncey shoved Joseph out of bounds for a personal foul, setting up Houston at the Miami 7.
The Texans' offense couldn't convert for a touchdown. Schaub was sacked by Randy Starks, eliciting more boos from the impatient home fans, and Shayne Graham tied it with a 35-yard field goal.
On Miami's next series, the 6 foot 5 inch Watt deflected Tannehill's pass at the line, and Brian Cushing came down with another interception. Schaub converted a third down with a 24-yard pass to Johnson, and Foster weaved for a 14-yard touchdown to put Houston in front.
Foster, who sat out Friday's practice with a sore knee, flipped the ball toward the official and offered his customary bow to the re-energized fans in the end zone.
Watt swatted Tannehill's next pass and cornerback Kareem Jackson came down with it at the Miami 27. Richard Marshall then was called for pass interference and Foster plowed into the end zone from the one-yard line.
Tannehill handed off on Miami's next play from scrimmage, but that didn't work for the floundering Dolphins, either. Daniel Thomas fumbled and Danieal Manning recovered at the Dolphins 31 with 28 seconds left before half-time.
Schaub then threw a pinpoint pass to the end zone for Johnson, who outmuscled Sean Smith for a 24-3 halftime lead.
Thomas, Miami's second-leading rusher last season, left with a head injury and did not return. Graham added 40 and 19-yard field goals after Thigpen's punt return.