In collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com
The NFL returns to Houston as the expansion Texans host the Dallas Cowboys in their first game at Reliant Stadium. The Texans waste no time scoring their first touchdown as Billy Miller scores just 1:14 into the game. Houston later gets a 65-yard David Carr touchdown pass to Corey Bradford to stun the Cowboys 19-10, becoming just the second NFL expansion team to win their first game.
Just getting the NFL back to Houston was a bit of an upset. When the NFL made its deal with the City of Cleveland, allowing the Browns' history to stay behind as Art Modell moved his team to Baltimore, becoming the Ravens, it was assumed that the 32nd team would go to Los Angeles after the Rams and Raiders left the second largest market without a team in 1995. However, Los Angeles had trouble putting together a stadium plan as the league met to add a new team for the 2002 season. While Los Angeles was fumbling around, Houston was focused on getting a new team after the Oilers moved to Tennessee in 1997. Led by Owner Bob McNair, the City of Houston began working on a plan right away to land a new team. In 1999, as the expansion Browns played their first games, the league voted to award a team in Houston for the 2002 season.
The expansion Texans named Charley Casserly as their first General Manager. Casserly had previously been GM of the Washington Redskins. The Texans' first coach Dom Capers had experience working with an expansion team, having previously coached the first-year Carolina Panthers in 1995. With the first overall pick in the NFL Draft, the Texas selected Quarterback David Carr from Fresno State. In the preseason, the Texans posted a record of 1-5, playing their first game in the Hall of the Fame Game in Canton against the New York Giants, losing 34-17. The Texans lost an exhibition win at the Superdome against the New Orleans Saints by a score of 13-10.
When the Houston Texans took the field for the first official National Televised Sunday Night Game against the Dallas Cowboys, there was electricity in the air over Reliant Stadium with a playoff atmosphere. Fans in Houston hated the Cowboys and were happy to again have a team of their own to renew the Lone Star State football rivalry. The Texans caught a break early as a pass interference on the first play from scrimmage gave them the ball deep in Dallas territory. A few plays later, David Carr connected with Billy Miller on a 19-yard touchdown pass to put the Texans on the board just over a minute into the game. The Texans would extend the lead to 10-0 on a 42-yard field goal by Kris Brown early in the second quarter as the Cowboys' offense could not get anything going.
Dallas finally on the scoreboard with a 33-yard field goal by Billy Cundiff late in the first half as Houston held a 10-3 halftime lead. The Cowboys would tie the game in the third quarter on a 46-yard run by Michael Wiley. As the fourth quarter began with the score tied 10-10, the Texans got a big play from their rookie quarterback as David Carr connected with Corey Bradford on a 65-yard touchdown pass. The rest of the game was up to the Houston defense, which had frustrated the Cowboys all night. With just under three minutes left, punter Chad Stanley pinned the Cowboys against their goal line, which led to Seth Payne sacking Quincy Carter for a safety to seal the victory for the Texans as they ran out the rest of the clock for a 19-10 victory, becoming the first NFL expansion team to win their first game since the Minnesota Vikings beat the Chicago Bears in their first game in 1961.
The Texans' defense was the game's star, forcing two turnovers and limiting Emmitt Smith to 67 yards on 17 carries. David Carr did enough in his NFL debut, completing 10 of 22 passes for 145 with two touchdowns and an interception. Corey Bradford was Houston’s top receiver with four catches for 99 yards, highlighted by the 65-yard touchdown reception. The Texans leading rusher was James Allen, who ran for 56 yards on 19 carries.
The Texans would finish their first season with an expansion like 4-12 record, though two of their wins came against playoff teams, as they beat New York Giants 16-14 in Week 12 and stunned the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field two weeks later 24-6.