Sad Sacks No More Houston's revamped offensive line kept Miami's pass rushers at bay in the biggest upset of the week

September 14, 2003

After the Houston Texans upset the Miami Dolphins on Sunday,
everybody at Pro Player Stadium had something to complain about.
The miffed Miami fans and the flummoxed Dolphins were upset that
their highly touted team didn't get the expected easy win over
the second-year opponent. The Texans, who won 21-20 on Kris
Brown's 35-yard field goal with 25 seconds left, were griping
about having been two-touchdown underdogs entering the game. Lost
in all the emotion was the most shocking aspect of the game:
Houston did not allow a sack. Last season David Carr was dropped
an NFL-record 76 times, but the Texans kept their quarterback
upright against one of the NFL's fastest and most sack-happy
defenses.

Miami pass rushers were caught off guard when Carr unexpectedly
threw out of three-step drops the entire game. "On film he was
dropping back nine, 10 and 11 yards and throwing downfield, but
he didn't do that today," said Dolphins defensive end Jason
Taylor, who led the NFL with 18 1/2 sacks in 2002. "On a
three-step drop, you're not going to get to [Carr]. All you can
do is put your hands up. We were close a couple times, but he did
a good job of getting rid of the ball."

The Texans weren't surprised that Carr was able to complete 17 of
31 passes for 266 yards and a touchdown, with no interceptions.
Their top priority in the off-season was to improve their
offensive line. The only holdovers from last year are left tackle
Chester Pitts and center Steve McKinney; Zach Weigert (right
guard) was signed as a free agent, Greg Randall (right tackle)
was acquired in a trade, and second-year guard Milford Brown, who
was a backup last year, was moved into the starting lineup. In
training camp offensive coordinator Chris Palmer predicted his
unit would reduce last year's sack total by one third.

Putting the preseason bravado aside, this was still an offense
that had ranked last or next to last in the league in every major
statistical category last season. There was no reason to believe
that Houston would be so efficient at the outset. But apparently
these Texans, especially Pitts, learn quickly. He thwarted Taylor
with little help from his linemates. "We definitely took Taylor
into account, but we also prepared for the other 10 guys," Pitts
said. "On every play we have to go out and block like we're on
our own. If we're depending on somebody to help us and they can't
get there fast enough, we get our quarterback killed."

Houston will have ample opportunity to prove that Sunday's effort
was no fluke. They'll face ferocious front fours in games against
the Tennessee Titans, the Carolina Panthers and the Tampa Bay
Bucs later in the season. For now, the Texans have confidence in
their protection schemes, and best of all they showed a balanced
attack in gaining 393 total yards. Stacey Mack's 89 rushing yards
keyed a ground attack that gained 127--only the fourth time in
the team's brief history that it rushed for 100 yards in a game.

This is a different Houston offense. "We weren't where we wanted
to be last year," coach Dom Capers said, "but this is a great
start."

--Jeffri Chadiha

COLOR PHOTO: ROBERT DUYOS/SOUTH FLORIDA SUN-SENTINEL STANDING OVATION Carr, who was dropped an NFL-record 76 times last season, was not sacked on Sunday.

"On a three-step drop, you're not going to get to [Carr]," said
Taylor. "All you can do is put your hands up."

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)