HOUSTON The Miami Dolphins, traditionally strong in September, learned an important lesson: Nobody beats the Texans on opening day.
Houston became the first expansion team to start 1-0 in its first two seasons, and will now focus on putting together the first winning streak in franchise history.
''The challenge will be to see how much we've matured as a football team,'' coach Dom Capers said Monday as Houston basked in its 21-20 victory over heavily favored Miami.
''There were phases of our football team that played extremely well after a win last year, but we didn't play well and put it all together as a team.''
The Texans had four chances to build a winning streak last year, but lost each time, by a combined score of 99-35.
Houston's fifth chance to string together two victories comes in New Orleans on Sunday. The Saints are coming off a 27-10 loss at Seattle.
Capers' task will be to get the Texans used to success and prepared for a winning encore.
''It's hard for me to believe that we were ever an overconfident football team last year,'' Capers said. ''We just weren't consistent enough. One of our points of emphasis coming into this season was we wanted to be a smarter, more physical, more consistent football team. I think we made some strides in those areas.''
While no one is ready to predict the Texans will play a home game Feb. 1 when the Super Bowl comes to Houston, there were signs the team is vastly improved from 2002.
David Carr, sacked an NFL-record 76 times last season, avoided Miami's rush, which was led by 2002 sack leader Jason Taylor. Carr relied on quick drops, coupled with a retooled offensive line.
Houston did not fumble or throw an interception, something it did not accomplish in any game last season.
The Texans maintained their steady defense from last year, when they ranked 16th in the league. Virtually the same starting cast returned from 2002, though there's not much depth, making it important for playmakers like cornerbacks Marcus Coleman and Aaron Glenn to stay healthy.
Offensive coordinator Chris Palmer balanced the attack with 34 rushes and 32 passes for a team-record 393 yards. New running back Stacey Mack gained 89 tough yards despite an average of 3.3 per carry, opening up passing lanes.
With protection, a running game and No. 3 overall draft pick Andre Johnson, Carr showed why he was the top pick in 2002, going 17-of-31 for 266 yards and a touchdown.
''All we heard was how Jason Taylor was going to abuse us. They were going to get all those sacks,'' Carr said. ''The guys up front took that as a challenge and stepped up in a big way.''
Now, the challenge will be to prevent a recurrence of what happened after last year's season-opening 19-10 upset of the Cowboys a five-game losing skid.
''If you look at the work ethic and caliber of player that we have, then you should know that anything is possible with us,'' defensive tackle Seth Payne said.
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