Chargers blow 21-point lead in loss to Texans

SAN DIEGO (AP) — The San Diego Chargers got off to a dynamite start under new coach Mike McCoy.

The Houston Texans showed them how to finish.

Randy Bullock kicked a 41-yard field
goal as time expired, and the Texans rallied from a 21-point deficit in
the second half for a 31-28 victory over the Chargers on Monday night.

Brian Cushing returned an interception
18 yards for the tying touchdown with 9:30 to play for the Texans, who
roared back from a 28-7 deficit late in the third quarter to spoil the
debut of McCoy, the offensive guru hired to revitalize a stagnant
franchise.

Matt Schaub threw a tipped interception
on Houston’s first play of the season, but recovered to pass for 346
yards. Owen Daniels caught two TD passes and Garrett Graham had another,
while Andre Johnson caught 12 passes for 146 yards in the final game of
the NFL’s opening weekend.

Houston’s powerful defense shut out San
Diego over the final 25 minutes, and Schaub engineered the final 36-yard
drive to set up Bullock, who coolly nailed his first NFL field goal.

Philip Rivers threw four touchdown
passes as the Chargers gave their fans a tantalizing start under McCoy.
They also got an agonizing reminder of last season under fired coach
Norv Turner, when San Diego blew five halftime leads.

“You lose this way, and it stings a
little more,” Rivers said. “It’s disappointing we didn’t finish the
game, because we had control. You’ve got to play all four quarters.”

While the Chargers showed promise, the
Texans began a season of Super Bowl aspirations with a gritty comeback
befitting a defending two-time AFC South champion club that got off to
an 11-1 start last season.

Ryan Mathews caught a 14-yard TD pass
on San Diego’s first snap, while Eddie Royal made two TD catches and
Vincent Brown had another for the Chargers during an auspicious start in
the first three quarters for McCoy.

He was hired away from division rival
Denver to jump-start a team that has missed the playoffs for three
straight years, leading to the dismissal of Turner and general manager
A.J. Smith after the Chargers’ first losing season since 2003. In last
year’s lowlight, San Diego blew a 24-0 halftime lead in its last Monday
night game against McCoy’s Broncos last October.

“We’ve just got to keep the pedal down,” Mathews said. “You can see we can put up points, and our defense is looking great.”

San Diego led 7-0 just 15 seconds into
McCoy’s tenure, thanks to an interception on Houston’s first play and
Rivers’ TD pass on the Chargers’ first snap. San Diego had a 14-point
halftime lead and stretched it to 28-7 early in the third quarter, but
Houston’s offense finally clicked decisively.

San Diego managed just 90 yards in the
second half, and the turnover-prone Rivers made yet another big mistake
late in an otherwise solid game.

Cushing came up big in his first game
since missing most of last season with a knee injury and then signing a
six-year, $55.6 million extension last week. Rivers’ under-pressure
throw was snagged by Cushing, who got up from his diving catch and
rumbled into the end zone.

After both teams punted, Schaub got the
Texans in position for Bullock, a fifth-round draft pick last year who
missed all of his first season with a groin injury.

The former Lou Groza Award winner at
Texas A&M didn’t miss, celebrating the kick with his new teammates
and a vocal bunch of red-jerseyed fans who took over the sections behind
Houston’s bench.

In front of a Qualcomm Stadium crowd
that bought just enough tickets to avoid a local television blackout,
McCoy’s tenure got off to a spectacular start on the first two snaps
from scrimmage.

Schaub’s first pass was tipped into the
air by Jarret Johnson, and 330-pound defensive tackle Cam Thomas
gathered it in. The San Diego crowd was still cheering when Rivers threw
down the Houston sideline to Mathews, who dived in for a score.

Although Houston tied it later in the
first quarter on Daniels’ first TD catch, San Diego’s defense mostly
corralled Schaub and running back Arian Foster, who managed just 57
yards.

Rivers looked comfortable early on in
McCoy’s latest version of an offense that was tweaked for Tim Tebow and
Peyton Manning in Denver in the past few seasons.

Rivers took most of his snaps in a
shotgun, and San Diego used short drops and quick routes to keep Rivers
out of trouble after he took 49 sacks last season.

Rivers hit Royal from 6 yards early in
the second quarter, and he set up Brown to make an outstanding play with
26 seconds left in the half.

Brown, who missed last season with an
ankle injury, dived at the corner of the end zone with the ball in both
arms, barely clipping the pylon as Johnathan Joseph pushed him out of
bounds.

Rivers went right back to work after
halftime, moving the Chargers 80 yards for a short scoring pass to
Royal. Houston responded with a long drive capped by Graham’s TD catch.

Houston got another boost early in the
fourth quarter when Thomas got a 10-yard penalty during a field-goal
attempt for unnecessary roughness against Houston’s center, giving a
first down to the Texans on a new rule for this season. Daniels caught
his second TD pass on the next play from 9 yards on the next snap,
cutting San Diego’s lead to seven points with 14:44 to play.

The Texans then successfully faked a
punt with 12 minutes left, converting a fourth-and-1. Although Houston
had to punt three plays later, Cushing made his tying interception on
San Diego’s next offensive snap.

Houston played without new safety Ed
Reed, who isn’t quite ready to return from offseason hip surgery. San
Diego rookie linebacker Manti Te’o also sat out with an injured foot.