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The Texans’ strong contingent of red-jerseyed fans behind their bench celebrated wildly, but the players’ excitement was tinged with the knowledge they shouldn’t have waited so long to get going.
Houston didn’t look sharp on either side of the ball in the first half despite outgaining the Chargers 220-173. The Texans repeatedly failed to finish drives, took four penalties for 46 yards, and allowed San Diego to convert on five of its eight third downs.
The Texans recovered in plenty of time, but other opponents might not be so forgiving.
"I expected us to be in a dogfight," Houston coach Gary Kubiak said. "I’m disappointed with the way we played early, but we did not give up. ... We were mature enough to hang in there and get the win, so we have to be mature enough to know that we didn’t play very well."
Cushing picked a fine time to score the first touchdown of his career.
The Houston linebacker dived to intercept Rivers’ pass, bounced back up and rumbled 18 yards to the end zone for the tying touchdown with 9:30 to play. Cushing capped his five-tackle game with a brilliant individual play at the perfect moment.
The Southern California product was playing in his first game since missing most of last season with a knee injury. He signed a six-year, $55.6 million extension with Houston last week.
Cushing’s heroics aside, the Texans’ vaunted defense was just as powerful as advertised, even with J.J. Watt held without a sack.
Houston also got field-position help from a successful fake punt just three plays before Cushing picked off Rivers’ under-pressure throw.
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