MIAMI — With the game on the line, five-time Pro Bowler Andre Johnson found himself covered by a reserve cornerback. The result was no contest, just like the one-sided series between the Houston Texans and Miami Dolphins.
Johnson badly beat Nolan Carroll for a 23-yard score Sunday that helped seal the Texans' 23-13 victory over their favorite foils.
Houston improved to 6-0 against Miami, in part because the Dolphins' sieve-like pass defense was no match for Johnson and Matt Schaub.
The Texans improved to 2-0 for the second year in a row. Last season they faded to 6-10, extending their streak of never making the playoffs.
"We've been here before in this situation," said Johnson, who is in his ninth season with Houston. "Our goal is to go 1-0 every week."
The Dolphins are 0-2 for the fifth time in the past six years, and perhaps it's just as well they're on the road for most of the next two months. They're 1-11 at home since late 2009.
"This stinks," receiver Brandon Marshall said. "We're trying to get things going in our stadium and our community, and you have to win at home to do that. It's frustrating. It's embarrassing."
With fan apathy on the rise the stadium was half empty, despite Miami native Johnson buying 170 tickets for family and friends. He uncharacteristically dropped a deep pass in the third quarter but more than made amends, finishing with seven catches for 93 yards.
"Andre made some great plays all day long," Schaub said.
The biggest came after a Miami field goal cut Houston's lead to 16-13. The Texans responded with a 63-yard drive capped by Johnson's score. Carroll was on the coverage because Vontae Davis hurt his hamstring.
"When the play was called, I knew I had a chance to score, and that's what happened," Johnson said. "The way he was playing me, I knew it was six."
Carroll and cornerback Sean Smith blamed busted coverage on the play.
Schaub went 21 for 29 for 230 yards and had a quarterback rating of 118.5. Houston avoided any turnovers while the Dolphins committed two, had a 22-yard field-goal attempt blocked and missed a 34-yarder.
Miami's Daniel Thomas rushed for 107 yards in his NFL debut, but Chad Henne went 12 for 30 and was especially erratic in the red zone. Lapses on defense and special teams also hurt the Dolphins, and linebacker Jason Taylor said lineup changes may be in order.
"I'm not sure everyone understands the magnitude of what we're trying to do here," Taylor said. "If you can't get it, get out of the way and we'll get somebody else who will."
Houston's Ben Tate topped 100 yards rushing for the second time in as many career games – he netted 103 yards in 23 carries. Teammate Arian Foster, who missed the opener because of a sore left hamstring, carried only 10 times for 33 yards and sat out the second half when his hamstring tightened.
Mario Williams forced a turnover to set up the game's first touchdown. The Texans had two sacks and pressured Henne enough to limit him to 170 yards after he threw for 416 in the season opener.
The Texans' defense, revamped after they ranked 30th in yards allowed last season, has allowed two touchdowns in two games.
"We only gave up 13 points," Kubiak said, "and you're going to win a lot of games doing that."
One bright spot for the Dolphins was Thomas, their first 100-yard rusher in the past 21 games. He lost a fumble but played well enough to keep Reggie Bush on the bench for much of the game. Bush had only seven touches.
Williams had a hand in the first touchdown. With Henne throwing from his goal line, Williams beat tackle Marc Colombo and reached to hit Henne as he released a pass, which fluttered to cornerback Johnathan Joseph.
Two plays later, Schaub threw a 4-yard touchdown pass to Owen Daniels for a 13-3 lead.
Miami twice failed to score after driving inside the Houston 20. Dan Carpenter missed wide left on one field-goal try, and another was a low line drive that rookie J.J. Watt blocked.
On one of those possessions, Marshall had a shot at a lunging catch in the end zone but failed to hold onto the ball.
Notes: Joseph left the game in the first half with a right ankle sprain but later returned. ... Miami LB Karlos Dansby left the game in the first half with a groin injury. ... Thin air? Miami's Brandon Fields had a 70-yard punt, and Houston's Brett Hartmann had a 69-yarder. ... NFL active sack leader Taylor reached Schaub once, increasing his total to 133 1/2. ... The Dolphins started seven possessions at their 20 or worse.