On September 29, 2002 the Houston Texans made their first visit to Philadelphia to take on the Eagles in a Week 4 contest. While the result yielded no surprises, Philadelphia’s star free safety Brian Dawkins distinguished himself in multiple ways, one of which was unique in his outstanding career.
The Eagles, coached by Andy Reid, had a pass-oriented offense directed by QB Donovan McNabb with a running game that had been only fair thus far in the young season. The defense was good at pressuring opposing passers as well as in coverage. In addition to Dawkins, key players included DE Hugh Douglas, LB Shawn Barber, and cornerbacks Troy Vincent and Bobby Taylor. Philadelphia reached the NFC Championship game in 2001 and was 2-1 thus far in ’02, having won decisively in the previous two games after losing to Tennessee in the season opener.
Houston was a first-year team under Head Coach Dom Capers and carried the usual expansion club problems into the season. QB David Carr, a rookie who was the first overall selection in the NFL draft, was placed directly into the starting lineup behind a makeshift line. The Texans upset the Dallas Cowboys in their first regular season contest but had scored a total of six points in losing their next two games to come into Philadelphia at 1-2.
There were 64,867 fans in attendance at Veterans Stadium. The teams traded punts to start the game before the Texans drove 69 yards in six plays that was helped along by a pass interference call on Troy Vincent in a third-and-six situation. David Carr completed passes to WR Corey Bradford for 26 yards to ignite the series and 23 yards to conclude it with a touchdown. Kris Brown added the extra point.
Houston got the ball back on the next play from scrimmage when SS Eric Brown intercepted a Donovan McNabb pass, thus giving the visitors excellent field position at the Philadelphia 34. However, DE Brandon Whiting sacked Carr for an eight-yard loss and two incompletions forced the Texans to punt. The Eagles moved methodically down the field in response as McNabb completed six passes and WR James Thrash ran for 19 yards on a reverse. The drive finally stalled at the Houston seven and David Akers kicked a 25-yard field goal to make it a 7-3 contest.
On the next series, Carr fumbled after running for nine yards on a third down play. Brian Dawkins recovered and, in a series that extended into the second quarter, the Eagles advanced 58 yards in nine plays. McNabb threw to FB Cecil Martin for 16 yards to the Houston 26 and a sack was nullified by a face mask penalty. RB Duce Staley ran for a one-yard TD and, with Akers kicking the point after, the home team was in front by 10-7.
The Texans were forced to punt following their next series that included two sacks of Carr and the Eagles, taking over from their own 36, advanced to another score. McNabb connected with Staley and Martin for completions of 13 and eight yards, respectively, and a sack was followed by a defensive holding penalty on Houston. A short run was followed by a McNabb pass to WR Todd Pinkston that picked up five yards and another throw to Pinkston gained 34 yards to the Houston six. Two plays later, Staley scored his second touchdown from a yard out. Akers converted and Philadelphia extended its lead to 17-7.
The Eagles got the ball back on the next series when Dawkins intercepted a Carr throw and returned it 27 yards to the Houston 30. It resulted in a short possession that ended with Akers kicking a 41-yard field goal and the score remained 20-7 at halftime.
The Eagles had the first possession in the third quarter and reached their 43 before lining up to punt. However, RB Brian Mitchell tossed a shovel pass to Dawkins instead, and the safety-now-receiver raced 57 yards for a touchdown (pictured at top). McNabb threw to TE Chad Lewis for a two-point conversion and big 28-7 lead.
Houston put together a series that ended with Carr throwing to Bradford for a 29-yard TD and Brown added the PAT to cut Philadelphia’s lead in half, but other than a 48-yard field goal by Brown later in the period, the Texans were finished with scoring for the day. McNabb threw to Thrash for a 38-yard TD in the fourth quarter to cap the 35-17 win for the Eagles.
Philadelphia easily held the lead in total yards (391 to 242) and first downs (21 to 12) while running sixteen more plays than the Texans (76 to 60). The Eagles also accumulated seven sacks to three by the Texans. Each team turned the ball over three times while Houston was penalized 11 times, to four flags thrown on Philadelphia.
Brian Dawkins had a noteworthy day as he recovered a fumble, intercepted a pass, recorded a sack, and caught a pass for a 57-yard touchdown. Donovan McNabb completed 24 of 42 throws for 259 yards and a TD while giving up one interception, and also ran the ball seven times for 23 yards. Duce Staley rushed for 33 yards on 12 carries that included two short touchdowns and had three pass receptions for another 39 yards. Todd Pinkston led Philadelphia’s receivers with 6 catches for 70 yards.
For the Texans, David Carr (pictured at right) completed 16 of 29 passes for 188 yards and two touchdowns and two interceptions. Corey Bradford had 7 receptions for 97 yards and both TDs. RB James Allen was the leading rusher with 41 yards on 14 attempts.
The Eagles lost their next game but only twice more the rest of the way in compiling a 12-4 record to once again top the NFC East, and despite the loss of Donovan McNabb to a broken ankle in the tenth game, although he returned for the postseason. Philadelphia again advanced to the conference title game and again came up short, losing to Tampa Bay.
Houston lost its next two contests and ended up at 4-12 to place fourth in the AFC South. David Carr was sacked a record 76 times through the course of the year but the rookie took every snap.
Brian Dawkins went on to achieve consensus first-team All-NFL honors for the second straight year as well as a third Pro Bowl selection. He intercepted two passes, recovered four fumbles, and was credited with three sacks. The touchdown catch against the Texans remained the only pass reception of his 16-season career.