HOUSTON -- It was almost as if he never left.
In his first game back since tearing his ACL during Week 5 of last season, Houston Texans inside linebacker Brian Cushing took to the middle of the pregame huddle and shouted a speech to his teammates as he's done so many times before. He was the last player introduced to fans out of the tunnel, just after J.J. Watt. The roar for Cushing was at least as loud as it was for Watt, Houston's biggest sports superstar.
Cushing's debut was a mixed bag, which is to be expected in his first game back, but his presence made a difference for the Texans' defense. His fire was especially apparent on one play when he looked like an actual flying squirrel leaping at Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Tannehill escaped the sack.
The first half also saw the Texans lose rookie receiver DeAndre Hopkins, who left the game with a head injury (which usually means a concussion). Hopkins caught two passes for 22 yards, one from starter Matt Schaub and one from Case Keenum, who played second. Schaub went for a covered Hopkins another time but Dolphins cornerback Brent Grimes intercepted that pass.
The Texans lead 17-14 at the half.