TEXANS 20 LaDainian Tomlinson got a little help, and the San Diego Chargers won. Coincidence? Probably not.

Tomlinson, largely a one-man show for San Diego during his first three seasons, ran for 121 yards and a touchdown and the Chargers revved up a mistake-free passing game and an aggressive defense to beat the Houston Texans, 27-20, Sunday.

It marked the first time the third-year Texans lost a season opener.

With the score tied at 20 midway into the fourth quarter, Tomlinson was practically a bystander as Drew Brees drove the Chargers downfield using his new favorite target, tight end Antonio Gates.

Gates got the ball down to the Houston 15 with a 29-yard catch, then San Diego overcame a holding penalty when Brees found Eric Parker in the back of the end zone on a 19-yard pass. Houston protested the call, although poor replays failed to show whether Parker's toes landed inbounds.

Brees, who might not have started if prized rookie Philip Rivers hadn't held out for most of training camp, was 17 of 24 for 209 yards and two touchdowns. Gates caught eight passes for 123 yards.

The Texans' offense did its part for San Diego with four turnovers: two interceptions by David Carr and two fumbles lost by Domanick Davis.

"We didn't do anything. We lost," Texans cornerback Aaron Glenn said. "We didn't play any good at all. It's the third year of this franchise, we've got to get this thing going. San Diego made plays."

Texans safety Eric Brown, left, pursues Chargers wide receiver Eric Parker, who falls short of making catch.