Texans stun Titans, 34-31

Sunday, September 20, 2009 at 4:30pm

The Tennessee Titans came into Sunday’s game with the Houston Texans with redemption on their minds.

After a 34-31 loss to their lowly division rival, the Titans instead are now in reassessment mode, wondering what has gone wrong in an unexpected 0-2 start and consecutive road games upcoming.

“We’ve lost two games in a row. We’re putting ourselves in a hole right now, and we’re going to put ourselves in a hole too deep to get out of if we don’t get it turned around this week,” defensive end Jevon Kearse said of a team that harbored serious Super Bowl aspirations entering the year.

And just as the Titans followed a 2000 playoff upset against Baltimore with a sluggish start the next year, Tennessee finds itself in the same situation this year as it did in 2001 - a talented team but starting the year at the bottom of the division standings.

Kearse said he plans to spread the word about not letting such things that happened in 2001, when the Titans finished 7-9, repeat themselves with this Titans team.

“This week I’m going to talk to them about that, because that wasn’t a good feeling,” Kearse said. “It’s like we stayed in the games till the end, and then we give it away toward the end. What we’ve got to do is finish games. When we get the lead, we’d better hold onto it.”

For the second consecutive game, the Titans neither held onto the lead nor the ball when it counted.

Tennessee built what looked like a comfortable 21-7 lead, thanks mostly to the exploits of Chris Johnson.

Johnson began his onslaught of the Texans defense with a 57-yard touchdown run on a third-and-18 draw play. In what was essentially a “give-up” play, it was the Houston defense that instead acquiesced as Johnson raced untouched for a quick 7-0 Titans lead.

The Texans answered back when Andre Johnson, who had a big day of his own with 10 catches for 149 yards and a pair of touchdowns, made a juggling catch from 19 yards out in the end zone against Nick Harper.

Chris Johnson, however, put Tennessee ahead, again exploiting a defensive breakdown in the Houston secondary when the Texans failed to cover him as he was split out wide. Johnson, who was supposed to run a fly route, instead took only a couple of steps and Kerry Collins fired the ball to him. Johnson raised his hand to signal to Collins that he was uncovered, and the speedster did the rest, going 69 yards for a touchdown.

“The only thing I was thinking about was should I run the fly or just jog off the ball,” Johnson said. “Just to make it safe, I jogged off the ball and he hit me quick.”

Collins hurried the snap count to get the ball to Johnson before the Texans safety could get in position to cover him.

“I just wanted to get the ball to him as quickly as I could,” Collins said. “I hurried the cadence up because I knew he was uncovered, so I just took a hop, really, and just got it out to him.”

Tennessee was tack to on another score with Collins finding Nate Washington from 8 yards away, giving the Titans touchdowns on their first three possessions and a 14-point lead.

But even that success couldn’t mask the issues that are suddenly plaguing this team in the early going. The defense, one week after giving up 363 yards passing to Ben Roethlisberger in Pittsburgh, allowed Matt Schaub to roll up 357 yards and four touchdowns on 25 of 39 passes, with the Titans not getting so much as one sack in the game.

The lack of pressure, combined with busted coverages, allowed the Texans to strike on a 72-yard touchdown pass from Schaub to Andre Johnson as Michael Griffin bit up on play action, leaving Johnson alone in the middle of the field.

In all, the Texans had four pass plays of at least 29 yards to three different receivers. While the pass rush problems were evident, cornerback Nick Harper said the secondary was equally or more so to blame.

“It was busted coverages, and quarterbacks are going to find the open guy in busted coverages,” Harper said. “There were some guys that were running Scott free because we didn’t have people where they needed to be.

“If we would have been where we should have been, there’s no way they would have had those deep balls.”

The plays exposed potential problems for a secondary that sent three players to the Pro Bowl a year ago.

An while the defense had issues, there was culpability for the offense with two costly turnovers after the strong start as well.

After a Collins pass was picked off by Eugene Wilson, the Texans wasted no time, going 29 yards to Jacoby Jones for the tying score.

The teams traded field goals before the half, and the Titans seemingly had taken back control of the game when Johnson ripped off a franchise record-tying 91-yard run to put Tennessee back in front 31-24.

That control was fleeting, however, as the Texans methodically drove 65 yards in 11 plays to tie the game again in the third quarter, and got a 23-yard field goal from Kris Brown for the eventual win with 2:58 to play.

Despite their problems, the Titans still had a chance, but in what has quickly becoming a disturbing trend, dating back to last year’s playoff loss, the opportunity was lost. This time, it was Collins’ fumble on a scramble with 1:32 to play that killed off Tennessee’s last hope.

“I tried to tuck it and run, and it just hit my leg,” said Collins, whose fumble was recovered by Jeff Zgonina at the 39-yard line, finishing off the game and giving the Texans the triumph.

But even at that, there was plenty of blame to go around in the Titans locker room.

Perhaps Bulluck best summed up the Titans’ plight, as a team that fancied itself a strong contender with all the pieces in place has suddenly been humbled, sitting 0-2 with the likes of Detroit, Cleveland, St. Louis and Kansas City.

“As strong a team as we are on paper, we have to go out and play and prove it," Bulluck said. "That’s the great thing about this league is that you have to go out and prove it every year and every week. And we have yet to prove that we are the team we think we are."

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11 Comments on this post:

By: nature on 9/20/09 at 3:02

What the %$^* ? Our Titans like rolled over and blew up! I was jumping around on my couch and yelling at the TV. My dog layed down and put his paws over his eyes. At the end of all that, I took a deep breath, and vacuumed the apartment. Now, I'm going outside and yell with my neighbors. Man, it was like the 'Aints all over again. Next week......

By: courier37027 on 9/20/09 at 10:53

104.5 The Zone should consider hiring suicide prevention counselors as phone screeners tomorrow. Let the whining begin, followed by, "...we were a better team than the Texans" excuses.

By: TheHunter on 9/20/09 at 11:32

Its been a while since we have got pressure up the middle consistently, I guess Albert was that important after all

By: tytanz27 on 9/21/09 at 5:55

How many times does Nick Harper have to get beat, until they realize he no longer a starter in this league. Maybe, a nickel but, not a starter. Time to give one of the youngsters a shot. Cary williams would be my choice but, jason mccourty could work . Either way harper is not getting it done.Hunter called it. So, Chuck Cecil is going to have to actually do something and not just go with the status quo. I think he was hoping he could just coast. He is going to have to start blitzing more and stunting more. The lack of pressure is killing our secondary.

By: frank brown on 9/21/09 at 7:06

FAT ALBERT got even with the Titan fans who wanted to tar and feather him after his altercation a few years ago.

Now the Titans are just another punching bag for the perennials.

P.S. Yesterday they even got punched by the underclass.

By: TITAN1 on 9/21/09 at 12:50

Props to the Texans. But the Titans have lost 2 games by a total of 6 points. They will bounce back and negative frank will disappear. Then all will be right with the world.

By: frank brown on 9/21/09 at 1:41


I will be glad to disappear after the Titans bounce back. What do you call bouncing back? Give me the scenario? Is it five wins four wins six wins seven wins

By: wolfy on 9/21/09 at 2:17

After two games, a couple of things are obvious. Roethlisberger pumped faked his way to over 300 yards of passing and Houston's receivers adjusted short routes into posts. So word is out that our corners squat on routes to stop the run and our safeties don't (or didn't) fear the deep ball. Well, that might've been true when we had a true and consistant push up the middle. But no so much now.It appears Big Albert was a big reason why 3 out of the four in the secondary made it to the pro bowl. Mike Reinfeldt boasted that the Titans should be 45 million under the cap next year. Maybe he should've used that cash on Haynesworth and Carr. Those two loses obviously weren't addressed in the off season. Mark Jones is no Chris Carr and Jovan Haye is no Albert Haynesworth. And FWIW, 45 million won't mean diddly if 2010 is an uncapped year Mike. This team is built to win NOW.

By: TITAN1 on 9/21/09 at 3:27

frank, the Titans will make the playoffs. You always say they are an 8-8 team or worse however they have proved you wrong time and time again. When they have gone 12-4 13-3, or whatever, you disappear. You never have anything good to say. To you, and not just with the Titans, the glass is always half empty, at least when you post here.

By: frank brown on 9/21/09 at 8:30

Titan 1

If you will look at Jeff Fisher's record (and he has been the coach for the entire time the Titans have been in Tennessee you will see that his record is pretty darn near close to .500 which is the equivalent of 8 and 8.

Nothing to degrade the Titans. I just use the facts about their heritage.

By: jps13pat on 9/21/09 at 8:45

Fact is if you can't beat the Texans, you're not going to the playoffs. We were supposed to "bounce back" after the Steelers game. Oops. Anyone who has watched the Titans play and didn't think that losing Albert was going to be a big deal were kidding themselves. We've got big big problems on defense. Anyone else notice that Vickerson and Marks were deactivated for the game? So much for replacing Albert by committee. The "committee" can't even make the game day roster.