Donnie Avery’s first reception of the season gave the Tennessee Titans their first of four leads Sunday but it took a failed two-point conversion attempt by the Houston Texans in the final seconds for Tennessee to win 23-22 and keep alive its playoff hopes, at least temprorarily.
The Titans (9-7) had to wait for the results of later games involving Cincinnati, Denver and Oakland before they knew whether or not they would make their first postseason appearance since 2008. They needed the Bengals to lose (they did) and the Broncos and Raiders to win (neither did).
Tennessee led by seven and with fewer than two minutes to play and the opportunity to run out the remaining time. Then fullback Ahmard Hall fumbled with 1:49 to play and gave Houston, which had no timeouts remianing, a final chance.
When Bryant Johnson scored on 5-yard reception with 14 seconds to go the Texans elected to go for two rather than force overtime. A false start penalty cost them five yards and then a bad snap resulted in the failed attempt.
Houston (10-6) already had clinched the AFC South title and the No. 3 seed in the AFC playoffs and had nothing at stake.
Avery signed as a free agent in the fourth week of the season but failed to register a catch in seven appearances (he also was inactive five times) since. His 1-yard reception with 3:52 to play in the second quarter put the Titans on top 10-7.
After that, the teams traded five consecutive field goals. Tennessee’s Rob Bironas was 3-for-3 with a long of 43 yards. Houston’s Neil Rackers was 3-for-3 with a long of 52 yards.
Avery finished with three receptions for 45 yards in place of Damian Williams, who caught two passes before he left with an injury.
Nate Washington finished with a team-high 92 yards on four catches, including a 23-yard touchdown catch with 4:31 remaining that put the Titans ahead to stay. His 55-yard reception set up Bironas’ final field goal.
Washington topped 1,000 yards receiving for the first time in his career, and running back Chris Johnson (15 carries, 61 yards) exceeded 1,000 yards rushing for the fourth time in as many seasons. The last time Tennessee had a 1,000-yard rusher and a 1,000-yard receiver in the same year was 2004.
Houston pulled its starting quarterback, rookie T.J. Yates, after one series and went with veteran Jake Delhomme the rest of the way. Several other notable players, incuding runing back Arian Foster and cornerback Jonathan Joseph (both Pro Bowlers), did not dress.
Yates completed all four of his attempts for 47 yards. Delhomme was 18-for-218 for 211 yards.