Titans fall to Houston 13-12

Sunday, December 14, 2008 at 12:37pm
Michael Griffin tries to bring down Houston's Andre Johnson on Sunday. Courtesy of The Houston Chronicle

HOUSTON — The Tennessee Titans had been all about finding ways to win for most of the 2008 season.

But in Sunday’s 13-12 loss to the Houston Texans at Reliant Stadium, it looked as though the Titans spent the day finding ways not to win.

There was plenty of blame to go around, and several accepting responsibility for the loss.

Titans coach Jeff Fisher accepted the blame for not taking the wind in the fourth quarter, which might have made a potential Rob Bironas field goal try in the fourth quarter an easier decision.

“I told the players, I’ll take this one. I should have taken the wind in the fourth and not the third, and that’s exactly why I decided not to let Rob kick,” Fisher said.

Quarterback Kerry Collins took the blame for the offensive struggles that included a 2-of-13 showing on third downs and no touchdowns in a game for the first time all season.

“There were opportunities there to make throws, and I didn’t make them. That’s on me,” said Collins, who finished 15 of 33 for 181 yards with one interception.

When it was over, the upstart Texans had not only handed Tennessee its second loss of the season, but had the Titans at least admitting that there needs to be some sense of urgency as they ready for the playoffs.

“If we are one of the best teams in the league, we have to come in week in and week out and show and prove it. This week we did a horrible job,” linebacker Keith Bulluck said.

The Titans certainly had their chances, despite being dominated by the Texans in nearly every facet of the game. Houston had receiver Andre Johnson, who caught 11 passes for 207 yards and the game’s only touchdown, not to mention 100-yard rusher Steve Slaton, who dented the Tennessee defense for the century mark for the second time in as many tries this year — the only back to gain 100 yards on the Titans all season.

In addition to that, the Titans’ offense sputtered and fluttered, managing only four Rob Bironas field goals, and disdaining a fifth one that could have given Tennessee a win with two minutes to play.

With the Titans facing fourth-and-3 from the Houston 32 with two minutes left, Bironas remained on the sideline, as Fisher eschewed the 50-yard attempt because of wind concerns. Instead, quarterback Kerry Collins missed receiver Justin McCareins on a double move, handing the ball and the game essentially over to the Texans, who improved to 7-7.

“I know he was about five yards outside his range. It was clear. He made attempts before the game, and he couldn’t get them close,” Fisher said. “We were outside the range. The wind was a factor, and the wind was clearly a factor there.”

The play was typical of the day for the Titans, so close to pulling out the win, but certainly not holding the upper hand the way a team fighting for home-field advantage would want to do against an also-ran.

“Any time you are doing that bad on third downs, it’s going to cause you some problems. That just gives the other team the ball back and keeps your offense off the field,” receiver Justin Gage said. “If you have a 2 of 13 on third down, it’s tough to win.”

The offense wasn’t alone in the struggles, as the defense allowed just 13 points, but had issues getting off the field and giving up big plays Houston won the time of possession battle, handily controlling the ball for 36:22 to just 22:38 for Tennessee. Case in point was a first-half field goal drive that went 16 plays, covered just 60 yards and drained 8:41 off the clock.

That drive tied the game at 3-3, just before Matt Schaub hit Johnson for a 65-yard gain on the Texans’ next possession, setting up the game’s lone touchdown. It came when Schaub found Johnson from 13 yards out to put the Texans up for good at 10-3.

Johnson also added a 40-yard reception in the second half and Slaton had a 34-yard run late in the game when a bending Titans defense finally broke in the last two minutes.

Tennessee chipped away at the lead and pulled within a single point twice, but could never make its way to the end zone or take the lead. Each Bironas field goal was answered with a Texans kick by Kris Brown to keep the Titans from taking the lead.

The Titans now find themselves needing to win Sunday at home against the Pittsburgh Steelers to ensure themselves of the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoffs.

A sense of urgency might be welcome, says Bulluck, who inferred that the Titans relaxed a bit after clinching a bye last week.

“Hopefully, we’ll be up to the challenge and guys will come back from vacation,” Bulluck said. “I think we were on vacation this week, knowing we got a bye and whatever other good stuff happened for us last week. I know as a team we need to get our heads out of our [expletives] and come and play football, because Pittsburgh is playing for way more than us next week. We didn’t show anything today, but I know next Sunday, we’d better come out firing.”

Tight end Alge Crumpler agreed, saying the Titans have to regain their earlier edge soon.

“Here’s what I know about playoff football. The hot team is going to win it,” Crumpler said. “I’m hoping that if we stunk it up with this game, that it’s over with, that we’ll get rolling and we’ll make some things happen so we can play well.

“Our main goals are, one, we’ve got to get healthy, and two, we’ve got to play good football. At some point, we’re going to peak, because even when we’ve won big games, we haven’t peaked. If we peak in the playoffs, it’s a damn good time to do it.”

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By: frankbrown on 12/31/69 at 6:00

What a wonderful season! This team will wind up 12 and 4. Talk about an "Impossible Dream" I could not be prouder of a team that is a perennial 8 and 8 winning 12 games. I salute Vince Young who made more money with less pressure than any human being in the United States. (I take int consideration the effect of a stock market crash upon the trust fund recipients)

By: TITAN1 on 12/31/69 at 6:00

frankbrown, you are a prick! Now that is out of the way, Titans learn from this and you can win the Super Bowl!

By: TITAN1 on 12/31/69 at 6:00

frankbrown, LOL! Just an old fart who loves to bitch! Pitiful, just pitiful!

By: frankbrown on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Now,Now Titan1 I am proud of this team. I enjoyed every overachievement this team was able to accomplish. It is over now and time to get back to reality. Without Haynesworth and Vandenbosch the last two games are guaranteed to be losers. The Defense has been the secret to the victories. Offensively this team has no pass power and their opponents are crowding the run. No offense to Collins. He is perhaps the best fill-in that the NFL has seen since Earl Morrall.

By: Cowboy84 on 12/31/69 at 6:00

The running game has to get fixed, and fixed pretty quickly.

By: Jokapsig on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Listen fellas, the Titans will be jacked on Sunday. It will be a hell of a game.And Frank, you remind me of the naysayer from the story of the Ten Commandments. Nobody's perfect. But neither are you.

By: OneTimer on 12/31/69 at 6:00

stop taking Frank's bait, guys. you fall for it every time.

By: knilob on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Is anyone else wondering why Fisher chose to go for it on that final fourth down instead of kicking the field goal to go ahead? We have one of the best kickers in the league, and he had already connected from 51 earlier in the game. That was uncharacteristic in my opinion.We also might still have Haynesworth available had we been up on the Texans. They would've been passing instead of running the ball, so maybe he wouldn't have gotten his leg caught up under a pile.

By: Dragon on 12/31/69 at 6:00

The Titans lost. The offensive line could not keep the Texans out or consistently open holes for runner. Kerry had a lousy passing game (he still can't run and throw). The defense did their best, but without Vanden Bosch, and now Haynesworth, they may not be upto the job against the Steelers. Next weekend's not looking very bright.I think Fisher screwed up. I would have more faith in Bironas kicking 50 yards into the wind than Kerry's arm throwing less than 50%.

By: gdiafante on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Does Rob Tracy still want Fisher as COY? LOLSomeone needs to reign in Finnegan. Kudos to Titan1 for pretty much predicting the Texans win this week. Now, I'd be VERY worried about getting home field throughout. They don't want to go to the big ketchup in January. The Steelers have luck on thier side, and that wins Super Bowls.

By: slacker on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Frank is correct, the NY jets exposed them.

By: Dragon on 12/31/69 at 6:00

On a related note:Arena Football League cancels 2009 seasonhttp://www.breitbart.com/article.php?id=D95399301&show_article=1&catnum=0I guess the Kats just got laid off for a year. Anyone need to rent the Sommet Center?

By: gdiafante on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Dragon, the Kats ceased operation in October 2007. You need to inform yourself.

By: Dragon on 12/31/69 at 6:00

My bad. Just shows how little I care about Nashville city sports.

By: gdiafante on 12/31/69 at 6:00

It all evens out Dragon. No one cares what you think anyway.

By: ycartrob on 12/31/69 at 6:00

The Titans are 12-2 folks, I think they can salvage the season. Let's not all start looking to next year already... The Saints, on the other hand, are done.

By: gdiafante on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Who's looking to next year? I think most are looking to next WEEK. You know, the Steelers come to town...look it up.

By: ardillicphos on 12/31/69 at 6:00

There are so many illegal immigrants in Texas, speaking Spanish. That's why the Titans lost. If there weren't so many there, the Titans would have won and we'd be in the Superbowl!