Titans vs. Texans: 5 Things We Learned from Tennessee's 23-22 Win
Although the Titans won, the Denver Broncos and Oakland Raiders lost, thus eliminating Tennessee from its slim hopes for playoff contention (click here for a breakdown of how they could have made it in).
Ahead are five things we learned from Tenneessee's moral victory as they enter the offseason.
1. Nate Washington Has Been a Suitable Replacement for Kenny Britt
Once standout pass catcher Kenny Britt went down with a torn ACL in Week 3, Washington stepped up as the primary receiver in Tennessee.
Washington caught four passes for 92 yards and a touchdown against the Houston Texans in his season finale, eclipsing 1,000 yards receiving for the first time in his seven years as a pro.
2. Jared Cook Is the Real Deal
Jared Cook was heavily criticized early in the season for his poor production and wild inconsistency in running routes and holding onto the ball.
Cook's play was up and down throughout the first 13 games of the season, including back-to-back games of zero receptions.
He closed the final three games of the year with 21 catches for 335 yards. Cook had a solid four receptions for 63 yards in the Titans big win Sunday afternoon.
He registered 759 yards on the season, only nine yards short of the single-season franchise record for receiving yards by a tight end, held by Frank Wycheck.
As Cook continues to learn the offense and develop a repertoire with his quarterbacks, his production should only increase.
3. Run Defense Is Something Tennessee Must Fix
The 2011 Tennessee Titans run defense is a major concern looking forward.
Despite sitting star running back Arian Foster, the Houston Texans racked up 152 yards rushing on the backs of Ben Tate (97) and Derrick Ward (50) to a huge day on the ground.
Tate averaged 6.1 yards per carry, including a long run of the day of 56 yards and a touchdown.
If Tennessee hopes to make the leap into the playoffs next year, run defense is something they must improve.
4. Tennessee Has One of the Better Up-and-Coming Defensive Units
Tennessee Titans rookie defensemen Akeem Ayers, Karl Klug and Colin McCarthy have been bright spots on an otherwise porous defense.
Their youth has showed inconsistency as they have made key stops at times, but have struggled to close out teams, such as against the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 16.
Sunday was Jurrell Casey's day to shine, as he recorded six tackles and 1.5 sacks in the crucial victory.
If the Titans can continue to get consistent production from their 2011 draft class, this defense could be dominant in 2012.
5. Mike Munchak's First Tenure as Head Coach Was a Success
First-year head coach Mike Munchak made leaps and bounds from what was a disappointing 2010 season.
A long-time member of the Tennessee Titans organization, Munchak turned around the struggling team from a 6-10 record a year ago to a 9-7 record, just short of the postseason. He had one of the most successful draft classes in recent memory, equating to a solid year on both sides of the ball.
Munchak's decision making and judgement helped the Titans escape a subpar end to the season, finishing off the Houston Texans in the final minute of a game this young team would have surely lost under former coach Jeff Fisher.
It would not have been out of the ordinary for that Tennessee team to lose. They would have settled for field goals, relied on continuously trying to pound the ball and eventually would have given up the back-breaking play.
Not this team though.
Tennessee managed to overcome a late fumble, allowing the Texans to score and come within an extra point before overtime. The Texans opted for two and failed, allowing Munchak to finish off the Titans first winning season since 2008.
Munchak gave Titans fans a glimmer of hope Sunday that change is possible. With one win at a time, he continues to change the atmosphere surrounding LP Field.