Titans vs. Texans: Houston Rises While Tennessee Sinks

Nate DunlevyGuest ColumnistSeptember 30, 2012

Two sacks, and he recovered a fumble. Watt does it all again.
Two sacks, and he recovered a fumble. Watt does it all again.Troy Taormina-US PRESSWIRE

One could liken the Houston Texans and the Tennessee Titans to two ships passing in the night, but the metaphor only works if the ships in question are the USS Missouri and the Titanic.

In what was the third blowout in four games for both teams, the Texans trampled the Titans 38-14.

Houston's defense was so good, they threatened to outscore the Titans without needing help from the offense.

Houston rode four sacks, a fumble and two interceptions of Matt Hasselbeck to a dominant performance. Both Danieal Manning and Kareem Jackson returned Hasselbeck passes for scores, accounting for 14 of the Texans' season-high 38 points.

Houston opened the game by passing on the first three plays, and six of the first nine plays as Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson exploited gaps in the Titans' secondary to the tune of 53 yards on the opening drive.

The Texans than pounded the ball at the Titans with Arian Foster to build a 14-0 lead.

Meanwhile, J.J. Watt (playing the role of The Iceberg in this production) and the rest of the Texans defense laid a beating on both Titans quarterbacks. Jake Locker lasted into the second possession when he was blind-sided by Glover Quin. He fell hard on his left-shoulder which had been separated in Week 1.

Hasselbeck's return did lead to a touchdown to halve the lead, and the Titans' defense kept the team in the game for the rest of the first half.

After forcing four consecutive punts by the Texans, Tennessee took over at their own 32 with 9:39 to play in the third quarter. With tension mounting in Reliant Stadium, the Houston defense stepped in to turn the tight affair into a second-half snoozer.

Hasselbeck had a pass tip off the hands of rookie converted-tight end Taylor Thompson who tipped the throw up into the hands of Manning who ripped off a 55-yard return to put Houston up by 14 again, returning the suddenly restless partisan crowd to their regularly-scheduled route.

Strong execution from Houston and a bevy of ill-timed penalties (seven for 73 yards) were too much for Tennessee, as Houston outscored them 24-7 in the second half. The outburst gave Houston their first 4-0 start and a stunning 70-point gap in their point differential on the year.

Coincidentally, the Titans, now 1-3, have been outscored by 70 points in 2012.

The Texans have aced every test on their schedule, and have three of their next six games against the New York Jets, Buffalo Bills and Jacksonville Jaguars. They should face stiff tests from the Green Bay Packers, Baltimore Ravens and Chicago Bears, but at this stage it would be impossible to favor either team over Houston.

In one sense, the result was hardly a surprise as the Texans have been rampaging through their schedule. For a team intent on challenging for a conference title, however, each impressive victory strengthens their resolve.

What was surprising was that the Titans utterly failed to compete for the second time in three weeks. They have the worst defense in football, and have a quarterback with a shoulder issue.

They face a must-win game at the 3-1 Minnesota Vikings in Week 5.  A victory could set them back on course, but at this rate it's impossible to predict that to happen.

Hasselbeck simply isn't good enough at this stage of his career to carry this team, and Locker's health can't be depended on from week to week.

Meanwhile the defense looks completely lost. Ironically, the 24 points surrendered by the defense actually represents their best effort of 2012. They held the Texans to just 3.1 yards a rush, but Schaub, Johnson and Owen Daniels tormented them with long passing plays.

If the holes in the hull that is the Titans aren't patched soon, i.e. Week 5, the ship may go under for the season.