Titans vs. Texans Take Two: Houston Dominates All Phases of the Game

Nate Dunlevy@NateDunlevyGuest ColumnistOctober 1, 2012

Hasselbeck played great, except for when he didn't.
Hasselbeck played great, except for when he didn't.Troy Taormina-US PRESSWIRE

The Houston Texans sleep-walked their way through most of the fourth quarter of Sunday's game against the Tennessee Titans.

Of course, with a 24-point lead on the way to a 38-14 victory, it's easy to excuse them.

After a second look at the blowout, here's what stood out.


The Real Story

Despite the lopsided final margin, the Titans were in this game longer than most people will realize.

That Houston had to turn on the gas to extinguish the Titans bodes well for the Texans. Unlike the Jacksonville game when Houston coasted most of the second half, the Texans had to go on a nice run to take control of the game in the third quarter.

Tennessee had stretches where it looked like it had figured out the Houston offense. Had the Titans been able to avoid turnovers and penalties, this could have been close well into the fourth quarter.

On first watching, it felt like the Titans were on the verge of being finished for the year, but a second look shows they were signs of life. Had Jake Locker been able to finish, the end result might not have been so embarrassing.

Houston is a lot better than the Titans right now, but it's too soon to declare all hope lost in Tennessee.



J.J. Watt is the NFL MVP right now.

Forget Defensive Player of the Year, Watt is absolutely dominating every game. Against the Titans, he picked up two more sacks, recovered a fumble and was generally destructive at every turn.

Even though Andre Johnson had a modest game, his early catches threw the Titans completely off-balance. Owen Daniels built on that fine play with a great game of his own.

Danieal Manning's interception return was the turning point of the game and flipped a nip-tuck affair into a blowout.

As for the Titans, Chris Johnson's big game was a welcome sight, but even so, it looked as though the offensive line was opening mammoth holes for him.



Kendall Wright was an absolute mess. His team-high four catches for 46 yards hid the fact that he dropped passes and was generally ineffective.

Matt Hasselbeck threw for nearly eight yards a pass and completed 68 percent of his throws with two touchdowns, but still managed to play poorly.

He threw two interceptions on off-target passes and fumbled. The three turnovers led to 17 points by Houston (two on returns for scores). It's hard enough to beat the Texans, but when you give them more points than you put up, it's mathematically impossible.

Arian Foster "struggled," rushing for 86 yards on 26 carries. But he did get stopped on a couple of 3rd-and-1s.


The Secret Play

With the Texans clinging to a seven-point lead with 9:52 to play in the third quarter, Darius Reynaud ran a punt all the way back to the Houston 28-yard line.

The play was nullified, however, by a holding penalty on Taylor Thompson.

On the next play from scrimmage, Hasselbeck fired to Thompson, but the pass was too high and behind him. Thompson batted the throw up in the air, and Manning picked it off, returning it for a touchdown.

Instead of a possible game-tying scoring drive, the Titans were down 21-7, and the outcome was never in doubt again.


Coaching Notes

Gary Kubiak coached a clean game. He came up with a good challenge and stayed aggressive by converting a key fourth down.

With a seven-point lead in the first quarter, some coaches would be tempted to punt from the opponent's 38, but Kubiak made the right call.

He also made the right call right at the end of the first half. He elected to punt on 4th-and-1 with just 28 seconds to play.

Because it was close to the end of the half, the best outcome the Texans could reasonably expect was a field goal. Failing on the attempt would likely have given a field goal to the Titans. Given that they had the lead, it was probably not worth the risk.

Mike Munchak made an obvious call to go for it on fourth down from his own 15 with eight minutes to play. At that point, the Titans' only hope for victory was to score three times, so he had little choice.


Keep an Eye On

The Titans and Houston will both be interested to see on tape how Tennessee was able to gain so many yards on the ground. There were big holes for Johnson even before the score got out of hand.

The Titans' season rests heavily on the outcome of the game with Minnesota this week. A win would get them to 2-3 with a vulnerable Pittsburgh team coming to Nashville in Week 6. As bad as they've been, and they've been putrid, 3-3 is not beyond their reach.

The Texans embark upon the toughest stretch they have to face all year, though a road date at the Jets doesn't look as daunting now as it might have a few months back.

Houston will get the Monday Night Football spotlight next week, and all eyes will be on them. There's no reason to expect the attention to affect them in any way, but it will give them the opportunity to cross off one more trumped-up "hurdle" off their list.

They've already proven they can win when it's expected. They've proved they can win on the road. Next week, they will prove they can win in prime time.


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