Tennessee-Houston: Texans Survive Wild Contest, Beat Titans 34-31
Right off the bat, though, these teams served notice that this was going to be a barnburner. With big play after big play, the Titans and Oilers...er, excuse me, the Texans, came out to show that they were legitimate contenders for the AFC South crown.
It all started with a draw play that under normal circumstances would have picked up a half a dozen yards.
Chris Johnson, however, is slowly but surely going about the business of showing the NFL he is far from normal.
With a quick step to his left, Johnson hit a huge seam and just like that, 57 yards quickly disappeared behind him. He wasn't even running hard, which can't be said for his pursuers.
On the next series, the Texans showed they had come to play. After driving 58 yards to the Titans' 19 yard line, Matt Schaub hit Andre Johnson on a fade route, where Johnson proved he is a top notch receiver with a circus catch in the corner of the end zone.
And it was on, or so we thought.
Two plays after the kickoff, the Titans line Chris Johnson up—yes, THAT Chris Johnson, he of the blazing speed—wide left.
And no one covered him.
I don't mean that the corner lined up and gave him a huge buffer. I don't mean that the cornerback released him to the safety at the second level, and the safety didn't come over to cover. I mean no one, absolutely no one, lined up on him a the line of scrimmage.
Once again, Chris Johnson made what looked like a rather leisurely jog into the end zone.
After forcing the Texans to punt, Tennessee finally got newly acquired Nate Washington in gear, with Kerry Collins hitting him twice on the ensuing drive to put the Titans up 21-7.
What looked like a high-flying offensive struggle began to take on a sense of normalcy. The Titans were ahead at home, the Texans couldn't get anything going on the ground—remenicent of the previous week when the Pittsburgh Steelers struggled to run the ball—and Tennessee's home opener was on the way to being a victory.
Except for one minor detail: they forgot to play solid pass defense.
Matt Schaub hit Andre Johnson, who had already proven he could catch the football, on a 72-yard fly route when Titans safety Michael Griffin inexplicably jumped on a run fake and let Johnson "fly" right by.
Note to Micheal Griffin: the play would have been over by the time you got to it. Stay home and play safety like you're paid to do.
With a field goal apiece to close the half, the Titans and the Texans went into the locker room tied at 24.
So much for the Titans topping the defensive list this year.
After halftime adjustments were made, things settled down a bit with the exception of Chris Johnson's 91-yard scamper for a touchdown on Tennessee's second possession of the half.
Note to everyone around the league: Chris Johnson is fast. CRAZY fast. If you allow him to get into high gear, you will NOT catch him, and he will score on you.
After the Texans scored on a solid drive to tie the score at 31, both defenses appeared to recover from the unexpected trouncing they were experiencing. With neither team able to put together a scoring drive in the first half of the fourth quarter, the Texans' Matt Schaub took over with 7:10 remaining in regulation and did what he is paid to do: he drove his team downfield and got them in field goal range.
Kris Brown, once one of the most accurate kickers in the NFL, calmly made a 23-yard field goal to put the Texans up 34-31 with just under three minutes remaining.
Plenty of time for Collins and the Titans to put together a drive and at least force overtime, right?
Right, except Kerry Collins forgot that he was not quite as spry as he once was.
Flushed out of the pocket on a 1st-and-10, Collins made to tuck the ball and run. Only he didn't quite get it tucked; it bounced off his chest and fell to the ground, there to be gobbled up by the Texans' Jeff Gzonina.
One running play and two kneel downs, and it was over.
Another loss by three.
Another game holding the opponent to under 100 rushing yards.
Another game where they gave up over 350 yards passing.
If I were Chuck Cecil, I might start thinking about working with the secondary coaches to figure out why this is happening.
Because if they don't get it fixed, and soon, they run the risk of opening this season with another 10-game streak.
Only this time they will be headed in the wrong direction.
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