5 Things the Tennessee Titans Need to Do to Beat the Houston Texans
Both teams have three wins and both sport one win over a tough opponent. Both teams have lost their top receiver and have had at least a few issues with their superstar running backs as well.
This game will have major playoff implications, so what do the Titans need to do to win? Here are five things that would assure the Titans a win.
1. Get Consistent Running Back Play
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Chris Johnson has been pathetic this season. It is clear that either he got his money and now puts forth no effort, or that he did not work on staying in shape in the offseason. I think the latter is more likely.
The Titans are currently last in the league in rushing. That simply has to change.
The Titans have three serviceable running backs: behind Chris Johnson is Javon Ringer, and Jamie Harper was a rookie picked up this year as a power back.
Chris Johnson has been one of the league's best running backs until this year and he will need to step up immediately. If he does not, the Titans need to consider putting Javon Ringer and Jamie Harper in more often.
In fact, if Johnson doesn't perform like he should, the Titans should probably consider moving in Jamie Harper as an every down back.
Harper may not be ready to shoulder the load, but like I said, the Titans are already the league's worst with Johnson, so there isn't a lot to lose.
2. Defensive Pressure
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With Arian Foster still dealing with a nagging injury and Andre Johnson out for the time being, the Titans have a chance to really put the Texans on their backs on defense.
The Titans' defense had been very stingy in points allowed until the game against Pittsburgh and if the Titans are going to beat the Texans, then they'll need to keep that kind of effort up.
The Titans front seven was a big part of that great defense. Karl Klug and Derrick Morgan each have two sacks and six other members of the front seven have one. Beyond sacks, Jason Jones, Derrick Morgan and rookies Akeem Ayers and Karl Klug have been a constant presence in the backfields of opposing offenses.
If the Titans front seven spends as much time in the backfield as they did against Cleveland and Baltimore, Matt Schaub won't have a lot of time to make decisions.
3. Keep Hasselbeck on His Feet
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When Hasselbeck doesn't get hit, he can pick apart a defense. When he does get hit, he struggles.
Since Kenny Britt is out, keeping Hasselbeck on his A-game is even more important, since he'll have to spread the ball around a lot more.
The Texans' defense was terrible last season, but it's already shown a lot of improvement, even with Mario Williams out for the year with a torn pectoral muscle.
The Titans' offensive line has had flashes of brilliance this season, but has also made a lot of mistakes. When they've played well, Hasselbeck has had all the time in the world and the Titans won.
When they've played poorly, Hasselbeck gets hit often and the Titans lose.
In an increasingly pass oriented league, the Titans have to make sure that Hasselbeck is protected of they want to win this game.
4. No More Stupid Penalties
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The Titans have accrued penalties this season. The defense has gotten the fewest in the NFL with 23, but a lot of those were personal fouls for stupid things like late hits or facemasks.
The offense is even worse, having accrued 38 penalties for 325 yards. While the overall penalty situation isn't bad, they tend to come at critical times and very negatively affect the momentum.
That has to change.
The Titans have shown that they can play disciplined, clean football. In the Ravens and Browns games, the Titans committed very few penalties and came away with big wins. They'll need to play with that same kind of discipline if they want to beat the Texans.
5. Stop the Run
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Arian Foster has been a little off this season, since he's still nursing a hamstring injury. However, if he is healthy, he is a dangerous offensive weapon.
With Andre Johnson out of the lineup, Arian Foster's play will be much more important to the Texans' offense than it used to be. If he can get them consistent yardage, the Texans will be able to put up points.
On the other hand, if the Titans can shut him down, then the Texans will struggle.
So far this season, the Titans' rush defense has been pretty good, only allowing 105 rushing yards per game, and that's against running backs such as Ray Rice, Peyton Hillis and Maurice Jones-Drew.
Arian Foster is in the same elite company as those players, and the Titans were able to stop most of them pretty effectively. If they can do the same against Arian Foster, then the Titans will win the day, which may make them playoff bound.