Titans Suffer Second Loss of Season

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

HOUSTON -- Never mind that they've already clinched the AFC South and a first-round playoff bye, the Tennessee Titans are miffed about their 13-12 loss to the Houston Texans on Sunday.

A letdown could be expected after securing their playoff spot last week, but a win against Houston and a Pittsburgh loss later Sunday would have secured home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

Now, next week's game against the Steelers will have much more meaning.

"Hopefully we'll be up for the challenge and guys will come back from vacation," linebacker Keith Bulluck said. "I think we were on vacation this week, knowing we got a bye and whatever other good stuff happened for us last week. But I know as a team we need to get our heads out of our (expletive) and come out and play football. Pittsburgh is playing for way more than us next week."

Andre Johnson had a career-high 207 yards receiving and a touchdown, and Kris Brown added a pair of field goals to lead the Texans to their fourth straight win.

Already eliminated from playoff contention, the Texans (7-7) are shooting for the first winning season in franchise history. Sunday marked the first time they've won four games in a row, and the victory snapped a seven-game losing streak to the Titans.

"They weren't doing that well, but it was their Super Bowl and credit them for being the good team today," Titans cornerback Cortland Finnegan said.

Johnson struggled in Houston's first game against Tennessee (12-2), finishing with just 29 yards receiving and dropping two would-be touchdown passes. On Sunday, Johnson got going early, with eight catches for 154 yards before halftime. It was the most first-half yards receiving in the NFL this season.

Johnson put the Texans up 10-3 with a 13-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter. He set that up when he got in front of Michael Griffin for a 65-yard catch-and-run four plays earlier.

He has a career-high 1,408 yards receiving this season.

"Andre was special today," coach Gary Kubiak said. "The reason he's special is because I can move him all over the place and it doesn't bother him."

Johnson had more than a little help from his defense. The Texans held Tennessee to 100 yards rushing after the Titans had gained 527 in the previous two games. It was the first time they didn't score a touchdown since a 17-6 loss to the Chargers in last year's AFC wild card playoff game.

With two minutes left, the Titans went for it on fourth-and-3 from the Houston 32, but Kerry Collins' deep pass to Justin McCareins flew just out of his reach.

"That field goal may have won us the game, but I think we did a lot of things to lose the game before that," Bulluck said. "I think Coach (Jeff Fisher) made the decision he needed to make."

Fisher said he thought the kick wasn't in Rob Bironas' range.

"It was not a good coaching decision," Fisher said.

Tennessee's LenDale White put the loss in perspective.

"It's a big win for them as an organization," White said. "(But) no matter what they do, they'll still go home (during the) playoffs. We have a lot to look forward to."

Steve Slaton's runs helped the Texans to one more first down and Houston ran out the clock. Slaton had 24 carries for 100 yards. He had 116 yards rushing in the teams' first meeting, making him the only player to rush for more than 100 yards against the Titans this season.

"The thing that has impressed us so much about this kid is that he seems to run better at the end of games," Kubiak said. "For a small player he gets stronger as the game goes on."

The Titans had to settle for a 34-yard field goal that made it 13-12 when Mario Williams tackled Collins short of the first down on third-and-12 with about 5 1/2 minutes to play.

Brown's 24-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter pushed Houston's lead to 13-9. Finnegan had two costly penalties on that drive, one for a helmet-to-helmet hit on Matt Schaub and another for spearing when he jumped head first to make a tackle.

Tennessee defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth was injured near the end of the game when his left leg was caught under the pile. He remained on the turf for several minutes while Titans officials looked at him. He finally got up and hobbled off the field.

Fisher didn't have an update, but his teammates were concerned.

"We shouldn't have lost this game," defensive end Jevon Kearse said. "We had plenty of chances to win this game and then for one of our big defensive players to go down ... hopefully if he's not able to go next week we have somebody else who can step in and pick up the slack."


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