Texans beat Titans 38-14, improve to 4-0
As good as the Houston Texans have been in getting off to the best start in franchise history, they're focused on playing even better.
"To end the month of September 4-0 is great for our team and our organization," quarterback Matt Schaub said after the Texans' 38-14 win over the Tennessee Titans on Sunday. "But there are a lot of things we can correct from this game."
The Texans were outgained 325-297 by the Titans (1-3), but their defense came through with big plays in the second half to clinch a win in which Danieal Manning and Kareem Jackson returned interceptions for touchdowns, Schaub threw two TD passes and Arian Foster ran for a score.
Titans quarterback Jake Locker left in the first quarter and didn't return after hurting his left, non-throwing shoulder on a hit by Glover Quin. Locker hurt the same shoulder in the season opener against New England.
Matt Hasselbeck threw two touchdown passes in relief of Locker, but also had three turnovers. Tennessee coach Mike Munchak said Locker was "sore" and would have an MRI exam Monday.
Houston coach Gary Kubiak loves that his defense pitched in on the scoring.
"Anytime you can get 14 points from some place other than your offense that's exceptional," Kubiak said. "It just makes you that much tougher to beat."
Houston went to work quickly with an 11-yard touchdown reception by James Casey to make it 7-0 in the first quarter.
The Texans challenged the spot on a third-and-1 play on their next series, giving them a first down at the Tennessee 11. Foster took it in from 4 yards out two plays later to push Houston's lead to 14-0 near the end of the first quarter.
The Titans used a good dose of Chris Johnson on a drive that ended with a 19-yard touchdown reception by Craig Stevens to cut Houston's lead to 14-7 in the second quarter.
Johnson entered the game having gained just 45 yards in the first three games combined, but had 25 carries for 141 yards on Sunday for his first 100-yard outing since last December.
"It's frustrating," defensive end J.J. Watt said of Johnson's performance. "We're not happy we gave up those yards."
Johnson said he was very concerned about Tennessee's running game through the first three weeks of the season. But on Sunday he knew from the outset that things were going to be different. He said it helped that he got a good number of carries before halftime after having just 33 combined through his three disappointing games.
"When you're playing running back, you can feel when you're in your groove," he said. "I just felt like I was in my groove early and that's when I knew."
But he isn't ready to proclaim Tennessee's problems in the running game fixed.
"I think today helped us take a step," he said. "I wouldn't say we ultimately solved the problem, but I feel like we took a good step and hopefully we continue to get better."
Houston's offense got off to a slow start in the second half, but the defense picked up the slack. Manning intercepted a pass that was tipped by tight end Taylor Thompson and Manning made a zigzagging 55-yard return for the touchdown to make it 21-7 in the third quarter.
The Titans were disappointed that they were within striking distance in the second half, only to watch things get out of hand so quickly.
"Probably the story of the game would be turnovers and their defense scoring points, and the penalties that cost us not only momentum, but big yards," Hasselbeck said. "It's frustrating because I feel like we're not that far away. But we didn't play great and we had turnovers and I was a part of three of them. It's just frustrating because I know we're capable of a lot more. They were just clearly a lot better than us today."
The Titans were penalized seven times for 73 yards and Houston had just one penalty for three yards.
Hasselbeck fumbled when he was hit by Antonio Smith in the fourth quarter, and J.J. Watt recovered at the Tennessee 24. Shayne Graham kicked a 33-yard field goal with 5:38 left.
Jackson intercepted Hasselbeck in the fourth quarter and returned it 63 yards for a touchdown to push the lead to 38-7. He did his best impression of Deion Sanders at the end, high-stepping the last 10 yards.
Hasselbeck threw a short TD pass to Kendall Wright in the final minute.
NOTES: Watt has 7½ sacks this season. ... The Texans topped 30 points for the third time in four games. ... Graham reached 1,000 career points. ... Texans RG Antoine Caldwell left in the second quarter with a sprained right ankle. ... Titans LB Patrick Bailey, a special-teams player, injured his left hand and stayed in the game. Munchak said he would be re-evaluated on Monday. ... Johnson earned his 29th career 100-yard game.
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