NASHVILLE, Tenn. —** Here's a look at six things standing out for the Titans following Sunday's loss to Texans:
Another slow start
Yes, the Titans got away with a slow start in wins at Jacksonville, and vs. Seattle. The team scored just six first half points before erupting for 31 against the Jaguars, and just nine before a 24-point effort in the second half against Seattle. But the 21-0 hole they found themselves in early against Houston was just way too much to overcome on a day when the defense struggled throughout. The Titans have to find a way to be faster out of the gate.
Receiver Corey Davis and Johnathan Cyprien missed Sunday's game with a hamstring injuries, and now quarterback Marcus Mariota can be added to the list. Mariota will undergo an MRI on Monday. Titans coach Mike Mularkey said the team is "trying to put a finger on" the rash of hamstring injuries. "We're not doing anything different than we did last year," Mularkey said, "and we didn't have this issue to the extent that we have had it this year. … We're hydrating. That's a big part of it. I talk about it every day. I don't know. I can't tell you. If we knew, we would've done something about it."
Kevin Byard's INT
It was just a matter of time before Titans safety Kevin Byard recorded his first career interception. Byard has been fast to the ball all season, and he showed his speed when stepping in front of a pass thrown by Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson at the end of the first half. Byard once again played every snap of the game – 84 on Sunday – and he led the team with nine tackles (tied with Wesley Woodyard). After the game he didn't want to talk much about his interception, because he was so upset about the loss.
Division wide open**
The Jaguars manhandled the Texans, the Titans steamrolled the Jaguars, and the Texans, well, they had their way with the Titans on Sunday. It's been a crazy first quarter of the season, and all three teams are 2-2 after four games. The Colts, meanwhile, are 1-3 but seemingly on the verge of getting quarterback Andrew Luck back. With 12 games left to play, it's no time to panic -- the AFC South is there for the taking. Despite Sunday's loss, the Titans have a great opportunity on the horizon.
OK, I'm giving credit where credit is due here. Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson was a great player in college at Clemson, and he's turned into a pretty darn good NFL quarterback pretty quickly. The Titans didn't put Watson under nearly enough stress all day – too many receivers were open all game. But Watson impressed me with his accuracy, his poise, and his ability to find the right guys on the field. The Texans have a good one in Watson, who accounted for five touchdowns on Sunday.
Punter Brett Kern continues to perform at a high level for the Titans. He punted five times against the Texans, and averaged 49.2 yards, with a 48.4-yard net. After four games, Kern is averaging 50.0 yards per punt, with a 45.3-yard net. The Titans would love to punt the ball less, of course, but they're getting solid performances from Kern, and the kicking game across the board. Kicker Ryan Succop didn't have a field goal try on Sunday, but he won AFC Special Teams Player of the Month in September.
The Tennessee Titans take on the Houston Texans in Week 4 action at NRG Stadium. (Photos: Donn Jones, AP)