Notebook: Texans Hand Titans Worst Home Loss in LP Field History

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee's offense stumbled and its defense struggled Sunday in a highly anticipated matchup with Houston for first place in the AFC South at LP Field.

The Texans stampeded for 17 points in the final eight minutes of the first half to build a commanding lead and cruised to a 41-7 victory. Houston (4-3) improved to 2-0 in the division and dropped Tennessee (3-3) to 0-2 in the division.

"I think every guy is a little ticked," Titans cornerback Cortland Finnegan said. "We knew what was at stake and we didn't come with our A-game. We let our fans down, we let the Titan nation down, we let our friends and our teammates down."

The Titans suffered the largest loss by either team in the 19 contests between the teams and lost for the third time in the 10 times they've hosted the Texans. It was the Titans' worst loss at home since LP Field opened its doors in 1999.

"Depressing," defensive end Dave Ball said. "It's very frustrating. It seemed like no matter what we did we couldn't get things rolling. We couldn't get any sort of stitch of momentum going. Whenever you get pounded on, it's not a good feeling."

Houston amassed 518 yards on 70 plays (7.4 yards per play) and held Tennessee to 148 yards on 48 plays (3.1 yards per play). Texans quarterback Matt Schaub completed 18 of 23 passes for 296 yards and two touchdowns, and Arian Foster rushed 25 times for 115 yards and two touchdowns and added five catches for 119 yards, including a career-long 71-yard catch-and-run for another score. Ben Tate added 104 rushing yards on 15 attempts, marking the first time since Nov. 17, 1985 vs. Pittsburgh (Frank Pollard 123 yds, Walter Abercrombie 107 yds) that the Titans/Oilers franchise gave up a pair of 100-yard rushers in the same game.

Schaub rolled to his right and waited for Foster to find an opening on the other side of the field. Foster caught the ball near midfield, side-stepped Titans safety Michael Griffin with a cut-back move and sprinted cleanly the rest of the way to put the Texans up 17-0 with 3:53 left in the first half.

Griffin said the Titans were "embarrassed in our own back yard."

"We can't give up 500 yards of total offense," Griffin said. "We can't give up 100 yards to two different backs. It's embarrassing just to walk around Nashville. You can't hold your head up high right now. You can't walk out of here with a smile on your face."

Houston established balance between rushing and passing success early, broadening its play book and increasing the effectiveness of play fakes to give Schaub time to find open receivers. The Texans had touchdown drives of 87, 94, 92 and 52 yards.

"They ran the ball. If you can't stop the run, then they do play-action pass, you've got all day," Griffin said. "That goes for any team. If you can run the ball, it opens up the passing game. If you can throw the ball, it opens up the running game. If you can do both, it makes you a great offense."

OFFENSE SPUTTERS: Tennessee struggled to establish the run early and suffered inconsistencies in the passing game. The Titans gained 14 yards in the game's opening 15 minutes and finished with 53 yards rushing on 15 attempts and 116 yards passing.

"I felt like we had a good game plan," said reserve running back Javon Ringer, who led the Titans with 31 yards rushing on three carries. "It just didn't work out. We had some sparks, but it didn't stay that way. We didn't turn that spark into a big flame. It felt like we had a good game plan coming in and it just didn't work out that way."

Titans starter Chris Johnson had nine rushes for 16 yards in the first half and one carry for two yards in the second half. The running back led the Titans with six catches for 27 yards.

Titans coach Mike Munchak said the entire offense is responsible for the difficulty in establishing the running game early. He said the Titans must improve that component going forward in their final 10 games.

Tennessee quarterback Matt Hasselbeck and the receivers were unable to develop consistent rhythm. Hasselbeck finished 14-for-30 passing for 104 yards. He was sacked once and threw two interceptions. Houston's Brice McCain returned the second pick 38 yards for the final score of the game with 9:28 left in the fourth quarter.

"I think misfiring is a good way to say it," Hasselbeck said. "We had some plays called back of penalties and we had opportunities, but we just misfired and we didn't convert on third down. … Third down was pretty atrocious for us and the score got out of hand."

Tennessee converted two of 10 third downs, compared to seven of 13 conversions by Houston.

"We've got a lot to fix," Munchak said. "Obviously, we are not happy at all with what product we put on the field today. It's on all of us — coaches, players. That's not us. That can't be us, and we've got to improve."

PENALTY NEGATES BIG PLAY: Officials flagged Tennessee eight times for a total of 76 yards Sunday.

The most detrimental penalty on Tennessee's offense occurred early in the second quarter with the Titans trailing 3-0. Hasselbeck appeared to complete a pass to Nate Washington for a gain of 51 yards to the Houston seven-yard-line, but officials ruled that Damian Williams had committed offensive pass interference during a crossing route with Washington.

The enforcement of the penalty was 11 yards from the line of scrimmage, but it moved the ball 62 yards back to the Tennessee 31-yard-line, and Houston's Danieal Manning intercepted Hasselbeck three plays later.

TRICK PLAYS FAIL: Trickery attempted in the first quarter failed to yield results for either team.

The Titans attempted a flea flicker in which Hasselbeck handed the ball to Johnson, who took a couple of steps forward then pitched the ball back to Hasselbeck. The Titans' quarterback then fired to Williams, who caught the ball, but officials ruled that he didn't control it as he hit the ground after a hit by Johnathan Joseph.

The Texans also tried to use deception with an end around play in which receiver Jacoby Jones took a handoff from Schaub, but Titans linebacker Akeem Ayers delayed Jones, and Finnegan escorted him out of bounds for a loss of 4 yards.

'NO-HUDDLE' LEADS TO TD:Trailing 27-0 with 9:06 left in the third quarter, Tennessee shifted to a no-huddle offense and moved the ball 76 yards in eight plays.

Ringer had a 25-yard run up the middle, and Hasselbeck capped the drive with a five-yard pass to tight end Jared Cook for a touchdown. 

It was the third touchdown catch of Cook's three-year career and second of the season.

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