The Titans and Texans opened with fast starts before stepping into a slugfest that finished wildly with homestanding Houston prevailing 30-24 in overtime Sunday at Reliant Stadium.
The quirky end of regulation included:
1) A timeout just before Randy Bullock's attempt of a 51-yard field goal that went through the uprights.
2) A blocked field goal by Michael Griffin, whose offsides penalty on the play gave Bullock a shot at a 46-yarder.
3) Another Titans timeout just before Bullock tried from that distance and missed wide left.
4) Bullock hitting the left upright on the attempt that counted.
Houston (2-0, 1-0 AFC South) won the coin toss before the extra session and prevented Tennessee (1-1, 0-1) from getting the ball in overtime by putting together an 11-play, 78-yard drive that was capped with a short TD pass from Matt Schaub to rookie first-round pick DeAndre Hopkins, who also converted a third-and-10 with a 24 yard catch at the Tennessee two-yard line. Hopkins worked the sideline on both plays but got both feet down each time.
It was a tough ending for the Titans, who led their AFC South rivals 24-16 with 4:59. Tennessee's offense claimed a 17-16 lead with 6:37 left in the game after a 99-yard scoring drive that ended with a 10-yard TD pass from Jake Locker to Delanie Walker. The Titans added to the lead with a 23-yard interception return for a touchdown by Alterraun Verner to make it 24-16 with 4:59 remaining.
Tennessee's defense forced a three-and-punt on the ensuing possession, including a sack of Schaub by Kamerion Wimbley, but its offense failed to maintain momentum. After two short runs and an incompletion, Tennessee was forced to punt.
A boot by Brett Kern, who averaged 47.8 and netted 46.6 yards on his eight punts, and a tackle by Tommie Campbell pinned the Texans at their own 13 with 3:07 left in regulation, but Houston moved 87 yards over eight plays in 1:14 with passes of 23, 13 and 28 yards to Hopkins on consecutive plays. Schaub then found Andre Johnson for a 21-yard completion on a play that was initially ruled incomplete but overturned when it was determined Johnson was down before Jason McCourty and Bernard Pollard knocked the ball away. Johnson was hurt on the play and did not return. Foster scored from one yard out on third-and-goal and added a two-point conversion to tie the game.
The game opened with each team scoring on its opening drive. Houston received the opening kickoff and scored in 2:30 with four rushes (including a 60-yarder by Ben Tate) and a short TD pass from Schaub to Garrett Graham.
|Chris Johnson rushed 25 times for a game-high 96 yards against the Texans. Click here for a slideshow from the game.|
The Titans responded with a balanced drive that combined efficient passing by Locker, including a pair of third-down completions, and six rushes for 27 yards by Chris Johnson and a nine-yard bulldozing run by Jackie Battle, who was moved up the depth chart because Shonn Greene was inactive because of a knee injury.
Chris Johnson opened the possession with a 16-yard run, and added a six-yard gain after Houston's J.J. Watt was penalized for illegal use of hands to the face while working against first-round pick Chance Warmack.
Locker connected with Wright on a quick screen for 14 yards, then with fullback Collin Mooney for a gain of 5. It was the first career catch for the Army veteran. Locker added a 17-yard pass to Nate Washington to convert third-and-6 before Battle channeled former Oilers great Earl Campbell with a punishing finish that knocked down Texans safety Danieal Manning and moved the ball to the Houston nine-yard line.
After a pass was batted down, and a short gain by Chris Johnson, Locker drilled a throw to Wright into tight coverage that the 2012 first-round pick snagged despite contact for a 6-yard touchdown. Officials flagged Tennessee for a penalty when Johnson and Kenny Britt mimicked the celebration dance that Wright was doing.
The penalty forced Tennessee to kick off from its own 20 and gave Houston the ball at its 41-yard line, but the Titans forced the first of two 50-yard field goal attempts missed by Randy Bullock in the first half.
After such a hot start, neither team could put points on the board until the final play of the first half — a 47-yarder by Rob Bironas that was set up by an impressive 32-yard interception return by Pollard to the Houston 23-yard line. Pollard corralled a slow wobbler that a blitzing Akeem Ayers tipped as Schaub released the ball. The Titans safety, who is more known for heavy hitting, found running room to his right and tight-roped the sideline for a few additional yards.
Locker was sacked by Brian Cushing on the opening play of that possession, but the Titans were able to get four yards back before the boot by Bironas, who narrowly missed a 48 yarder with 4:43 left in the first half.
Houston clamped down on Tennessee in the third quarter, allowing the Titans 10 yards on 12 plays during the period and kept winning the field position battle until it claimed a 14-10 lead on a touchdown drive that was aided by an unnecessary roughness penalty against Ropati Pitoitua when officials ruled the big defensive end hit Schaub too high. It appeared Pitoitua did not take a full shot on Schaub, who was not knocked down on the play.
The Texans' lead grew to 16-10 early in the fourth quarter on a safety that was awarded when officials reviewed a play and decided Chris Johnson had been knocked down before moving the ball beyond the goal line.
The Titans suffered three penalties in a span of four plays to pin themselves against their goal line:
1) What appeared to be a successful screen pass from Locker to Chris Johnson for a gain of 13 to the Tennessee 25 was erased by a "peel back" block called on Rob Turner.
2) A play that appeared to be a nine-yard gain by Chris Johnson on first-and-16 was wiped away because Turner was called for holding.
3) Johnson lost a yard on the resulting first-and-19.
4) Locker was unable to get the snap from Turner in time on a play that appeared to be a deep completion to Britt, resulting in a delay of game penalty.
5) Johnson was hit in the end zone on second-and-21, resulting in the safety.
Tennessee was backed up on its one on its next possession as well, but mounted a nine-play, 99-yard drive in the fourth quarter that Locker capped with a 10-yard TD pass to Walker for a 17-16 lead with 6:37 left in the game.
Tennessee opted to throw its way out of the danger zone. Locker opened with a 6-yard pass to Kenny Britt and followed with a 31-yarder to Nate Washington. Going no-huddle, Locker quickly fired to Britt for a gain of nine. Locker went back to Britt for a short gain after a penalty, then found Kendall Wright for a gain of 14 on third-and-2 when the shifty receiver dodged Texans defenders for extra yardage.
Chris Johnson added a gain of 15 on the next play, picking up blocks by Chance Warmack and Michael Roos on the left side of the line, with Walker escorting him.
Locker went back to Wright for a short tough catch that included a helmet-to-helmet penalty against Kareem Jackson. Locker then found Walker, who broke a tackle attempt by Jackson just shy of the goal line.
Momentum appeared to be shifting to Tennessee when Antonio Johnson and Pitoitua tackled Foster for a loss, and Derrick Morgan sacked Schaub to set up a third-and-21 when Verner made his interception. It was the first "pick 6" of his four-year career and second touchdown (a 72-yard fumble recovery against Detroit).
Locker finished 17-for-30 for 148 yards and was sacked four times. The two TD passes, combined with no interceptions, helped him post a passer rating of 92.1. Chris Johnson led all rushers with 96 yards and carried the ball 25 times for the second straight week.