HOUSTON, Texas –** The Titans had a problem in Houston.
Actually, they had several.
Offensively, the team got off to another slow start, and ended up turning the ball over five times in the game. On defense, the Titans couldn't get stops, as the secondary had all kinds of trouble in coverage. To make matters worse, Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota suffered a hamstring injury, and didn't finish the game.
It all added up to an ugly 57-14 loss to the Houston Texans here at NRG Stadium.
"That was a total team loss, all the way around, including coaching," Titans coach Mike Mularkey said. "They obviously played a better football game than we did, in all three phases, and include coaching on that. … A tough lesson learned for us."
Mariota completed 6-of-10 passes for 96 yards in the first half, and he scored on touchdown runs of two and 34 yards in the game. But back-up Matt Cassel took over for Mariota in the third quarter, and played the rest of the way. Mularkey said Mariota is scheduled for an MRI, which would reveal the extent of the injury.
It was ugly early, as the Titans fell behind out of the gate, and things never really got better.
"Disgusting," Titans tight end Delanie Walker said. "This loss doesn't define us – today, Houston was just better than us. But guys should be upset, and I'm sure everybody in here is upset."
On defense, the Titans struggled in coverage, as Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson completed 25-of-34 passes for 283 yards and four touchdowns, along with an interception. Watson also ran for a touchdown.
The Texans racked up 445 yards of offense against the Titans, and 33 first downs.
"We are professionals, and we didn't play professional football today," cornerback Logan Ryan said. "We have to learn from the mistakes, burn the film, and go out there and do better next week. … We have some leaders on this team, some great players on this team, and we don't like the taste of this.
"We are not the first team to lose by a lot of points in this league. It's one loss, and we have to respond and play our style of football."
The Titans struggled early and late.
After a Mariota interception on the team's third offensive play, the Texans quickly drove down the field and scored on a two-yard touchdown run by running back Lamar Miller.
The Texans made it 14-0 when Watson connected with receiver DeAndre Hopkins on an eight-yard pass. The Texans increased the lead to 21-0 on a 16-yard touchdown pass from Watson to receiver Will Fuller.
The Titans, meanwhile, couldn't get anything going on offense until a drive at the start of the second quarter.
That's when Mariota capped off a 5-play, 75-yard drive with a 34-yard touchdown run, making it 21-7 with 11:44 remaining in the second quarter.
After the Texans stretched the lead to 24-7 on a 50-yard field goal by kicker Ka'imi Fairbairn, Mariota connected with receiver Rishard Matthews for completions of 13 and 28 yards on a scoring drive that was capped off with a two-yard touchdown run by Mariota to cut the lead to 24-14 with 1:50 remaining before halftime.
But Marota injured his hamstring on that play, and the Titans couldn't slow down the Texans. A pass interference by cornerback Adoree' Jackson in the end zone gave Houston the ball at the 1, and Watson ran it in to make it 30-14. Titans safety Kevin Byard picked off Watson near the goal line just before halftime, but it was one of the few plays the Titans made on defense on this day.
The Texans kept rolling in the second half. Watson's third touchdown pass of the game – a 10-yard pass to Fuller – capped off a 14-play, 75-yard drive, and a Watson-to-Miller touchdown pass in the fourth quarter made it 44-14 with 11:19 left. Another Fairbairn field goal made it 47-14 with 8:39 left.
Cassel completed 4-of-10 passes for 21 yards in the second half, with two interceptions, one that was returned for a touchdown by linebacker Dylan Cole. Another Fairbairn field goal accounted for the final margin.
"I would have loved to go out there and started a comeback, but today obviously it didn't go well," Cassel said. "It was a bad day at the office. I have to play better obviously. I have been doing this for a long time and this was one of those things where things went downhill pretty quickly."
The Titans face the Dolphins next Sunday in Miami.
The Titans are now 2-2 in the AFC South, tied atop the division with the Texans and Jaguars. The Colts (1-2) face the Seahawks later tonight.
"We're a good team," Mularkey said. "We can compete, and I'll say this about or team – (effort) was not a question today. We competed four quarters, and they were the better team today."
The Tennessee Titans take on the Houston Texans in Week 4 action at NRG Stadium. (Photos: Donn Jones, AP)