Titans Take on Division-Rival Texans on Sunday




Tennessee has captured 11 of 14 meetings with the Texans since they entered the league in 2002.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. --** The Tennessee Titans led the AFC South wire-to-wire last season, while the Houston Texans matched the best finish in the team's brief history.

To build on those successes in 2009, each team will have to rebound from a season-opening defeat.

The Titans look to bounce back from an overtime loss to the reigning Super Bowl champions Sunday when they host the Texans, whose dismal offensive performance in their opener doesn't bode well for the team's chances to compete for its first playoff appearance.

Tennessee set a franchise record by winning its first 10 games last season en route to its first division title since 2002. The Titans didn't get off to nearly as strong a start to 2009, falling 13-10 in overtime at Pittsburgh in last Thursday night's NFL opener.

Though the Titans' defense managed to limit the Steelers' scoring opportunities, Tennessee missed some chances of its own. Rob Bironas, who made all 13 of his field goals from inside the 40-yard line in 2008, missed a 37-yard attempt in the first quarter and had a 31-yarder blocked in the second.

"The Pittsburgh Steelers didn't beat the Tennessee Titans, the Tennessee Titans beat the Tennessee Titans," said wide receiver Nate Washington, who spent the last three seasons with Pittsburgh.

Receiver Justin Gage, who caught seven passes for 78 yards and a touchdown, called the frustrating defeat a valuable lesson for the entire team. Coach Jeff Fisher agreed and said he's not concerned about the possibility of starting 0-2.

"All our focus is on winning the game. It's not on losing the game," Fisher said. "Our attention is to play better than we played last week. If we can do that, we'll have a good chance to win."

Fisher did admit to a sense of urgency because Sunday's opponent is a division rival coming off its own hard-to-swallow loss.

"They're really no different than we are. Everyone wants to get off to a fast start," Fisher said.

The Texans didn't do a very good job of that last Sunday, getting outgained 462-183 in a 24-7 home loss to the New York Jets.

Steve Slaton, sixth in the league and first among rookies with 1,282 rushing yards last season, was held to 17 on the ground. Andre Johnson, the NFL leader with 115 catches and 1,575 receiving yards in 2008, caught four passes for 35 yards.

"It's just insane," Slaton said. "You work for six months leading up to this first game. You have all offseason to prepare for this game and then to come out and play like that is upsetting."

Matt Schaub was 18 for 33 with no touchdowns and one interception. The injury-plagued quarterback, who's played 11 games in each of his first two seasons with Houston, may have been bothered by a sprained ankle he suffered almost two weeks ago.

Coach Gary Kubiak didn't make any excuses, taking a lot of the blame for Houston's inability to move the ball.

"We've got to take a hard look at ourselves as coaches and make sure that we don't have these players confused. I'm seeing some mistakes from those guys that I haven't seen in the past," Kubiak said.

"We played a game totally out of whack as far as throwing it and running it. That's not us. This team can't win that way."

The Texans have also had a hard time winning against the Titans. They're 3-11 in the series, including 1-6 in Nashville.

However, the Texans won their last meeting with the team they replaced in Houston, beating Tennessee 13-12 on Dec. 14 at Reliant Stadium. Houston outgained Tennessee 375-281 and became the first team to hold the Titans without a touchdown in 14 games.

Schaub was 23 for 39 for 284 yards and a touchdown, and Johnson caught 11 of those passes for a career-high 207 yards and the score. Slaton rushed for 100 yards.

Though Tennessee had already clinched a playoff spot at that point last season, Gage said the team hasn't forgotten that defeat.

"Being a division game or a rival team, anytime you lose those games it hurts," he said. "Knowing this is our first chance since then to actually get to play those guys and get a little revenge you can call it."

Gage and the Titans' offense should get some help if tight ends Bo Scaife (knee) and Jared Cook (foot) can return this week.

"It'll be much more dynamic," Gage said.

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