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Notebook: Titans Convert 99-Yard Drive but Fall on Road

Posted Sep 15, 2013

The Titans found a way to stay in the game and build an eight-point lead late, but left Houston Sunday wishing they had secured the victory instead of lamenting a 30-24 overtime loss to the AFC South rival Texans.

Despite obtaining three first downs between the 4:43 mark of the second quarter and taking the ball at its own 1-yard line with 13:26 left in the game, the Titans mounted a nine-play, 99-yard drive that ended with a 10-yard TD pass from Jake Locker to Delanie Walker for a 17-16 lead.

“It was great, and it was at that point in the game where, you know, we needed to do something and brought a big drive together and shifted the momentum at that point,” Locker said. “Unfortunately we weren’t able to do it again.”

The Titans opted to throw their way out of the bad field position after trying to run out of their end zone resulted in a safety on the previous possession. Locker hit Kenny Britt for 6 yards of breathing room before finding Nate Washington along the sideline for 31 yards, which was Tennessee’s longest offensive play of the day.

The drive also included a 14-yard completion from Locker to Kendall Wright on third-and-2 and a 15-yard run by Chris Johnson. Tennessee obtained five of its 14 first downs during the possession but was unable to get another first down the rest of the game in four-minute and two-minute offensive situations.

“The game was right there for us to have,” Titans coach Mike Munchak said. “I think that they learned that, you know what, it doesn’t matter if the game is back and forth, you could be playing great or be playing poorly then all of a sudden, we have the type of team that is going to give us a chance to win at the end, and they continued to make plays and we didn’t.”

Tennessee’s defense responded to taking the lead with Antonio Johnson, who was filling in after Sammie Hill left with an injury, tackling Arian Foster for a loss of four and Derrick Morgan sacking Matt Schaub for a loss of seven before Alterraun Verner intercepted Schaub and returned it 23 yards for a touchdown and a 24-16 lead with 4:59 left in regulation.

The Titans forced consecutive incompletions by Schaub on attempts to rookie first-round pick DeAndre Hopkins before Kamerion Wimbley sacked Schaub to force a Texans punt.

Tennessee got the ball back with 4:08 on the clock and tried to go into its four-minute offense that is run-heavy with the purpose of running out the clock. Houston stopped Chris Johnson and Jackie Battle after back-to-back gains of 1 to set up a third-and-8. A screen pass from Locker to Wright, however, fell incomplete, forcing a punt.

The Texans tied the game with 1:53 left on a short TD run and two-point conversion run by Arian Foster, and Tennessee got the ball at its own 20 but Locker’s short pass on third-and-1 was too high for Britt to secure, forcing the ball back to the Texans, who mounted a drive in a minute to have a shot at a game-winning kick by Randy Bullock. The attempt that counted, however, hit the left upright, forcing overtime. Houston won the toss and didn’t give the Titans a chance by scoring a touchdown on third down with a short pass from Schaub to Hopkins. Had Tennessee forced a field goal on the opening possession, the Titans would have received an offensive possession to try to match it or score a touchdown for the win.

“We’ve got to close games out,” said Titans safety Bernard Pollard, who returned an interception 32 yards in the first half to set up a Rob Bironas field goal. “I thought we played our tails off. I do. I really believe we played our tails off. We’re not going to play a perfect game but at the same time we played a good enough game to win. But you know we’ve got to learn in situations like this, we left so many things out there on the field, and as a player you cannot do that.”

VERNER’S FIRST PICK 6: The interception by Verner was his second in as many weeks and first of his four-year career that he returned for a touchdown.

The Titans were in man-to-man coverage on the play that Verner intercepted in Pittsburgh but were in a zone defense against the Texans.

“I was able to keep my eyes on the quarterback, and I was able to break downhill and make a play on the ball,” Verner said. “Overall, we played well but we did not play well enough. That is a good team out there and you cannot leave plays out there.”

JOHNSON REACHES MORE MILESTONES: Titans running back Chris Johnson rushed 25 times for 96 yards and caught one pass for a yard.

Johnson became the third player in Titans/Oilers franchise history to reach 7,000 career rushing yards, joinng Eddie George (10,009 rushing yards) and Earl Campbell (8,574). The sixth-year pro also moved into fourth place on the franchise’s all-time list for career net yards by moving ahead of Ernest Givins (8,704 yards). George (12,153), Derrick Mason (11,202) and Campbell (9,292) are ahead of Johnson (8,730).

TOE-TO-TOE: Munchak metaphorically said the Titans went “toe-to-toe” with the two-time defending division champ Texans, but that was quite figural for the punting battle between the Titans’ Brett Kern and the Texans’ Shane Lechler, a six-time All Pro and seven-time Pro Bowler who signed with Houston as a free agent this offseason.

Kern punted eight times for 382 yards, averaging 47.8 yards per punt, which was just under Lechler’s 48.3 average on seven punts. When combined with the work of the coverage team, Kern’s net average of 46.6 per punt, however, was almost four yards better than Lechler’s 42.9.

INACTIVES: In addition to Greene and Williams, LB Zaviar Gooden, C Brian Schwenke, T Byron Stingily, DE Keyunta Dawson and DE Lavar Edwards were inactive for the Titans.

Rookies Gooden, Schwenke and Edwards, along with Dawson, were also inactive at Pittsburgh.

For the Texans, Ed Reed was the only starter who was inactive. Houston also deactivated QB Case Keenum, T Andrew Gardner, G Cody White, DE Tim Jamison and rookies Cierre Wood at running back and defensive end Sam Montgomery, a teammate of Tennessee’s Edwards at LSU.

NOTES: Fullback Collin Mooney recorded the first reception of his career. … Washington extended his streak of games with at least one catch to 80. … The touchdown by Walker and the interception by Pollard were their firsts as Titans.

 

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