Overview: The Houston Texans clearly didn’t play as clean as they would have liked but their effort against Tennessee was still good enough Sunday to emerge with a 38-14 win at Reliant Stadium and their AFC-best 4-0 record intact.
- Related: NFL Standings
Things don’t look nearly as bright for the Titans who saw starting quarterback Jay Locker knocked out of the game with a shoulder injury in the first quarter and their record drop 1-3 after what was a critical AFC South showdown for them.
The Texans, the reigning AFC South champs, are looking not only like the division’s top team again but maybe the best the best that AFC has to offer. On a day when they clearly didn’t play at their on the offensive side of the ball they were still good enough to throttle what is supposed to be the second-best team in their division.
Two pick-six interceptions by Titans backup Matt Hasselbeck and a couple explosive plays on the offensive side of the ball were all the Texans needed to separate themselves from Tennessee.
After seeming to play uninspired during the second quarter, the Texans bounced back in a big way with 14 points on explosive plays in the third quarter to open a 28-7 lead over the Titans.
In the first half, the Texans couldn’t find anyone to break tackles but in the third quarter both running back Arian Foster and tight end Owen Daniels broke tackles on critical plays to gain the 21-point lead. Daniels took a short pass from Matt Schaub and barreled over a few Titans defender on the way to a 28-yard touchdown reception with 2:47 remaining in the third quarter. His touchdown followed an impressive tackle-breaking 16-yard run by Foster on third down-and-1.
Earlier in the quarter, safety Danieal Manning turned an interception by Hasselbeck into a spectacular 55-yard touchdown return that gave Houston a 21-1 lead 9:21 left to play in the third quarter. Texans cornerback Kareem Jackson also had a 63-yard interception return for a touchdown late in the fourth quarter that gave the Texans a 38-7 lead.
Houston jumped out to an early 14-0 lead in the first quarter, but complacency and a lack of production on third downs saw them clinging to a 14-7 advantage at halftime.
Ineffectiveness on third downs seemed to be the difference between a 21-point lead and the seven-point lead the Texans had after two quarters. They were just 2 of 7 on third downs with a couple of third-and –reasonable situations stalling what could have scoring drives.
Who Did Well: Defensive end J.J. Watt continues to look like an elite NFL defensive lineman in just his second pro season. Watt had five tackles, , which included two sacks for minus-17 yards, three tackles for loss, two quarterback hurries and a fumble recovery.
Quarterback Matt Schaub was outstanding again, completing passes for seven different receivers during the game. He turned in an efficient performance by completing 20 of 28 passes for 202 yards and two touchdowns. Instead of relying on the deep ball, Schaub took advantage of the open middle of the field where tight end Owen Daniels and H-back/fullback James Casey combined for 11 catches, 108 yards and two touchdowns on the day.
Who Struggled: The right side of the offensive line seems to still be way too inconsistent. Right tackle Derek Newton and veteran Ryan Harris continue to rotate. Starting right guard Antoine Caldwell injured his ankle during the second quarter and was replaced by rookie Ben Jones. Jones did some things well but got beat a few times.
For the second time in four games, the Texans rushing attack with Arian Foster and Ben Tate turned in a subpar performance. They combined to average just 3.1 yards per carry and didn’t break many long runs.
The Texans also need to take steps to improve their run defense, which has been suspect all season. Titans running back Chris Johnson had been slumping this season, but had a breakout game against the Texans with 141 yards on 25 carries for an average of 5.6 yards per carry.
Standout Players: Often criticized cornerback Kareem Jackson had his best game in a Texans uniform with two pass deflections and a 63-yard interception return for a touchdown. It was the first pick six of his three-year NFL career.
Safety Danieal Manning also had another strong outing with five tackles and two deflections. He also had the game-breaking play when he returned a Matt Hasselbeck interception 55 yards for a touchdown early in the third quarter back out to 14 points.
Tight end Owen Daniels is quietly one of the best and most consistent tight ends in the NFL. He had six passes thrown his way and caught all six for 72 yards and a touchdown.
Interesting Stat: The Titans had 325 yards of offense and averaged 5.4 yards per play compared to 297 yards of offense and 5.0 yards per play for the Texans.
He Said It: “It feels good. It’s been a good September for our football team. We played pretty solid football. When you look at it from the standpoint of turnovers, getting the ball, protecting the ball, those types of things that they give you a chance to be good every week. It’s been a really good month and it was a tough deal today.” – Texans coach Gary Kubiak
Up Next: The Texans travel to take on the reeling New York Jets in a Monday Night football game next week. The Jets are coming off a deflating 34-0 home loss to the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday that dropped them to 2-2.