Texans 38, Titans 14: After Early Scare, Houston Finally Proves It Can Handle Success
One week after exorcising their Peyton Manning demons, the Texans found themselves squarely in the crosshairs of another familiar enemy: complacency.
Photos by Marco Torres Schaub looks for reliable Andre Johnson early
In 2011, a 3-1 start turned sour with a demoralizing loss to Oakland in Reliant Stadium. Likewise, a home disappointment against Carolina ensued after the division-clinching win in Cincinnati.
To make the leap from good to great, the Texans know sustained excellence is required. For a quarter-and-a-half of game action Sunday, it eluded them as old habits returned. But one tipped interception turned the tide, allowing the Texans to cruise to the first 4-0 start in Houston's NFL history.
"This football team is really hard on itself," said head coach Gary Kubiak. "It knows how to push itself, and that's great for me as a coach."
Check out the Texans slideshow from Sunday's game.
Things couldn't have been more ideal in the first quarter. Not only did the Texans have two touchdowns in three drives and a 14-0 lead, but they knocked out Tennessee quarterback Jake Locker when safety Glover Quin and lineman J.J. Watt converged on him almost simultaneously.
From there forward, however, it slowly deteriorated -- particularly in the trenches. On offense, the protection broke down repeatedly, especially with right tackle Derek Newton. After Matt Schaub connected with Andre Johnson two times on the game's opening drive for 53 yards, Johnson caught only one more pass for three yards the rest of the way, with Schaub lacking time to allow routes to develop.
On defense, the Texans were gashed by much-celebrated Tennessee bust Chris Johnson, whose 141 yards easily topped his previous season high of 45. That opened up playaction for veteran backup QB Matt Hasselbeck, whose 19-yard scoring strike to Craig Stevens brought the Titans within 14-7, leaving the Reliant crowd in relative silence. By early in the third, even with a lead, the Texans drew a few boos.
In seemingly an instant, though, the Texans flipped the switch. Danieal Manning's pick six doubled the lead. The ensuing Tennessee possession ended with a punt after gaining just six yards. Then, Houston used the momentum to bury the Titans (1-3) with a quick 7-play, 75 -yard drive, punctuated by Schaub's 28-yard touchdown pass to Owen Daniels.
"Once we got reignited, everybody started making plays," said defensive end Antonio Smith. "That's the most beautiful way to play football."
Whether the Texans have truly learned their lesson regarding complacency will be put to the test next week. They're well aware of two enormous games at a raucous Reliant in the near future -- Green Bay on Oct. 14 and Baltimore on Oct. 21.
But in the standings, next week's Monday nighter against the struggling Jets (2-2) counts just as much as either. A 5-0 start should be a near formality if the Texans find the same bursts of energy they did Sunday. Here's a look at five players most responsible: