JOE BIDDLE: Titans defense stands tall in loss to Texas

JOE BIDDLE: Titans defense stands tall in loss to Texas (Image 1)

Yes, the Titans lost to the heavily favored (by nine points) Texans in Houston Sunday.

But the Texans had to work overtime to take the 30-24 decision.

It was exhausting enough just watching the Titans' defense keep the Texans from scoring only 16 points until 1:53 in regulation. I suspect they were weary enough by overtime to make the difference in wining and losing.

It never should have come to that, as the Titans held an eight-point lead with under five minutes to play. But the Titans allowed the Texans to drive 88 yards, resulting in Adrian Foster's one-yard touchdown and his two-point conversion from the three-yard line.

“We got to close games out,'' said Titans safety Bernard Pollard. “We have to be more disciplined for a full 60 minutes.''

Despite the outcome, if this Titans team continues to give the effort and play as they did against the Texans, they will win a lot more games than preseason prognosticators gave them credit for.

When you consider just how porous the Titans defense was last season, giving up more points than any NFL team, it's remarkable it could go toe-to-toe with one of the NFL's best teams.

Could hiring former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams make this much difference? We might want to ask Houston quarterback Matt Schaub, who was dogged by the Titans defense the entire day.

Schaub didn't know when, or from where, the pressure was coming. He just knew it was coming and coming fast and furious. So, yes, Williams deserves a lot of credit. That's why Titans Coach Mike Munchak went out on a limb to hire him after the NFL had suspended him indefinitely for the highly publicized New Orleans Bountygate case two seasons ago.

But Williams never played a down. So let's pass along some credit to those who hounded Schaub, to those in the front seven that held the Texans running game in check much of the game, to those in the secondary that laid the wood to Texans receivers, at one point sending Texans star Andre Johnson to the locker room with what was thought to be a concussion.

Linebacker Zach Brown was a stat monster. He led the Titans with a dozen tackles, an impressive 11 of them solo. Pollard rang up nine tackles, defended a pass and had a quarterback hit. Cornerback Alterraun Verner returned a Schaub interception to the end zone. It was made possible by the pass rush the Titans applied to Schaub.

And we would be remiss if we failed to recognize what the Titans offense brought to the table. It was quarterback Jake Locker's best overall game, especially when you consider the pressure he was under from the Texans defense.

It was an offensive game plan that was ultra-conservative, but effective. Locker was 17 of 30 for 148 yards and two touchdowns. He was sacked four times but never intercepted. His performance drew a 92.1 quarterback rating. He wasn't perfect, but his 9 play, 99 yard fourth quarter touchdown drive was not only impressive, it put the Titans on top 17-16 with 6:37 left in regulation. Before that, the Titans had a stretch of seven straight possessions that failed to produce a first down.

It came down to overtime and give the Texans credit. They had escaped with a 31-28 come from behind win the first week at San Diego. This team is not an easy out.

With Johnson out of the game, Texans rookie DeAndre Hopkins took up the slack. The first round pick from Clemson showed why he was a first-rounder.

As the Texans drove 78 yards in 11 plays in overtime, it was Hopkins' eighth catch of the day that beat cornerback Jason McCourty in the right corner of the end zone, spoiling the Titans' second straight road trip after beating Pittsburgh the previous week.

“It felt great to be able to pick up the slack once Andre left,'' Hopkins told reporters.

Texans Coach Gary Kubiak concurred.
“We survived because of the heroics by (Hopkins),'' Kubiak said.

It was a great game for playing what ifs. What if the Titans had won the overtime coin toss? Would they have been able to drive for the game-winning touchdown? We'll never know, but there may be a game in the future where we might discover the answer.

Contact Sports Columnist Joe Biddle at

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