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Texans top out as Titans stumble

Texans top out as Titans stumble

Posted: Monday, December 15, 2008 4:50 pm
By: By CHRIS DUNCAN, AP Sports Writer

HOUSTON (AP) — The Houston Texans are playing their best football when it’s too late to matter, while the Tennessee Titans look vulnerable at the worst possible time.
Andre Johnson had a career-high 207 yards receiving and a touchdown and rookie Steve Slaton rushed for 100 yards in the Texans’ franchise-record fourth consecutive win.
The Texans (7-7) improved to 9-4 in December games under Coach Gary Kubiak. The problem is that Houston is a combined 12-21 over the first three months of Kubiak’s three seasons, including a 4-7 start in 2008.
The Titans (12-2), meanwhile, could’ve clinched home-field advantage throughout the playoffs with a win and a Pittsburgh loss to Baltimore. Instead, they lost and the Steelers won, setting up a pivotal showdown between the division champions in Nashville next week.
“Hopefully we’ll be up for the challenge and guys will come back from vacation,” linebacker Keith Bulluck said.
Houston, eliminated from playoff contention last week, was the first team to hold the Titans without a touchdown this season and snapped a seven-game losing streak to its AFC South rivals.
The Titans still had a chance to escape, driving to the Texans 32 with two minutes left. But on fourth-and-3, coach Jeff Fisher kept Rob Bironas on the sideline and elected to go for the first down.
In the third quarter, Bironas booted a 51-yard field goal, but Fisher said this kick was out of his range because it would’ve gone into a breeze.
“He made attempts before the game and couldn’t get them close,” Fisher said. “We were outside his range, with wind a factor, and wind was clearly a factor in here.”
Bironas, who set an NFL record with eight field goals in Houston last season, still wanted to try it. Fisher turned him down.
“I thought we were going to kick it,” Bironas said, “but it was a coaching decision.”
On the next play, Collins threw incomplete to Justin McCareins and Slaton broke a 34-yard run to help the Texans run out the clock. Houston’s defense forced Collins into his worst performance of 2008 — 15-for-33 for 181 yards and a season-low 50.2 rating.
“There were opportunities there to make throws and I didn’t make them,” Collins said. “That’s on me.”
Tennessee reached the Houston 37 on its opening drive, but Fred Bennett intercepted Collins’ pass in the end zone. The Texans gave it right back on their second play, when Jevon Kearse knocked the ball out of Matt Schaub’s hands and Albert Haynesworth recovered. Bironas kicked a 26-yard field goal with 8:38 left in the first quarter.
Houston answered with a 16-play drive, its longest of the season, and Kris Brown booted a 32-yard field goal on the first play of the second quarter.
Johnson beat Titans’ safety Michael Griffin for a 65-yard pass play on Houston’s next series.
He then eluded cornerback Nick Harper for his sixth touchdown catch of the season.
“We had big expectations coming into this season and things just didn’t turn out the way that we wanted them to turn out,” Johnson said. “But guys were determined to just go out there and do our best to try and win this big game.”
Bironas kicked a 23-yard field goal just before halftime and the 51-yarder at the end of Tennessee’s first drive of the second half. Brown’s 24-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter pushed Houston’s lead to 13-9, and Bironas kicked a 34-yarder with 5:23 left.
Notes: Light rain fell during the second quarter, a first for a Texans’ home game. The retractable roof at Reliant Stadium was damaged by Hurricane Ike on Sept. 13 and has remained open all season. … Haynesworth injured his left leg late in the game and limped to the sideline. Fisher did not know the severity of the injury immediately after the game.


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