Five lessons from Titans-Texans
Lessons we learned from the Titans' 20-17 win over the Texans on Monday night at Reliant Stadium ...
Texans-Titans is the roughest, dirtiest, most bitter NFL rivalry you never knew existed. Until Monday night, that is.
Live and in prime time, NFL fans got a steady dose of chop blocks, late hits, extra shoving and more trash talking and after-whistle shenanigans than you've probably seen in any other game this year. Obviously, much of the angst and anger stems from the way Titans owner
But year after year, the rivalry has grown increasingly vile, thanks to the emotionally-charged
Earlier this week, Titans linebacker
The Texans didn't say much publicly, but simmered all week. Inside the Texans' weight room underneath the Reliant Stadium stands, the Texans placed a stuffed cow, with a mannequin dressed as a hillbilly standing next to it. The Texans also brought legendary Oilers coach
The man played a tremendous game Monday night. And clearly, in bringing Young back into the starting role, Titans coaches made a few calls to Austin, Texas, and watched a lot of video of the Texas Longhorns' 2005 NCAA championship run.
When was the last time an NFL team ran a quarterback draw, an option, a zone read and a designed quarterback sweep all in the same game? It's flirting with danger, no doubt. Young could be put into situations where he's more susceptible to injury. In fact, he came up limping twice in Monday night's game. But the Titans gave themselves their best chance to win by constantly pressuring the Texans defense with their best two runners -- VY and
A year ago, Slaton and Brown were among the most reliable players for the Texans. Slaton burst onto the scene as a rookie running back and actually finished the 2008 season with more yards than Tennessee's Chris Johnson and just two fumbles.
Brown, who is the only kicker the Texans have had in their now eight-year existence, has been Mr. Automatic from close- and long-range.
But in crucial moments this year, Slaton has failed to hold onto the ball and Brown has missed potentially season-changing kicks.
Slaton was benched two weeks ago in favor of
As for Brown, shades of the yips that haunted him in his last NFL home in Pittsburgh are beginning to crop up. Brown missed a relative chip-shot 42-yard field goal in Indianapolis that could have led to a huge Texans win in their last game.
And Monday night, after the Titans'
Yes, Schaub (25-for-39, 305-yards, two TDs) is a terrific quarterback. Yes,
But nothing could have lined up more perfectly for the Texans to finally stake a playoff claim in the wild-card race. And they blew it.
Since the Texans last played, and lost, in Indy, nearly every significant wild-card contender lost a game and lost ground. The entire AFC North lost Sunday and that did nothing but help the Texans. Then there was the perfect stage on Monday night.
But until the Texans can win these types of games, they are not there yet.
Everyone, it seems, has been talking about how much better Vince Young has made the Titans in his return. And to be sure, Young has made electric plays and made some more Monday night. But clearly Johnson has done as much or more for VY's game and this entire offense, than vice versa.
Every snap that Johnson is on the field is a potential coast-to-coast highlight. The Texans several times tried to spy
Johnson rushed for 151 yards against a rush defense that had averaged giving up 60.5 yards rushing in its six previous games. He sliced the Texans and split up their defensive resources on short gains, allowing Young to hit more receivers on underneath play-action routes and find room when he decided to scramble. Johnson now has 1,242 rushing yards for the season, well ahead of the Rams'