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Too Many Turnovers Too Much to Overcome

The Titans coughed up the ball five times in a surprising 22-13 loss to the Houston Texans.

NASHVILLE – There is something appropriate about the fact that the Tennessee Titans’ final touchdown Sunday against the Houston Texans came on a fumble recovery.

Turnovers were the story of the day in the contest between the team that started the week with the AFC’s best record (Tennessee) and the one with the worst (Houston). So, at least there was one moment when something good happened at least one time the Titans lost their grip on the ball during a 22-13 defeat before 67,395 at Nissan Stadium.

It occurred with 7:47 remaining when running back Dontrell Hillard caught a short pass but coughed it up when he was hit at the Houston 3-yard-line. The ball rolled into the end zone, where Anthony Firkser fell on it and cut the deficit to six points, 19-13.

That moment was the exception.

For the contest, Tennessee committed five turnovers while it forced none. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill threw a career-high four interceptions, and Chester Rogers muffed a punt that gave the Texans possession at the Titans’ 5. The Texans turned those takeaways into 13 points and made them the foundation on which they staged one of the season’s biggest upsets.

“We had too many turnovers,” Tennessee left tackle Taylor Lewan said. “As an entire offense, we have to do better. It was a (bad) day. We did not play well as a unit. It was just bad. I am not going to sit here and make it sound like, ‘Oh, this is good. We did some good things.’

“… Wins and losses are the only things that matter in this league.”

This was the eighth time during the Titans era (1999-present) and the first ] since Mike Vrabel became head coach in 2018 that Tennessee committed five turnovers in a game. Three of those eight, including the last two (Sunday and Oct. 1, 2017) were against the Texans.

The Titans won only one of those eight. That was against Atlanta in 2007 under coach Jeff Fisher, who along with former general manager Floyd Reese, was inducted into the Titans/Oilers Ring of Honor at halftime.

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“We turned the ball over five times,” Vrabel said. “… If you don't play well in this league, I don't care who it is, you turn the ball over in this league, you're going to lose. Nobody wants to hear that, nobody believes that, but when you do that, it doesn't matter what the record is. We had five turnovers. They had zero. You're going to lose the game 99 percent of the time.”

It was actually the second game in a row the Texans forced five turnovers.

Two weeks ago (they had an open date in Week 10) they recovered three fumbles and intercepted two passes against the Miami Dolphins – and lost 17-9. The difference in that one was that they committed four turnovers of their own (three interceptions and a fumble).

Against the Titans, the Texans did not have any giveaways.

“When you play in this league … and you go out and you get five turnovers and you don't turn the ball over, it doesn't matter who you play, you're going to have a pretty good chance to win a football game,” Houston coach David Culley said.

The Titans are now one of five teams to have committed five turnovers in a game this season. None of the other four have winning records.

The Texans are the only ones to have been on both sides of the equation. In addition to its five takeaways against the Dolphins, it had five giveaways in Week 4 against Buffalo (Miami, Chicago and the New York Jets also have had five in a game). The Texans lost to the Bills 40-0.

“I don’t think we were underestimating the team,” Tannehill said. “I know I certainly wasn’t. Watching them on tape, they come out and they play hard. They have good players on defense. Our energy was good, our urgency was good throughout the week. Going into the game, pregame, felt really good.

“Just when it came down to it, we shot ourselves in the foot.”