Another Scoreless First Half Ends in Another Defeat
NASHVILLE – Like a tree whose leaves turn a vibrant color in the fall, the Tennessee Titans have been something to see in recent weeks.
Deep in the ground, though, their roots remained unchanged.
They’re still the same tree and a consistent truth doomed them in Sunday’s showdown with the Houston Texans. A 14-point first-half deficit was too much to overcome in a 24-21 defeat before 65,265 at Nissan Stadium and now their chances to rise above the rest of the AFC South and the conference’s other playoff contenders were greatly diminished.
Tennessee (8-6) had won six of its last seven coming into the day and needed only to keep winning in order to make the playoffs, win the division – or both. Now it can’t do either without help from other teams.
In this case it was a slow start – a recurring issue – that cost them.
“There are certain things that we talk about that you do good, that you do bad and the stuff that gets you beat,” coach Mike Vrabel said. “I think finding ways to go down 14-0 would be one of those ways that gets you beat. It is just hard to overcome that in this league.”
The Titans missed opportunities to put points on the board when Ryan Succop’s 45-yard field goal attempt was blocked in the first quarter and a pass to Anthony Firkser on first-and-goal from the 5 was broken up, intercepted and returned 86 yards to the Titans’ 12. The Texans turned the latter into the first points of the game
At halftime, it was Houston 14, Tennessee 0, which made it the fifth time this season the Titans were held scoreless over the first 30 minutes. The other four – at Jacksonville (Week 3), vs. Buffalo (Week 5), at Denver (Week 6) and at Carolina (Week 9) – all ended in defeat as well.
When they score some points – any points – before the end of the first half, therefore, they are 8-1.
“We didn’t come out and play well early,” quarterback Ryan Tannehill said. “I don’t think any side of the ball would say we played well early. When you play against good teams in this league, you have to play them for four quarters, not two.”
Over the final two quarters the Titans outgained (237-218), had more first downs (15-12) and outscored the Texans (21-10) but never got out of the early hole they dug for themselves.
They tied the game on A.J. Brown’s 5-yard touchdown catch 1:25 into the fourth quarter. Their final points came with 2:04 remaining on an 11-yard touchdown reception by Dion Lews. In between, defensive lineman Jeffery Simmons batted a ball at the goal and linebacker Jayon Brown came down with it for an interception that thwarted a Houston scoring threat.
The Texans responded with 10 straight points and forced Tennessee into a desperate situation.
“This team overcame a lot of adversity in this game,” Houston coach Bill O’Brien said. “… I think that these guys stay focused the whole game. They played 60 minutes. It wasn’t an easy game.”
For the Titans, it wasn’t anything new.
It was the 11 time in 14 games they allowed the opposition to score first and the seventh time they trailed at the half. There have been times when they have overcome those situations and eventually won.
This time the start was too poor, the deficit too large and the opponent too good. And the result was all too familiar, just like every other time did not score until after halftime.
“I just didn’t think we made plays early,” safety Kevin Byard said. “Against a good team like that you can’t get down 14-0, and that’s kind of what happened. … We played good in spurts but we didn’t play consistently enough to win the ballgame.
“Credit to Houston. … They came out and beat us.”