Texans Shush the “Oilers”

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October 17, 2004
Texans Shush the "Oilers"

by Bob Hulsey

It took three years but Houston can finally rub it in Bud Adams’ snout. The owner who took the Oilers out of state and set up shop in Nashville saw his successors knock his bruised and hobbled Tennessee Titans (2-4) into the AFC South cellar with a 20-10 win at the once-invincible YourNameGoesHere Coliseum.

Normally, this would be the highlight of our weekend. It feels like marrying that girl who is so much better than that ex that dumped you. But the joy is likely to take a backseat to the Astros’ World Series pursuit, and that’s okay too. We can look back fondly at both.

The Houston Texans (3-3) scored the only points in the second half on a four-yard run by Jonathan Wells late in the fourth quarter to seal a close game where the offenses had trouble sustaining momentum. Tennessee’s last gasp was choked in the end zone by Marcus Coleman who rang up 2003 Co-MVP Steve McNair’s fourth interception of the game.

Quarterback David Carr hit on 16 of 26 passes for 226 yards, much of it in the first half. The defense made sure McNair would not enjoy similar success.

The Texans took the opening kickoff and marched 69 yards, 47 of them on a deep ball from Carr to Corey Bradford. But the drive stalled in the red zone and Houston settled for a 21-yard field goal by Kris Brown.

Houston had a chance to put more points on the board when Aaron Glenn picked off McNair’s first pass of the game. The Texans got another break when Andre Woolfolk was penalized on a 3rd-and-10 but Woolfolk made amends by intercepting Carr and returning it to midfield. Next, it was Dunta Robinson who grabbed a tipped pass to blunt the Tennessee drive.

On the first play of the second quarter, Carr was stripped by a blitzing Tank Williams, setting up the Titans at the Houston 32. Five plays later, McNair scrambled and found Drew Bennett for a 10-yard score to take a 7-3 lead.

Carr finally got untracked with a 76-yard touchdown drive, connecting on four straight passes. Jabar Gaffney made two outstanding catches on the drive. The first was a fingertip grab off a 30-yard out pattern along the sideline. The second was a 20-yard stretching beauty, ducking inside the defender for the points. Carr was a sharp 10-of-14 for 184 yards in the first half.

Tennessee tied it with 5-1/2 minutes left in the half when 45-year-old recurring nightmare Gary Anderson nailed a 40-yard field goal to tie the score. A Carr-to-Andre Johnson hookup set up a 50-yarder from Brown as the Texans retook the lead going into halftime, 13-10.

The hitting picked up in the third quarter with both teams losing some players but the scoreboard looked the same heading into the final 15 minutes. The biggest lick was applied by strong safety Jason Simmons after Titans halfback Chris Brown caught a short pass. The collision ended the afternoon for both players – Brown with a shoulder injury; Simmons with a concussion.

Houston wasted another turnover early in the fourth quarter when Kailee Wong made a spectacular one-handed interception, getting his paw in front of a McNair screen pass at the Titan 43. But the offense could only manage a three-and-out resulting in a punt.

Carr took over at his own 35 on the next possession and finally broke the backs of a stiffening Tennessee defense. He connected with Gaffney over the middle for 22 yards then mixed runs by Wells with sideline tosses to Johnson, who broke the tackle of Samari Rolle twice to pick up a pair of 13-yard gains. Finally, Wells broke through the middle for the clinching score.

On the stat sheet, the Texans had a pretty diverse attack. Wells rushed for 73 yards. Gaffney had five grabs for 85 yards on the day. Johnson added 66 yards and Bradford contributed 65.

Now they can heal up and enjoy their bye week while preparing for a home date with Jacksonville in two weeks. Suddenly, the Houston sports scene seems very bright indeed. What Went Right?

Run Defense The 101 yards of rushing defense may not seem impressive, but it represents a big improvement from past weeks where the likes of Mewelde Moore and Amos Zereoue ran all over them. There was penetration into the backfield from Jerry DeLoach, Seth Payne and company. Subtract 23 yards in McNair scrambles and a 16-yarder by Brown during garbage time in the first half and you’ll see how impressive the front seven played.

Blitz Protection It got a little rough at the end, but it seemed Carr always had just enough time to throw no matter what Jeff Fisher sent at him. Carr was hassled, but he didn’t have many closeups with the Coliseum turf. Having Wells in the backfield helped as did adequate protection from tackles Seth Wand and backup Marcus Spears.

Limiting Mistakes After surviving two fumbles and an interception early, Carr settled down. The Texans protected the pigskin the rest of the way. Houston was only flagged for four penalties (not counting some offsets) for just 19 yards.

Carlos Beltran
Thank God for Puerto Rico! First Jose Cruz, then Dickie Thon, now this amazing force of nature. Please re-sign with the Astros, Carlos. Please!

What Went Wrong?

Ouchies Domanick Davis left with a thigh bruise. Jason Simmons sustained a concussion. Corey Bradford pulled up lame on a crossing route. Aaron Glenn left with cramps. But, fortunately, none appear to be season-enders.

Punting Game Chad Stanley wasn’t that bad – five kicks for a 38-yard average including a few inside the Tennessee 20. Neither was J. J. Moses – four returns (no fumbles) for 28 yards. But both seemed to be having subpar days, particularly Moses who just looked a step slow.

Bad Timing Wouldn’t you rather have won this one at Reliant Stadium where thousands of your closest friends could have enjoyed it with you?

Key Play Of The Game

Jabar Gaffney made big plays to launch both Houston touchdown drives. Nursing a three-point lead with 9:35 left to play and coming off five straight scoreless possessions, Carr found Gaffney in the middle of a deep zone in front of safety Lamont Thompson to the Titans’ 45 yard line. It netted 22 yards and seemed to take the starch out of Tennessee’s blitzing defense. Seven plays later, the Texans were in the end zone, forcing the Titans to forgo any thoughts of a last-minute field goal.

Week 6 Recap Jonathan Wells leaps over Carlos Hall to score a fourth quarter touchdown. Final Score Houston Texans 20 Tennessee Titans 10 Lookin’ Good

Robaire Smith
The free agent signee bedeviled his ex-teammates all day. He was in the middle of a fierce pass rush, kept the running game in check and deflected a McNair pass that Dunta Robinson intercepted to end a first-quarter drive into Texan territory. The 300-pounder was credited with two tackles and three assists.

Oh, my eyes!

Titan Uniforms
Maybe with white pants, those alternate jersies would work but with navy blue pants? Ghastly. Somebody at NFL Marketing needs to visit Queer Eye For The Straight Guy. Either that or move to Cincinnati where they apparently embrace such abominations.

2004 Schedule Date Opponent Result 08.14 Dallas 18-0 08.21 at Pittsburgh 3-38 08.27 at Denver 17-31 09.02 Tampa Bay 9-17 Regular Season 09.12 San Diego 20-27  09.19 at Detroit 16-28  09.26 at Kansas City 24-21  10.03 Oakland 30-17  10.10 Minnesota 28-34  10.17 at Tennessee 20-10 10.24 Bye   10.31 Jacksonville 20-6  11.07 at Denver 13-31  11.14 at Indianapolis 14-49 11.21 Green Bay 13-16 11.28 Tennessee 31-21 12.05 at New York Jets 7-29 12.12 Indianapolis 14-23 12.19 at Chicago 24-5 12.26 at Jacksonville 21-0 01.02 Cleveland 14-22   Overall Record 7-9