Texans Seek Titanic Victory

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October 9, 2003
Texans Seek Titanic Victory
by Jimmy Mohr and Ric Sweeney

The Houston Texans visit the “Oilers” in Nashville this Sunday and for the first time, they meet with something more than Houston’s wounded civic pride on the line. The Texans are coming off their bye week looking for their first winning streak in franchise history. Past attempts at winning consecutive games have come up short. The Texans were whipped, 31-10, by the Saints in week two after upsetting Miami the week before. Hard to fathom a better team to make history against than the “Oilers.”

Tennessee is coming off a disappointing loss to New England last week, 38-30. QB Steve McNair threw for a season high 391 yards on 45 attempts in the losing effort. The “Oilers” are a veteran team that doesn’t make a lot of mistakes. They control the ball and force their opponents to beat themselves. The team used to rely on RB Eddie George, but he has seen his production fall considerably. In five games this season, George has rushed for 244 yards and only one touchdown. In his place has stepped McNair, who has transitioned from a scrambler buried in Jeff Fisher’s hip pocket to a pocket passer with presence who can single-handedly take over a game. He has tucked the ball only 14 times in five games and has the highest QB rating (109) of his career.

The “Oilers” present an interesting challenge to the Texans. They’re a patient team that takes full advantage of their opponent’s mistakes and, as we all know, the Texans can be prone to their fair share of mistakes. If they play as sloppy as they did against Jacksonville, they’ll play right into the “Oilers” hands.

What to Expect

When Houston has the ball…
The “Oilers” are hurting defensively. CB Samari Rolle and LB Peter Sirmon are out and DT Albert Haynesworth is questionable. New England took advantage of Tennessee’s injuries last week, rushing for 161 yards. The Texans will have to establish dominance along the line of scrimmage and open holes between their tackles for the running back committee, who must then hold onto the football.

When Tennessee has the ball…
RB Eddie George has been a non-factor this season. The Titans have 16 rushing first downs compared to 69 through the air. McNair completed passes to eight different receivers last week against the Patriots, and even the most die-hard football fan would be hard-pressed to name two of Tennessee’s group of wide outs. It’s an offense about as fancy as a beat-up El Camino, but somehow, it’s effective. They take advantage of turnovers, control the ball and minimize mistakes.

Match-Ups to Watch

Chester Pitts vs. Jevone Kearse Pitts once again finds himself facing off against an elite defensive end. Kearse recorded two sacks last week to bring his season total to 4.5. Pitts has been up to the challenge every week this season, but is still committing too many penalties.

Andre Johnson vs. Derrick Mason This is the battle of the “go to” guys. Mason leads the Titans with 33 catches for 347 yards while Johnson leads the Texans with 26 catches for 346 yards. Mason has 16 more receptions than any other Titans player, making him McNair’s number one target without question. With both teams likely sans their best cover guys (Rolle and Aaron Glenn), one of the “go-to” guys could be a deciding factor.

David Carr vs. Steve McNair Carr will have to outperform McNair to give his team a chance to win, and that’s asking a lot. McNair has thrown only two interceptions this year and has carried an offense that, on paper, has less talent than a Nashville theater revue.

Three Keys to Victory

1. Fluster McNair McNair has proven to be freakishly accurate this year, completing 64% of his passes. But he’s merely hitting on just over half in Tennessee’s two losses. Getting after McNair and disrupting his rhythm can throw him off his game. He likes to play close to the vest, within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage, making it difficult to reach him. Of course, if you do get to him, he can still run effectively.

2. Have Success on first and second down Defensively, the “Oilers” dig in on third down, allowing 29.8% success rate. For the Texans to win, they’re going to have to gain positive yardage on first and second down to avoid third and long situations.

3. Unleash JJ Moses Teams are averaging 22.8 yards on kick returns against the “Oilers” this year. With a team like Tennessee, field position’s a key, and Moses will need to set Houston up and take advantage of Tennessee’s suspect return teams.

Views on the Game Titans   Bob says: Houston still hasn’t played well coming off a win while Tennessee can’t afford to lose more ground to the Colts. Titans 23, Texans 10 Titans   Dave says: Just like last season, they’ll do just enough to win ugly .Titans 20 Texans 17 Titans   Jimmy says: I hate the Titans. Titans 24, Texans 17 Titans   Keith says: While there doesn’t figure to be too many zeroes on the scoreboard, I know there will still be a big fat one sitting in the Tennessee owner’s suite. Titans 27, Texans 20 Titans   Ric says: I think they’ll keep it close, but it’s asking a bit much this soon to beat a team like Tennessee. Titans 17, Texans 13 Titans   Warren says: The Texans make it close enough to make Bud nervous, but don’t have enough to pull off the upset. Titans 20, Texans 17 2003 Regular Season Records
Bob 3-1; Dave 3-1; Jimmy 2-2; Keith 3-1;
Ric 2-2; Warren 3-1
Week 5 Preview Tennessee Titans
2003 Record: (3-2)
10.12.03 | 12pm
Nashville, TN Texan Leaders David Carr
74/130, 880 yds., 3/5 Stacey Mack
69/198, 2.9 YPC, 1 TD Andre Johnson
26/346, 13.3 YPC, 2 TD Titan Leaders Steve McNair
100/156, 1,211 yds, 8/2 Eddie George
90/244, 2.7 YPC, 1 TD

Derrick Mason
33/347, 10.5 YPC, 1 TD

2003 Schedule Date Opponent Result 08.09 Denver 12-20 08.15 at Dallas 6-34 08.23 San Diego 17-19 08.28 at Tampa Bay 3-34 Regular Season 09.07 at Miami 21-20 09.14 at New Orleans 10-31 09.21 Kansas City 14-42 09.28 Jacksonville 24-20 10.05 Bye 10.12 at Tennessee 17-38 10.19 New York Jets 14-19 10.26 at Indianapolis 21-30 11.02 Carolina 14-10 11.09 at Cincinnati 27-34 11.16 at Buffalo 12-10 11.23 New England 20-23 11.30 Atlanta 17-13 12.07 at Jacksonville 0-27 12.14 at Tampa Bay 3-16 12.21 Tennessee 24-27 12.28 Indianapolis 17-20   Overall Record 5-11