Titans nearly blow lead, saved by NFL-record FG

The final score was simple, Titans 38 – Texans 36, but the process of getting there was not so simple. The Titans dominated the Houston Texans for the first three quarters of their game today, but the Texans staged a massive fourth quarter comeback to take the lead, only for the Titans to win on Rob Bironas’ last second NFL-record 8th field goal of the game.
The Titans got on the board first, with Bironas’s first FG of the game after coming out throwing the ball down the field successfully. The game quickly became a world of suck, as 4 of the next 6 drives ended in turnovers. The sequence wasn’t scoreless, though, as Texans LB DeMeco Ryans came up the middle on a delayed blitz, forced a fumble, recovered it, and took the ball 26 yards for a TD. The Titans finally got on the board against after a Nick Harper INT runback gave them the ball in Texans territory. The Titans also got 3 more field goals on 3 of their next 4 possessions, though LenDale White ruined the 4th by actually getting in the end zone. At halftime, it was 22-7, and the Texans had about 24 yards of offense from scrimmage. The trend continued for the first four drives of the second half, as the Texans had 1 turnover and 1 3&out, while the Titans had Bironas’s 6th FG, plus a Chris Henry sighting that resulted in a TD to go up 32-7 with 3 minutes to play in the third quarter. It was then that all heck broke loose.
Note that at this point, the Texans had 2 first downs, one of which was the result of a personal foul on Albert Haynesworth at the end of the first half that knocked Matt Schaub, who’d already left the game for the locker room once, out of the game for good. Sage Rosenfels had come in and been a turnover machine, to the tune of 1/6, 6 yards, and two passes to Nick Harper. I thought the game was over here. I was wrong.
The Texans started at the 20 after a Bironas TB, then doubled their first down total from the game their first two plays of the drive. A third down conversion, Dave Anderson’s first NFL TD reception, and a 2-pt conversion later, it was 32-15. White had a great start on the next Titans drive, 28 yards to bring his average from under 3.0 to over 4.0 ypc, but it was 3 more plays and out, and a punt down to the 2. No problem for Sage Rosenfels, though, as Rosenfels hit Ken Walter for 40 yards on 3&9 from the 3 after a 53 yard pass to Andre Davis was wiped out by a penalty on first down. 8:15 to go, and the 25-point lead was down to 10. The Titans’ string of offensive success continues, though, as they go 3&out. The Texans muff the punt back, so the Titans go 3&out again. Yes, really. Then Rosenfels delivers on his promised turnover, an INT by Bulluck, who’s kind enough to try to fumble the ball back, but Nick Harper prevents that. That sets up Bironas’s record-tying 7th field goal of the game. 35-22, 3:47 to go. Easy win.
12 plays, 75 yards, including 2 3rd down conversions and a 4th down conversion. TD, Rosenfels to Walter. 35-29, 1:37 to play. No problem, though, as the Texans have only one TO remaining, and onside kicks never work. Which this one does. No problem, though, as the Texans were offsides AND lined up in an illegal formation. Expected onside kicks work like 10-15% of the time, so it won’t work again. Don’t tell that to Ben Hartsock, though, who tries to catch the ball and fails, which ball is then recovered by the Texans. Fast forward 3 plays, and as Rosenfels is about to be brought down by Travis LaBoy, he launches it deep for Andre Davis, who gets by Chris Hope(?) and snags a pass just missed by Calvin Lowry in the end zone for a 53 yard touchdown. Kris Brown hits it, and it’s 36-35. To quote my reaction from the time, “!#!#@% 1@%#!#@ !%#!^#!#@!”
The Texans made a mistake, though-they left time on the clock. :57 and 3 TOs, as a matter of fact. And Kerry Collins, Roydell Williams, and Rob Bironas come through. Griffin with the touchback, but it’s Collins to Roydell for 17. White can’t catch a pass (no big loss on the play, as it would have been about 5 yards and forced the use of a TO), and Gage tips a pass to himself out of bounds, but then on 3&10 Collins finds Roydell deep downfield on the left side for 46 yards down to the 17. White picks up 6 yards running up the middle to set up the FG and run clock. Fisher gets the TO with :02 left, setting up Bironas for the 8th time in the game, this one from 29. Kubiak tries the freeze, but Bironas hits it through.
This was literally a tale of two games. The first one, the Titans utterly dominated the Texans. In the second game, the Texans outscored the Titans 29-6. Rob Bironas was a key figure today. The offense was a key figure-moving the ball downfield against the Texans, then sputtering once they got close. Part of kicking 8 FGs is that the offense has a chance to get in the end zone 8 times and fails. Collins played the entire game and wasn’t terrible, finishing 25 of 42 for 280 yards. No TOs, thankfully, and which I was awaiting with trepidation. White ended up with pretty decent numbers, a career-high 27 carries for 104 yards and a TD, but didn’t impress me. Henry had 11 carries for 57 yards, and looked very good on the drive that ended with his TD. He seemed to boom-and-bust a little, but I’d like to see more of him in the coming weeks. With Chris Brown’s injury, I wouldn’t be surprised if we did. Roydell had 5 catches for 124, so he didn’t just show up on the game-winning drive.
The defense, well, the defense was pretty awesome for 3 quarters. Going against a terrible team minus its best player, you’d expect them to be dominant. And they were, not letting anything get going offensively and forcing turnovers. Then, well, nothing good happened for 18 minutes. OK, the terrible pass that Bulluck intercepted, but nothing else. Nick Harper looked like toast. The defensive line wasn’t getting pressure. The Texans were finding holes in the secondary. Soft, deep zone, and the offense went up and down the field. At least the run defense still looked good, as Green ended up with 11 carries for 39 yards.
As with the Falcons game, one of the Titans units horribly failed the others today. And as in that game, the rest of the team bailed them out. My heart rate was elevated, I cursed and paced more than normal and expected, but at the end of the game, the Titans ended up with more points than their opponents. That means a record of 4-2 heading into next week’s home game against the Raiders, who lost to the Chiefs today to fall to 2-4. Win and go on, win and go on.

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