Titans squander opportunities, but still top Texans

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- Following the first meeting between
Houston's old team and its new one, the Tennessee Titans went out
of their way to praise the expansion Texans.

Question on the Texans: Is there anything they can do to improve the running game?
They need to get the ball to rookie RB Jonathan Wells in situations where he can excel. A good way to do that -- and it's done a lot today -- is to start with screens to get him warmed up. Sometimes you need to jump-start your running game that way (the Patriots often do this with RB Antowain Smith).

Question on the Titans: Will Kearse be able to immediately help their defense?

I believe he'll have an immediate impact. Even 80 percent of Jevon Kearse is better than 100 percent of lots of other defensive ends. The Titans believe they can make it to the playoffs, and they're playing with more energy and gusto. With the defense already playing well, Kearse won't have any extra pressure. He can simply return to the lineup and be who is -- a pass rusher par excellence.

Eric Allen played cornerback for 14 NFL seasons with the Eagles, Saints and Raiders.

Although Tennessee won Sunday's game 17-10, the Texans earned
their opponents' respect by showing that this could soon become an
interesting rivalry.

Steve McNair threw for two touchdowns and 109 yards, and Eddie
George ran for another 86 to help the Titans -- formerly the Houston
Oilers -- defeat the team that succeeded them.

"People can criticize,'' Tennessee defensive team Kevin Carter
said, anticipating surprise at the close game. "But again, you
have to capitalize on your chances. One thing people don't realize
is that Houston team has some really good players.''

The Texans (2-7) got within a touchdown when David Carr a
10-yard scoring pass to Jarrod Baxter with 3:05 left. Houston got
the ball back, and the Titans (5-4) didn't seal the victory until
Lance Schulters intercepted Carr's pass at the Tennessee 46 with
1:11 left.

"It was kind of scary there at the end,'' Titans defensive
tackle Henry Ford said.

It was the fourth straight victory for the Titans, who stayed
atop the AFC South almost in spite of themselves.

They had trouble moving the ball against the Texans, who
intercepted two of McNair's passes, including one in the end zone.
Tennessee had only 251 total yards but held the ball for more than
33 minutes.

The Titans helped keep the NFL's worst offense in check as they
sacked Carr four times and forced three turnovers. Houston gained
just 233 total yards.

Tennessee coach Jeff Fisher said his staff knew the Texans were
better than they'd appeared on film. He wasn't happy with his
offense, which got only a field goal off turnovers, but he isn't
being choosy.

"Four consecutive wins is good for this team,'' he said.

After Houston's touchdown, the Titans couldn't run out the clock
and had to punt the ball, but they blitzed Carr hard and batted
down his first pass. He fumbled on the second play, and after
Schulters' interception, Tennessee ran out the clock.

Houston coach Dom Capers was happy his Texans had a chance late.

"I have no questions about the intentions of our team. We have
to become more disciplined and more efficient in our execution and
move forward,'' he said.

The Titans held Houston to 18 total yards in the first quarter,
sacked Carr twice during the first two series, and Samari Rolle
intercepted Carr's pass to end the Texans' third possession.

McNair looked very sharp early, going 5-for-7 for 57 yards on a
13-play, 93-yard drive. One incompletion was a drop and another was
tipped away by Texans linebacker Jamie Sharper. McNair put
Tennessee up 7-0 with a 13-yard TD pass to Derrick Mason.

Then the Titans started looking like the team that lost four
straight games in September and led only 10-3 at halftime.

They managed only a 24-yard field goal by Joe Nedney off two
turnovers in Houston territory, and they had just 27 total yards in
the second quarter.

Houston finally got on the board just before halftime on Kris
Brown's 51-yard field goal.

Game notes
Titans TE Frank Wycheck was hit on the second possession
and dropped a pass, and he didn't return because of a concussion.
It was his third game wearing a new helmet designed to protect
against concussions. ... McNair set a franchise record by throwing
a TD pass in his 22nd straight game, breaking the mark held by
Warren Moon, who had 21 straight in 1990-91. ... Rolle's
interception was his first of the season. ... Meier's TD catch was
the first of his career and his first reception this season. ...
Brown's FG for Houston gave him points in his 40th consecutive
game. ... Fisher improved to 17-4 in his first meeting with a new
coach, and he is 16-2 against teams making their first trip to the
Coliseum. ... Texans WR Cory Bradford had three catches for 22
yards, giving him 519 yards receiving for the season.


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