HOUSTON — The Tennessee Titans will probably need their best effort of the season on Sunday if they are going to upset the high-flying Houston Texans.
The Titans at 1-2 finally found some offense last week, scoring 44 points in a rollercoaster overtime win against the Detroit Lions.
In that game, the Titans defense played often played their safeties back as much as 20 to 25 yards to prevent the Lions from burning them for big plays with Calvin Johnson and Nate Burleson. While Johnson still had 10 catches for 164 yards and a touchdown, but the Titans mission was accomplished with no real long touchdowns until, of course, Titus Young's catch on the Hail Mary.
Such a strategy this week against the Houston Texans probably won't be worth much for the Titans. While the Texans have a star receiver of their own in Andre Johnson and a capable quarterback in Matt Schaub, the Titans likely won't be able to simply lay back in the secondary because of the Houston running game, featuring Arian Foster.
“They have all the weapons. They have it all going on with the play action, the run game,” Titans coach Mike Munchak said. “Other teams take the run if you give it to them. These guys go try to get the run off of you, then they don’t have to wait to see if you’re giving it to them. They go and try to just get it.”
It's part of why the Texans are 3-0 coming into this game and being regarded by some as perhaps the best team the AFC has to offer.
Titans coach Mike Munchak said the Texans are content to run the football, lull a team that way and then pop a big play downfield off play-action.
“Their plays all look the same. They get in a lot of the same formations. All of a sudden it’s a run, now it’s a shot down the field,” Munchak said. “Sunday they scored on two huge plays because of the run game and the play-action game. They can max up protect and guys are biting on the run fakes and get beat down the middle on two big plays in the second quarter which kind of blew it open there for a while. We’ve known that for a while, they’ve been this way.
“It’s (Gary) Kubiak’s offense, he’s been running it since he’s been at Denver. It’s something that he’s very familiar with, and he’s very good at calling a very good football game. With him there and (Rick) Dennison there, they’re doing exactly like they’ve done it for 20 years between coaching and playing. It’s something that they’ve worked out all the kinks, and it’s been very successful.”
For the Titans, the best defense might be a good offense – one that is able to again put up points and sustain drives. Another solid game from Jake Locker appears to be Tennessee's best chance at that. Locker was 29 of 42 last week against Detroit for 378 yards and two touchdowns.
The running game remains non-existent with Chris Johnson having just 45 yards rushing total in three games. So the onus is likely on the passing game and Locker, making his fourth career start, to keep the Titans close enough to have a chance as as double-digit underdog against the stout Texans defense.
“We need to get that much better going into this weekend,” Locker said of his preparation. “They're talented. They execute really well, and they play great team defense.”
Locker likely will have injured tight end Jared Cook, nursing a left shoulder injury, on the field this week. But receiver Kenny Britt will be a game-time decision with his left ankle. Britt didn't practice all week.