Titans fight frigid four-game streak, tackle lowly Texans

Titans fight frigid four-game streak, tackle lowly Texans

Rather than a holiday break, the Tennessee Titans went holiday broken.

When Thanksgiving arrived, the Titans looked like a sure bet to win the AFC South after ripping off seven wins in eight games.

But a four-game losing streak, coupled with a recent surge from the Jacksonville Jaguars (6-8), has melted Tennessee’s lead down to a game with three weeks left in the regular season. And suddenly, a Saturday home game against the NFL’s worst team doesn’t seem like such a cinch.

The 7-7 Titans take on the 1-12-1 Houston Texans on what could be the coldest day for a football game in Nissan Stadium. Game-time temperatures are expected to be in the teens, much lower than the 23-degree climes Tennessee and Jacksonville toiled in on New Year’s Eve in 2017.

It seems appropriate, because the Titans have been ice cold since a Thursday night win last month in Green Bay. Sunday’s 17-14 setback at the Los Angeles Chargers was one in which they battled through a spate of injuries, including an ankle that sidelined quarterback Ryan Tannehill in the first quarter, but ultimately came up short.

Tennessee’s offense hasn’t been offensive enough lately. It’s averaging 15.5 points during the losing streak, unable to consistently spring Derrick Henry for big yardage on the ground or protect the quarterback. Tannehill absorbed four sacks Sunday among other big hits.

It’s not known yet if Tannehill will be able to make the start this week.

“He’ll work extremely hard to get back and find a way to make the game,” Titans coach Mike Vrabel said. “He always has. I’m never going to question his toughness or willingness to get back and help us win.”

Whether it’s Tannehill or rookie Malik Willis under center, Tennessee has to get a handle on its turnover issues. It has coughed the ball up five times in the last two games, a killing number for a team that relies on ball control as opposed to explosive plays.

Perhaps the best path to warming up for the Titans against Houston is obvious: hand the ball to Henry. No other player in NFL history has more than three 200-yard, two-touchdown games in their career since 1950 (LaDainian Tomlinson, Barry Sanders and Jim Brown have three). Henry, however, has six total games with 200 and two — and four such single-game efforts against Houston in a row. That includes 219 yards and a pair of scores in the October meeting in Houston.

“I really don’t try to live in the past,” Henry said of his history of steamrolling Houston.

Meanwhile, Houston has found a way to play good football against a couple of the NFL’s best teams lately. Although it lost 27-23 two weeks ago at Dallas and 30-24 in overtime on Sunday to AFC West champ Kansas City, it was the equal of playoff teams for the entire game.

While the Texans were outgained 502-219, they minimized mistakes and took advantage of Chiefs miscues to tie their single-game high for points. Although Davis Mills’ overtime fumble set up the winning touchdown in overtime, he threw for two touchdowns and ran for a third.

Houston’s two-quarterback system of Mills and the more mobile Jeff Driskel brought the offense real rhythm for the first time this year, according to first-year coach Lovie Smith.

“I thought Davis did some good things throwing it,” Smith said. “Our two-quarterback system did some good things. I expect the guys to show up and fight like that throughout. Eventually, you’ve got to get over the hump.”

The Titans won the teams’ first matchup this season, getting 219 yards from Henry in a 17-10 victory on Oct. 30 in Houston. Henry has four straight 200-yard games against the Texans.


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An Evening with Hall of Famer Andre Dawson 2/9/23

An Evening with Hall of Famer Andre Dawson 2/9/23

Thurs. Feb 9th. The Venue at Lenoir City. Come listen to Andre Dawson speak. Dinner will be provided by Brown Bag and there will be a silent auction. Brought to you by Secret City Dodge Chrysler Jeep Ram.