It was alumni day for the Tennessee Titans, and entering the game, the Houston Texans certainly looked like a typical homecoming opponent, having lost eight straight games.
But someone forgot to tell the Texans that, as they took advantage of four Ryan Tannehill interceptions and a muffed punt to topple the Titans and their six-game winning streak, 22-13, Sunday at Nissan Stadium.
The Titans fell to 8-3 overall, this season with two of those three losses coming against struggling non-contenders in the Texans and New York Jets. But Coach Mike Vrabel said the opponent doesn't matter when you play as poorly as the Titans did with the five miscues.
“We got beat today. We turned the ball over five times. You know what I mean?” Titans coach Mike Vrabel said. “If you don't play well in this league, I don't care who it is, you turn the ball over in this league, you're going to lose. Nobody wants to hear that, nobody believes that, but when you do that, it doesn't matter what the record is. We had five turnovers. They had zero. You're going to lose the game 99 percent of the time.”
Left tackle Taylor Lewan put it bluntly at the end of the game.
“The reality is they took advantage of our sh___y football, and we've got to be better,” he said of the Titans handing the Texans their second win in 10 games.
The Titans were not only plagued by turnovers, but were listless for most of the first half, trailing 12-0, thanks to two Ka'imi Fairbairn field goals and Tyrod Taylor's 10-yard scramble for a touchdown.
In the second half, the Titans gave up another touchdown on a 5-yard run by quarterback Taylor and trailed 19-0 before finally getting something going.
Tannehill put together a scoring drive where Dez Fitzpatrick caught his first career TD pass, an 18-yarder, and then the Titans got a fluke TD when Dontrelle Hilliard was hit and fumbled at the 2, only to have Anthony Firkser recover it in the end zone in the fourth quarter to trim the lead to 19-13.
But two Tannehill interceptions on the final two drives of the day sealed the Titans' fate and dropped them to 8-3 on the season. The second of Tannehill's three fourth-quarter picks, the Texans were able to turn into a Fairbairn field goal that accounted for the final margin and essentially put the game away.
“At the end of the day, it all falls squarely upon me, and I have to be better. We moved the ball well. We just kept shooting ourselves in the foot with turnovers, turnovers on down, penalties. We shot ourselves in the foot all day. We've got to be better, and it starts with me,” the quarterback said.
While Tannehill and the offense certainly had their issues on Sunday with the four turnovers, the defense and special teams also had some culpability as well.
Chester Rogers had a punt hit his foot at the 5, and the Texans were able to recover it at the 5 to set up Taylor's second rushing TD that gave Houston a 19-point advantage.
The defense, which had spearheaded the team's past two wins in the absence of Derrick Henry, had no sacks and no takeaways in Sunday's loss to the lowly Texans.
It came down to the fact that the mistakes the Titans made, coupled with a slow start, breathed life into the Texans, who proceeded to take full advantage of it.
“We understood that in a game like this, you've got to go out there and start fast and you've got to have some urgency, and we didn't have it today. They did and they ended up beating us,” safety Kevin Byard said.