A sense of optimism permeated through the Tennessee Titans' locker room last week after the dismissal of former offensive coordinator Chris Palmer and the promotion of quarterbacks coach Dowell Loggains.
In Loggains' first game as offensive coordinator, though, it took the Titans nearly three quarters to establish a flow on offense. By then it was too late, as the Texans took a 21-3 halftime lead en route to a 24-10 win. Houston recorded six sacks and forced a franchise-record six turnovers in the final regular-season meeting between the AFC South rivals.
The loss dropped the Titans to 0-4 in the AFC South and 4-8 overall. It is now nearly impossible for Tennessee to make the playoffs. The Titans probably need to win all four of their remaining games and will need a great deal of help from the six teams ahead of them in the AFC Wild Card standings.
On the Titans' first 11 drives of the game, Loggains' offense had four turnovers and four three-and-outs. At that point, Tennessee had just 153 yards of total offense. With a rash of injuries on the offensive line, Jake Locker had to run for his life. The offense picked it up in the latter stages of the game, but the early mistakes proved too costly. As the Titans attempted to rally from a 21-point deficit, Locker stretched the field on deep completions to Kendall Wright and Kenny Britt. Locker's receivers hurt him with a bevy of drops. The Titans had at least six drops including ones from Britt, Wright, Nate Washington and TE Taylor Thompson. Chris Johnson only had 13 carries, as his team was forced to play from behind for most of the game. Previous game's grade: D
In many ways, Sunday's performance was one of the Titans' top defensive efforts of the season. In the Texans' previous two games, Houston scored 77 points and compiled more than 1,100 yards. Despite the loss, Tennessee limited Houston to less than 335 yards of total offense. Pro Bowl RB Arian Foster had only 38 rushing yards and AFC Offensive Player of the Month Andre Johnson was virtually invisible in the second half. The Texans, meanwhile, opened three of their scoring drives inside the Titans' 40, including two inside the 20. If the defense struggled, the Titans easily could have given up at least 40 points. On a rare slip up on Sunday, FS Michael Griffin took a poor angle on Lestar Jean's 54-yard touchdown catch. Previous game's grade: B-
Special Teams: B
P Brett Kern continues to make a case for a spot in the Pro Bowl. Kern finished with a 50.5 average on six punts, including one for 70 yards in the first quarter. RB Darius Reynaud received a chorus of boos after making several questionable fair catches inside his own 10. Reynaud had a 10.8 yard average on six punt returns and continually put the Titans in horrid field position. K Rob Bironas connected on his only field goal attempt -- a 37-yarder in the first quarter. Previous game's grade: C-
Loggains found ways to involve Jared Cook in the offense, as Locker targeted the tight end 12 times in the loss. Under Palmer, the Titans struggled at times to get Cook the ball. Credit Loggains for employing a vertical passing him game, but he might have waited too long. DC Jerry Gray, meanwhile, employed a creative gameplan. At times, he used a sub-package with three safeties to combat the Texans' two-tight end set. Gray also did well with his substitution patterns to keep his players fresh. Previous game's grade: C-
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