It took just six games for first-year coach Mike Munchak to carve out a place for himself in Tennessee Titans history, outside of his Hall of Fame playing career, that is.
An otherwise completely forgettable performance Sunday earned a prominent spot in two teams’ record books.
A 41-7 rout at the hands of the Houston Texans was the home team’s worst loss in the history of LP Field and had many in the announced sellout crowd booing before halftime and headed toward the exits well before its completion. It also was the largest margin of victory — period — for Houston, where Titans owner Bud Adams lives and maintains his business interests.
“Obviously [Sunday] they were better than us in every category you could bring up,” Munchak said. “… We just weren’t very competitive [after the first quarter]. Then they started making plays and we didn’t, and it just got ugly.”
No one pointed fingers in blame — directly, at least — although running back Chris Johnson seemed tempted to do so.
At the same time, no one could put their finger on why the Titans (3-3) suddenly can’t seem to get a stop on defense after having allowed the fewest points in the NFL through the first four games. Likewise, there was no prevailing theory as to why they consistently can’t run the ball on offense despite the presence of a back almost universally regarded as one of the league’s best back in August.
Not only did Houston’s Arian Foster (234 total yards three touchdowns), a Pro Bowler in his own right, outperform Johnson (45 yards, no touchdowns) by a wide margin, so did backup Texans; running back Ben Tate (15 rushes, 104 yards). Even Johnson’s understudy, Javon Ringer, managed 31 rushing yards on three attempts.
“You can see what’s going on,” let’s be honest,” Johnson, who carried 10 times for 18 yards, said.“… I won’t say I’m the issue. I’m very confident that I’ve been doing the things that I’ve been having to do. It’s a situation where I continue to say I can’t do nothing but keep working hard, running hard and doing what I can do for this team.”
Perhaps the difference in the teams’ respective ability to run the football should not have been surprising given that Tennessee (3-3) came into the week last in the NFL in rushing offense while Houston (4-3) was among the top 10.
The performance of Tennessee’s defense — top five in scoring and top 10 in yards allowed through the first six weeks — was a little more difficult to fathom.
Beginning with its third possession, Houston scored six times (times four touchdowns, two field goals) in seven drives. Included in that stretch were touchdown marches of 87, 94 and 92 yards, respectively. The 92-yard drive took just seven plays, the first four of which gained at least 17 yards.
“It seems like no matter what we did we couldn’t get things rolling and we couldn’t get a stitch of momentum out there,” defensive end Dave Ball said. “I don’t know. Whenever you get pounded on, it’s not a good feeling.”
Having held its first four opponents to fewer than 20 points each, Tennessee has allowed 79 points total in its last two — both defeats.
To be fair, the Texans’ final score came against the Titans’ offense. It was a 38-yard interception return early in the fourth quarter and it drove the losing margin beyond that of the 41-14 loss to Dallas on Oct. 1, 2006 (Vince Young’s first game as a starting quarterback) for the largest in stadium history.
It also dropped the Titans out of first place in the AFC South, a half game behind the Texans.
“We needed to come into this place and get a victory, no matter if it was by 20 points, 30 points or one point,” Houston wide receiver Kevin Walter said. “We did a good job of that.”
The Titans, on the other hand, were hard-pressed to think of a single thing they did well, and the record books reflected as much.
“We’re not happy with what product we put on the field [Sunday],” Munchak said. “It’s on all of us — coaches, players. That’s not us. It can’t be us and we have to improve.”