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3 things we learned about the Titans

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HOUSTON — Having failed to meet lofty preseason expectations as a defensive unit and specifically with the pass rush, the Houston Texans found Sunday a tonic in the form of the Tennessee Titans’ porous offensive line.

Texans defensive end J.J. Watt and linebacker Whitney Mercilus combined for six sacks of Titans quarterback Zach Mettenberger and Houston proved relentless in dominating the Titans 20-6 at NRG Stadium.

Mercilus finished with a career-high 3 1/2 sacks, four tackles for loss and four quarterback hits filling in for Jadeveon Clowney (back). Watt added 2 1/2 sacks plus a career-high-tying nine hits on Mettenberger.

The Texans (3-5) limited the Titans (1-6) to 211 total yards, with Mettenberger passing for 171 yards while being sacked seven times.

“It’s my job to take advantage when I get them (one-on-one matchups) because I don’t get them very often,” Watt said. “That’s the type of defense we expect to have every week.”

The Texans weren’t exactly explosive offensively, mustering two short Nick Novak field goals after Titans turnovers yielded prime field position. But quarterback Brian Hoyer delivered two scoring passes, including a 21-yard strike to wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins on the third snap of the second quarter and a 42-yarder to receiver Nate Washington for a 17-6 lead with 3:38 left in the third.

Hoyer finished with 235 passing yards while completing 23 of 35 attempts. Sunday marked the first game without backup quarterback Ryan Mallett, who was released Tuesday, and running back Arian Foster, who suffered a season-ending Achilles injury last week at Miami.

“Whatever it took today,” Texans coach Bill O’Brien said. “We had to get the win. It wasn’t pretty, but who cares?

“We won the game. We came up with enough points. The defense played well. We did what we had to do.”

What we learned about the Titans:

1. The Titans offensive woes are significant and don’t appear to be waning. With or without rookie quarterback Marcus Mariota, the Titans can’t score, with their sixth consecutive loss including a fourth successive game in which they failed to score more than one touchdown. After scoring 42 points in their season-opening win, the Titans have totaled 36 points over their last four games. “It’s tough,” Titans quarterback Zach Mettenberger said. “It is never fun losing. I don’t think we are getting down on ourselves. We’re pissed off that we let another one go but we still have a lot of football games left to play this year. It takes one win to turn things around.”

2. The Titans offensive line surrendered seven sacks on Sunday to bump their season total to 28 in seven games. Tennessee tried in vain to mix up its protection of quarterback Zach Mettenberger and pulled right tackle Jeremiah Poutasi during the game as a byproduct of his individual struggles. His backup, Jamon Meredith, wasn’t much better. “Up and down,” Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt said. “It’s hard to say after today. Last week wasn’t an inordinate amount of sacks but certainly today wasn’t good enough.”

3. Tailback/return specialist Bishop Sankey is in danger of losing his job — both of them. Sankey fumbled a kickoff return in the second quarter, leading directly to a Texans field goal. He was benched on special teams. Offensively he did not record a carry, and is currently behind Antonio Andrews and Dexter McCluster on the depth chart.

Etc.:

–QB Zach Mettenberger sputtered in his second start filling in for rookie Marcus Mariota, finishing 22-for-33 for 171 yards and an interception while being sacked seven times. The Titans tried to stick to the running game early to limit the blows Mettenberger took and his mistakes in the pocket, but when the deficit swelled they took to the air, attempting 22 passes for just 138 yards in the second half.

–RB Antonio Andrews finished with career highs in carries (16) and yards (64) as the Titans continue to stick to their plan to run the football. Andrews has bypassed Bishop Sankey on the depth chart and is becoming a force running between the tackles. Last week rushed 10 times for 57 yards against the Falcons.

–RB/RS Dexter McCluster finished with 14 touches for 162 yards returning punts and kickoffs while also serving as the backup to RB Antonio Andrews. The Titans benched KR Bishop Sankey following his second-quarter fumble, and with McCluster performing well offensively, he should earn additional opportunities to contribute.


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