NASHVILLE, Tenn.—The Houston Texans are rested up after playing two overtime games in five days, and it’s a good thing, too.
They have a lot of business waiting for them Sunday.
A sixth straight win clinches a second consecutive playoff berth for Houston, and the Texans also would set a franchise record with an 11th victory this season. They also can remain undefeated on the road. And just for good measure, the Texans can sweep the team they replaced in Houston for only the second time as a franchise and the first since 2004.
“Every time we step to the plate now, we’ve got a chance to probably accomplish even more each time we go out and find a way to win,” Texans coach Gary Kubiak said. “They get bigger. We’ve got to play better.”
The Texans (10-1) needed overtime before pulling out a 43-37 overtime win against Jacksonville on Nov. 18, then a coaching mistake helped them beat Detroit 34-31 in overtime on Thanksgiving.
They took the weekend for some much-needed rest and hope to get cornerback Johnathan Joseph back after missing the Lions game, though they still have a handful of injuries.
Receiver Andre Johnson, the AFC’s offensive player for November, said the Texans know what to expect from Tennessee (4-7), even though this is a new position for the 2002 expansion franchise.
“When you’re 10-1, you have the best record in the NFL, it’s going to be a big game for every opponent you have,” Johnson said. “The games are only going to get bigger and bigger, and we know that.”
This AFC South rivalry has changed drastically for Tennessee.
The Titans, who left Houston in 1997 for the promise of a new stadium, won 11 of the first 13 games in this series. Now the Titans are 0-3 in the division and became the first team to lose to the Jaguars in Jacksonville last weekend, 24-19. That prompted coach Mike Munchak to fire offensive coordinator Chris Palmer and give the job to 32-year-old Dowell Loggains.
Munchak later brought in veteran coach Tom Moore as a resource for Loggains. But it will beLoggains calling plays for the first time as a coach, and Munchak said the changes will need time to develop as the Titans try to consistently make plays.
“We have to find a way to stay on the field as an offense,” Munchak said of a unit ranked 30th in average time of possession per game.
Loggains had about 36 hours to put together his first game plan, but the Titans have liked what they’ve seen so far.
“People can be happy for changes and stuff like that, come out here and be upbeat and have good practices,” running back Chris Johnson said. “Still don’t mean nothing until you go out there on Sunday and see how it affects this team.”
Kubiak said the Texans would look at what Tennessee has done previously this season to prepare. Texans defensive coordinator Wade Phillips said they had an idea of the direction the Titans were going with Palmer, but he doesn’t know much about Loggains.
The Texans beat Tennessee 38-14 on Sept. 30 in Houston. Johnson finally turned around his poor start when he ran for 141 yards in that loss, and he now ranks sixth in the NFL with 942 yards. The
Titans also lost quarterback Jake Locker on the first play of their second offensive series when Glover Quin sacked him, dislocating his left, non-throwing shoulder.
This will be Locker’s seventh start and first at home since returning to the lineup after missing five games. In his two previous starts in Nashville, Locker completed 70.3 percent of his passes for 607 yards with three touchdowns and one interception and a 102.7 passer rating.
“We’ll just make sure we got the protection going the way we need it too, for sure,” Locker said.
The Texans won’t have linebacker Brooks Reed (groin), and linebacker Bradie James also may miss with a hamstring injury on a defense that has given up 491.5 yards in the past two overtime wins. Luckily, Matt Schaub and the offense rolled up an average of 570.5 yards to help pull out those victories.
“It’s pretty stressful,” defensive end Antonio Smith said of the struggles. “It was like an emotional roller coaster. All the fans think they were going through it, that was what we were hearing all week,‘Man, you almost gave me a heart attack!’ But we almost gave ourselves a heart attack, too.”
The Titans’ playoff hopes are nearly nonexistent, and they’re trying to win out after owner Bud Adams put everyone on notice jobs are at stake if they don’t finish well. Titans tight end Jared
Cook said their motivation involves playoffs, pride, themselves, teammates.
“If you can’t find a reason to play, you shouldn’t be playing,” he said.